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

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Poverty, Surplus Labour and Development Strategies

Economics of Collaboration: Indian Shoemakers between Market and Hierarchy by Peter Knorriga; Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1996; Rs 295.
ONE should commence with a brief personal note. When I was persuaded to review a book on the (small scale) shoemaking industry in Agra, I had no idea that I was being asked to review a fascinating study which, on the one side, examines the hypotheses of modern micro-economic theory of rational expectations, of transaction costs, of organisation theory and on the other, examines (in some depth) the economic- cum-sociological impediments to economic development in a world of both increasing opportunities and increasing uncertainty. For that is what Peter Knorriga's study, full of deep empathy, is all about. It is an attempt to analyse the process of actions and operations, the motivations, the opportunities and the compulsions, in the small-scale shoemaking industry in Agra. The opportunities are clearly there; but then, so are the compulsions. One could differ as to the final conclusions we would revert to that issue later but one is left admiring the painstaking manner in which both quantitative data and qualitative assessments have been combined to get into the heart of Agra's small-scale shoe industry. The behaviour pattern of different agents' is examined in terms of the theory of rational expectations; the 'transaction costs' of different organisational modes are analysed. The compulsions of highly skilled workers- cum-entrepreneurs (belonging to the jatav community) in a situation of unrelenting labour surplus, and a background of social 'exclusion' -emerge clearly, from Knorriga's deep understanding of the sociological barriers to greater (and more productive) interaction between the ' market agents' and the skilled artisans (the producers-cum- household entrepreneurs). Finally, the procedures adopted for data collection and analysts must serve as a model for future studies of this type, relating to the myriad 'entrepreneurial workers' in diverse occupations in all developing countries.

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