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Merchants, Markets, and Commerce in Early Modern South India

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Classically, economic theory and anthropology have been concerned with the dichotomy between “non-market” and “market” systems of exchange, and with the transition from the former to the latter. From this perspective, the two are necessarily conceived as juxtapositional and antithetical. However, for long periods of history, non-market and market systems of exchange subsisted side-by-side, creating a “hybrid” institutional environment. In the context of South India between sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, this paper seeks to explore a range of issues arising from such “hybridity” and, especially, how market and non-market factors could work together to sustain particular economic structures and to direct “development” in very particular ways. It especially focuses on the implications of institutional “hybridity” for merchant and banking capital.

Depuis pas mal de temps les historiens économiques et les anthropologues sont préoccupés par la dichotomie qui existe entre le système d’échange qui a des formes non marchandes de circulation du produit social et celui ayant des formes marchandes de circulation des biens. Et dans le prolongement de cette division, par le passage du premier système au second. C’est dans cette perspective que ces deux mondes économiques sont perçus comme juxtaposés et antithétiques. Durant de longues périodes historiques les deux systèmes d’échange se sont maintenus cependant côte à côte, et par cela ont créé un cadre institutionnel ‘hybride’. Cette contribution se propose d’examiner l’éventail de sujets soulevé par cette division binaire dans le contexte de l’Inde du Sud aux seizième—dix-huitième siècles. Elle s’intéresse particulièrement à l’association des déterminants des deux catégories qui, eux, ont soutenu des structures économiques spécifiques et qui ont contribué au ‘développement’ de façon tout à fait spéciale. L’article traite en particulier des conséquences de ‘l’hybridité’ institutionnelle dans le domaine des fonds de commerce et des fonds bancaires.


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