News & Events

Faculty Seminar | Dr. Nikhil Menon on his Book: “Planning Democracy: Modern India’s Quest for Development”


Allen & Overy Conference Room, 1st Floor, Training Centre, NLSIU


Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 4:00 pm

The faculty Seminar will feature a conversation between faculty member Rashmi Venkatesan and Dr. Nikhil Menon, Assistant Professor of History, University of Notre Dame. He is the author of the newly released book, “Planning Democracy: Modern India’s Quest for Development”, Cambridge University Press, 2022. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A session.

About the Speaker

Dr. Menon is a historian of modern South Asia, specializing in the political and economic history of twentieth-century India. He was educated at Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University in India and completed his PhD in History at Princeton University. Menon’s first book Planning Democracy was published in India by Penguin and elsewhere by Cambridge University Press. It was awarded the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences by the American Institute for Indian Studies for the best book manuscript on an Indian subject. An article from this project, on India’s first computers, won the Mahoney Prize from the Society for the History of Technology. His next book project is on Indian cultural diplomacy—a history of the Indian state’s pursuit of soft power through cultural diplomacy.


India’s Five-Year Plans were one of the developing world’s most ambitious experiments. After nearly two centuries of colonial rule, planning the economy was meant to be independent India’s route from poverty to prosperity. Planning Democracy explores how India married liberal democracy to a socialist economy. Planning not only built India’s data systems, it even shaped the nature of its democracy. The Five-Year Plans loomed so large that they linked surprisingly far-flung contexts-from computers to Bollywood to Hindutva. The book brings the world of planning to life through the intriguing story of a gifted scientist known as the Professor, a trail-blazing research institute in Calcutta, and the alluring idea of ‘democratic planning’. Set amidst global conflicts and international debates, it reveals how India walked a tightrope between capitalism and communism. Planning Democracy recasts our understanding of the Indian republic, uncovering how planning came to define the nation and revealing the ways in which it continues to shape our world today.