Reflections on Agrarian Change in India since Independence: Does ‘Landlordism’ Still Matter? (SWP 14)

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Since the ‘green revolution’ of the 1970s and 1980s agrarian capitalism in India has continued to develop. What was called ‘semi-feudalism’ has indeed ‘met the market’ (Rogers and Rogers 2001). Although both landlessness and inequality in land ownership have increased, the differentiation and polarization of peasant classes that was anticipated by some has almost frozen. Today’s ‘classes of labour’ reproduce themselves through a range of mostly precarious activities which may include some own cultivation. Land is no longer so much the basis of status and power – as both caste hierarchies and farmers’ movements have weakened. Poor, lower caste people have loosened the ties of dependence, but without securing much political leverage for themselves. New patterns of inequality and of exclusion are emerging, and they sometimes involve the reproduction of power by the old locally dominant castes of the principal landholders/landlords. The many people who are effectively excluded do not appear to constitute anything approaching a ‘classe dangereuse’ in the eyes of the dominant castes/class.
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ISSN 1922-5725
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Harriss, John, Reflections on Agrarian Change in India since Independence: Does ‘Landlordism’ Still Matter?, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 14/2011, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, September 2011.
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