Structures of Power in India: Revisiting a Discussion on Civil and Political Society

 The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of the EPW. 


The conflict over land (and its acquisition) has become an important issue in the process of industrialisation. In 2007, the West Bengal government announced its plans to acquire land for the purpose of setting up a chemical hub at Nandigram. Immediate protests by affected villagers followed. The government responded with violence which left several protesting farmers dead. 


In this feature, we map the discussion around Partha Chatterjee’s 2008 article “Democracy and Economic Transformation in India” on the operation of the civil and political society and the relationship between state and capital. This debate took place in the wake of the violence at Nandigram with questions looming over the future of the Left Front in India.


Partha Chatterjee begins the discussion by revisiting the question of the basic structures of power in Indian society, especially the position of the peasantry. Mihir Shah responds with concerns regarding Chatterjee’s exclusive focus on class as an axis of power. Mary John and Satish Deshpande seek a fuller account of prior welfarism or developmentalism in Chatterjee’s work and ask what precisely is new in the recent phase of the development of capital in agrarian India. Amita Baviskar and Nandini Sundar raise questions regarding the formulation of civil and political society employed by Chatterjee in his article. Finally, Chatterjee responds to the three comments.

Click on the icons to read excerpts from each article.

Other works that have broadly responded to or are related to this discussion:

Beyond Nandigram: Industrialisation in West Bengal, Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee et al, 2007 

On Nandigram I, George Thomas, 2007 

On Nandigram II, Hiren Gohain, 2007 

On Nandigram III, Arup Kumar Sen, 2007

On Nandigram, Amiya Kumar Bagchi et al, 2007

Intellectuals and Nandigram, Sukla Sen, 2007 

Nandigram: Taking People for Granted, Editorial, 2007 

Nandigram II: Beyond the Immediate Tragedy, Editorial, 2007

SOS from Nandigram, Editorial, 2007 

Reflections in the Aftermath of Nandigram, A CPI (M) Supporter, 2007

In the Aftermath of Nandigram, Prabhat Patnaik, 2007

The Coming Crisis in West Bengal, Partha Chatterjee, 2009 



Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line— "Democracy and Economy."


[Curated by Sohnee Harshey (]

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