Social Scientist. v 11, no. 124 (Sept 1983) p. 73.


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BOOK REVIEW

JOHN HARRISS, CAPITALISM AND PEASANT AGRICULTURE,

Oxford University Press, 1982.

THE BOOK under review is based on the research carried out in a village of North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu during 1973 to study the capitalist transformation of agriculture and the consequences of the introduction of 'the new technology' and its impact on the caste system. The main source of information has been a basic household survey of the entire village and a detailed study of production on a sample of 25 per cent cultivators of irrigated rice land, along with some supplementary information from 22 of the cultivators of dryland. The agrarian structure is studied and defined in relation to the land ownership and family size. The influence of the particular forms of kinship organisation of different groups and also the caste factor have been studied in detail. The differences in the process of adoption of technical innovations have been shown, based on'the data on organisation of production and profitability and appropriation of surplus on farms. Although capital intensity on these farms has increased, yet the use of capital in usury and commerce remains powerful. The "compulsive involvement of farmers in the market" leads to their dependence on traders/money-lenders. The persistence of small and marginal farmers iias slowed down the process of polarisation of peasant classes. The study shows that the exploitative class relations are perceived and expressed primarily in the medium of caste although it is not the basis of these relations. The book contains interesting analysis of the Indian agrarian situation. However, one tends to question the basic premise and methodolgy used for differentiating the peasantry.

Harriss proceeds with the thesis that at Independence, relations of production in agriculture could be termed capitalistic as the national market had been incorporated into the international market and, among other things, the petty producers were exploited by the imperialists, the indigenous traders and the rich peasantry. Similarly in North Arcot, commoditisation had occurred in the 1930s and its market was incorporated into the national and international markets by its export of groundnuts.

However, the development of these capitalistic relations was hampered by the persistence of merchant/usurer capital and also by the prevalent caste system. Harriss tends to ignore the fact that at Independence, landlordism was rampant in the form of concentration of land in the hands of big landlords who leased it to different



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