The Indian leather industry : culture, ambivalence and globalization



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The conflict between two major ideal types of Indian leather production – the “historic” and the “global capital” has created a classic case of sociological ambivalence in recent decades. This dissertation relies on interviews, content analysis of leather industry journals, and secondary data on Indian society to examine the sources and consequences of this ambivalence and the ways in which key actors in the industry are trying to address it. First, I outline the characteristics of what I call the “historical type,” that is, the leather industry of the past through 1990 following Max Weber’s comparative historical method of the “ideal type,”. Next, I explore the characteristics of the “global capital” model of leather production emerging as India becomes increasingly integrated into the global economic system. These industry journals present an image of the new global capital type of leather industry. They provide a mechanism for socializing the industry’s managers into the world of contemporary industry by providing the reader with information about the latest fashion trends and technological innovations that a successful global exporter must understand if their company is going to survive the sea change occurring in the global scene. The journals also present to their prospective markets, the new face of Indian leather: a sophisticated, rational, and creative industry that parallels the well-known quality of the Indian IT industry, in contrast to the small-scale, village industry where much of the production takes place in small facilities. The final chapter explores the implications of the structured ambivalence created by the clash between these two models: the industry’s managers who are caught between a labor-pool rooted in rural India and the winds of global capitalism and how they mediate between the two. It examines the inevitable oscillations between a historic India with its kinship-based, small-scale village oriented culture that protects the cow, and the fast-paced world of global capital with its rational-bureaucratic large-scale social organization and a corporate culture that protects the generation of profit. This study provides an up-close look at the consequences of global economic change for local cultures and the daily lives of individuals who face it.