^H^RE has been a great deal of debate among historians on the la^are of the pre-colonial economy and society in India. Much of hi& debate has been stimulated, directly or indirectly, by Marx's Writings on the subject and in particular his conceptualisation of the •0-called Asiatic Mode of Production. This debate has naturally left its mprint on the pages of Social Scientist as well. Only in last month's ^sue we published an article by M J K Thavaraj on the Asiatic Mode 3f Production. Earlier issues have carried articles by Irfan Habib and R S Sharma among others discussing different aspects of pre-colonial society. In this tradition we publish as the lead article of the current number a paper by Biplab Dasgupta which analyses the economy of pre-colonial Bengal. Dasgupta rejects categorically the idea of a more or less undifferentiated village community and sees all attempts at unearthing the nature of owneship of land as more will- o' -the-wisp. At the same time he is critical of those who already see in the pre-colonial economy of Bengal the emergence of a class of jotedars as distinct from the zamindars. The absence or insignificance of land, labour and credit markets meant that the differentiated rural structure did not give rise to growing class polarisation until the advent of British rule. Particularly notable in his paper is the analysis of the impact of foreign trade upon the domastic industrial economy of Bengal. The points raised by Dasgupta in his wide-ranging paper deserve serious attention and would, we hope, be further discussed in the pages of this journal. Explorations into history, it hardly needs saying, are important not only for locating the precise role of colonial rule, but also for comprehending our present conjuncture.
Francois Houtart's article on the attitudes among the Vietnamese peasantry is based on information collected by him personally, underscoring the point that perceptions of the different layers of the peasantry about the functioning of the collective organisations are reflective of their respective degrees of participation in the process of decision-making in such organisations. Houtart's paper gives a glimpse of the cultural differences which still persist within the Vietnamese peasantry. He traces these differences to the different social and educational levels which obtained within the peasantry at the time of liberation and emphasises the sheer padagogical role of a programme of land redistribution.