Social Scientist. v 14, no. 162-63 (Nov-Dec 1986) p. 96.

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Identifying the Peasant Classes-In'Themselves in Rural India : A Methodological and Empirical Exercise**


MUCH OF economic theorising is based on the proposition that the behaviour of economic agents with regard to production and consumption decisions is determined by the initial resource endowments, the constraints within which they operate and the consequent objective of economic activity. It will not be seriously disputed that the distribution of productive resources over the cultivating population in India is substantially unequal. It is all the more surprising that so much of economic theorising about the peasantry, abstracts from this fact of unequal resource endowments, in order to operate with the assumption of a more or less homogeneous 'peasantry', which is viewed as in its totality a class, however 'awkward'. The neo classical models of peasant equilibrium, heir to the Chayanovian model, seek to analyse the decision-making process of a'typical'peasant household ; the recent extension of such models to take account of the bargaining process between a typical 'landlord' and a typical 'tenant' in terms of game theoretic structures, similarly operates with the abstraction of a homogeneous tenantry. But it is not only the neo classical models which assume that a typical 'peasant' or a typical 'tenant' can be validly talked about ; in this respect a theoretical convergence is observed between neo-classical equilibrium models and neo-Marxian models of peasant indebtedness under 'semi-feudalism'. Both approaches abstract from the reality of the emergence of class differentiation within the peasantry, which exists today as a consequence of historically given inequality of resource endowments.

The Marxist analyses of rural class structures, on the other hand,

*Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

**This paper is in the nature of a somewhat hasty summary of some salient results discussed at greater length in my forthcoming 'Peasant Class Differentiation* (OUP Delhi). The necessary acknowledgments to others and caveats to generalisations made in the book are dispensed with here in the interests of brevity ; however sincere thanks go to D.N. Rao and R. Talwar for their help with the statistical analysis of Section 3,

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