ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Barbara Harriss-WhiteSubscribe to Barbara Harriss-White

Constructing Regions Inside the Nation

When the nation or the “centre” and their relations with constituent states are challenged by forces that are neither disciplined nor stabilised inside national territories, then economic regions expand and challenge the capacities of states to regulate them. This paper presents insights gained from new maps of India’s material and cultural regions, manifestations of the spatial patterns of Indian capitalism. Specifically, the focus is on regions of agrarian structure (rent, petty production, and capitalist production and exchange relations) and regions of social identity (caste, ethnicity, and gender).

The Micro Political Economy of Gains by Unorganised Workers in India

This review of literature looks at the micro-political mechanisms through which unorganised labour makes gains in wages and conditions of work, in a context of real wage rises since about 2005 and the ubiquity of informal labour contracts. It examines the micro level impact of demand and supply factors, the pressures on employers to concede to demands and the various methods used by labour to push its positions.

The Three Roles of Agricultural Markets

This paper is a review of the literature on agricultural commodity markets in India, in relation to the three vital roles these markets are thought to play. It outlines the strengths and limitations of each approach and shows how they contribute to our understanding of the workings of real markets. The paper also suggests a holistic view of markets, built on the basis of the insights of existing literature to enrich our knowledge of the complexity and diversity of real markets and assist realistic policymaking.

The Ghost in the Machine: Deconstructing Forest Policy Discourse in Bangladesh

By examining Bangladesh's principal forest policy documents from a discourse perspective, this study argues that the State's policy response to the "problems" and "development of the forestry sector" has been rhetorically loaded but politically cautious, covert and calculated. Under the conditions of governmentality, the policy prescriptions are presented as technical instruments for promoting efficiency in the forestry sector. The power and politics inherent in this exercise are constantly cloaked; yet these are pervasive, and find expression in their ability to serve certain practical purposes.

Resurrecting Scholarship Resurrecting Scholarship

What we are seeing in India is not the classic agrarian transition. Poor Indians with homes in rural areas are no longer simple peasants or rural wage labourers. They are also dependent on migrant wage labour, on working in the rural non-farm economy and on petty commodity production and trade in the capitalist economy. This calls for revisiting the relevance of categories such as "poor peasant", "middle peasant", "rich peasant" by exploring the significance of the links that almost every single rural household seems to have (for its reproduction) with the wider economy beyond the village confines.

Political Architecture of India's Technology System for Solar Energy

This essay makes a case for embedding the analysis of institutions for technological change in an understanding of the politics of markets. In turn, this needs knowledge of institutions and of their relations. The first stage that is needed to explain the retarded development of apparently appropriate solar energy technology in India is developed; and the implications for technology theory, analysis and policy are outlined. India's technology system was created precociously early to facilitate research and development. Technology is available. It is not obstructed by intellectual property rights so much as by the structure of domestic energy subsidies and support measures, the risk aversion of banks and the coordination failures of the system of market- and state-institutions for renewable energy technology. As a result, the state is seriously hampered from acting in the long-term public interest. In general, policy reform may require institutional destruction as well as creation, adaptation and persistence.

Social Structure, Tax Culture and the State

Tax collection is an important function of the state and is a prime source of revenue for any government. Quite often, the tax culture and social structures are such that they seem to encourage tax evasion. This paper examines commercial taxes and the role of the tax culture of social structures in Tamil Nadu and finds that while the state aims at ensuring tax compliance, it has unwittingly promoted a social structure that is "anti-tax" in nature. This has serious consequences for the distributional effects of taxation as well as for the accountability of the state to its people.

Poverty and Capitalism

While it may be possible to mitigate poverty through social transfers, it is not possible to eradicate the processes that create poverty under capitalism. Eight such processes are discussed: the creation of the preconditions; petty commodity production and trade; technological change and unemployment; (petty) commodification; harmful commodities and waste; pauperising crises; climate-change-related pauperisation; and the unrequired, incapacitated and/or dependent human body under capitalism. Ways to regulate these processes and to protect against their impact are discussed.

Commercialisation, Commodification and Gender Relations in Post-Harvest Systems for Rice in South Asia

When the output of a product that forms the basis of subsistence and social reproduction - as rice is for Asia - expands, the marketed surplus rises disproportionately to the growth rate of production. This implies that activities that once formed part and parcel of household labour activity (performed by women - even if under the control of men) also become commercialised. Food security depends not only on the market, but also on the social and political structures within which markets are situated. One of these social structures is gender. Two aspects of this gendered process are explored in this essay, the first being 'productive deprivation'. Using field evidence from south Asia, the impact of technological change is shown to be strongly net labour displacing and strongly biased against female labour. At the same time, poverty ensures the persistence of petty commodity production, where women are either self-employed or 'unwaged' family workers. As seen in the case of rice production in West Bengal, growth in production has been accompanied by the displacement of women from the rice mill labour forces in which economies of scale have been pitched against unwaged work in petty production.

Sonar Bangla- Agricultural Growth and Agrarian Change in West Bengal and Bangladesh

Drawing on papers presented in a workshop held in Calcutta in January 1995, this article reports on debates over the nature of the relationships between agrarian structure, agricultural growth and the state in West Bengal and Bangladesh. It scrutinises reports of rapid agricultural growth in West Bengal (and less spectacular but still significant agricultural growth in Bangladesh) since the early 1980s and expands the concept of structure to include structures of commerce, of bureaucracies, of exchange arrangements in land water and labour, as well as changing ideologies of gender, caste and ethnicity, The local impact of the West Bengal Left Front government's agrarian reforms (including Panchayati Raj) are also analysed and trends in poverty in the two Bengals since 1980 are examined.
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