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

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A History of the Farmers’ Movement

Populism and Power: Farmers’ Movement in Western India, 1980–2014 by D N Dhanagare, Routledge, Oxon, London and New York, 2016, pp xvii + 264, ₹895.

It is not very common to find scholarship in social sciences that straddles with ease history, sociology and political science. D N Dhanagare, however, belongs to that league of scholars to whom this remains a matter of conviction, so much so that they resisted being lured into postmodernism in the guise of breaking disciplinary barriers. If his seminal work of the 1980s, Peasant Movements in India (1983), constituted an epistemological break insofar as studies on the Indian peasantry were concerned (on the same lines as did Jean Chesneaux’s [1973] study on the Chinese peasantry), the book under review, Populism and Power: Farmers’ Movement in Western India, 1980–2014, on the farmers’ movement is as much a breakthrough. Dhanagare establishes with clarity that such shibboleths that guided scholarship on the farmers’ movement as kulak (rich peasant) movements, drawn from the lexicon of conventional Marxism, are not adequate to make sense of the subject matter.

Dhanagare’s premise is the transformation, in the 1980s, of the peasant into the farmer. The marked feature of this transformation, he explains, was that the producer ceased to be dependent on the landlord and instead was now dependent on the market. Although a majority of the producers in this new regime were subsistence farmers, they nevertheless found themselves in league with the minority, who controlled large tracts of land and cultivated predominantly for the market. This unity, according to Dhanagare, may be understood from the premise of Louis Althusser’s structuralist Marxist approach, thus recognising a significant role for “ideology” in moulding the course of a social movement—by domination without hegemony or domination with hegemony.

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Updated On : 26th Jan, 2021

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