Producing the IT miracle: The neoliberalizing state and changing gender and class regimes in India

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Beverley Mullings


Neoliberalism, Political economy, Feminism, Middle class, Gender regimes, Information technology

Subject Categories

Geography | Human Geography | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation examines the role of the Indian state in promoting the software industry and the extent to which its celebratory narratives about the empowering potential hi-tech work is really plausible for women, who are increasingly finding career opportunities in it. Framed within insights from feminist political economy, I argue that the neoliberalising Indian state has embraced an enabling role, crafting new relationships with the liberalizing and transnational middle classes, who dominate the new spaces of economic production and embody visions of a globalizing nation, in order to promote this industry. The state has relied as much on a representation of the hi-tech sector as modern and globally competitive as it has on specific industrial policies, and institutional and entrepreneurial networks. Both the representational and the real software industry rely on the gendered constructions of middle class women and men for its success. While the representations celebrate the progressive potential of software work drawing on Western notions of modernity, particularly for women, the real spaces of software production and the new urban landscapes present a much more complicated and contradictory picture where the state often engineers strategic compromises with local gender and class regimes in its search for new sources of capital. Such compromises allow women to participate in the new hi-tech workspaces, contribute to the image of a 'global' India and acquire a degree of financial independence without upsetting patriarchal structures and expectations of femininity, purity, and tradition that continue to highlight women's primary role in social reproduction. This study thus demonstrates the continuing significance of Third World states like India in economic development, albeit exposing their strategic, contingent and contradictory nature in engineering compromises between capitalism and patriarchy within the current neoliberal moment.


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