Social Scientist. v 14, no. 162-63 (Nov-Dec 1986) p. 3.


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T. J. JBYRES^

The Agrarian Question, Forms of Capitalist Agrarian Transition and the State : An Essay With Reference to Asia

Of course, infinitely diverse combinations of elements of this or that type of capitalist evolution are possible, and only hopekss pedants could set about solving the peculiar and complex problems arising merely by quoting this or that opinion of Marx about a different historical epoch.

(Lenin, 1964a : 33)

In the effort to understand the history of a specific country a comparative perspective can lead to asking very useful and sometimes new questions. There are further advantages. Comparisons can serve as a rough negative check on accepted historical explanations. And a comparative approach may lead to new historical generalizations.

(Barrington Moore. 1967 : xiii)

Terrain to be Covered and Preliminary Observations

THE GUIDING principle of this workshop is the belief that careful use of the comparative method can illuminate the nature of agrarian transformation in the poor countries of Asia. That is a principle to which I strongly subscribe. This paper is an attempted exercise in the comparative method.

The paper is pursued within the framework of Marxist political economy. The comparative method is not, of course, confined to a political economy approach. It can be fruitfully deployed within any of the available paradigms. It is, however, my view that it is at its most powerful when pursued in political economy terms.

My concern is with the agrarian question and the possible manner of its resolution in certain Asian countries in which a capitalist path is being attempted. It is thus that I interpret 'agrarian transformation'. Successful "agrarian transformation51 read as successful "capitalist agrarian transition'. I will define the relevant termsó'agrarian question' and 'agrarian transition'-ócarefully in section II. They have several layers, of

*Department of Economic and Political Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London.



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