Land, Power and People: Rural Elite in Transition, 1801-1970 by Rajendra Singh; Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1988; pp 264, Rs 195.
IN an ambitious project undertaken by sociologist Rajendra Singh for his doctoral research, of which this book is a revised version, he attempts "to go beyond the conventionally entrenched theoretic and methodological traditions of social science in India" (Preface). Singh effects a two-fold departure from 'conventional' sociology. In constituting the category of rural elite he abandons the hitherto accepted mode of counting the holders of statutory positions of power and authority, MPs, ML As, bureaucrats, etc, and analyses others who comprise elite groups by virtue of their social, economic or, for that matter, historically evolved status. Singh repeatedly highlights this as his major achievement; for arriving at it, he effects the second departure by meandering through seventeen decades of the history of the small region of his study, Basti, in the foothills of the Himalayas in east UP The historical dimension too is usually shunned by sociologists. Through a combination of archival and field research Singh seeks to deal with "the genesis and structure of power and authority in the Indian countryside. The dynamics of power and authority are examined against the background of the historically changing relationship between land, power and people" (p 11, emphasis in original).