Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity
Meghnad Desai, Suzanne Hoeber Rudolph and Ashok Rudra (eds.), Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity in South Asia, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1984.
It may be appropriate to begin with some background information on the parentage of the volume under review, the essential tasks set for it, and the conclusions relating to the central problematic. The volume is a product of the endeavours of a subcommittee, on South Asia Political Economy (SAFE), of the Joint Committee on South Asia of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). One of the editors, Suzanne Hoeber Rudolph, while tracing the intellectual genealogy of the volume, informs us that the underlying motive of SSRC is to define 'the research agendas for understanding how to achieve equity and growth in Third World countries.' However, the central problematic of the research agenda addressed in this particular volume was 'how local power structures impinge upon levels of and changes in agricultural production and productivity'.
After having defined the intellectual agenda, the planners of the project envisioned a research alliance. The working group that emerged cut across disciplinary as well as ideological boundaries. We are informed that the working group did not attempt to settle on agreed-upon methodological or conceptual frameworks, although it is claimed that 'a universe of common discourse' was created—(unfortunately universe that remains elusive!). Not insisting on agreed-upon a methodological or conceptual frameworks may be very good, but the least that one would expect from a volume of this kind is a systematic setting out of the crucial points of difference, and some dialogue around these. However, this expectation is not fulfilled.
Let us come to the intellectual division of labour around the central problematic, that of examining possible reciprocal relationships between local power structures on the one hand, and the generation, allocation, appropriation and disposal of resources in agriculture on the other. Two 'state-of-the art' papers, one by S. Chakravarty from the 'perspective of the economic tradition', and one by Ronald J. Herring from a 'more political perspective', together with David Ludden's scanning of the literature on South Asian agrarian history (covering