Social Scientist. v 19, no. 212-13 (Jan-Feb 1991) p. 95.

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A Formidable Canvas

Venkatesh B Athreya, Goran Djurfeldt, Staffar Lindberg (1990), Barriers Broken: Production Relations and Agrarian Change in Tamil

Nadu, Sage Publications, 1990, pp 336, Rs 250.00.


Barriers Broken is of primary interest due to its point of departure from most discussions on agrarian change—the explicit recognition of distinct ecological types playing distinct roles in the process of agrarian transformation. Additionally, the need to incorporate ecology as an integral part of the 'alterable* forces of production in the Marxist scheme is adequately demonstrated. Athreya et al also revisit some recurrent themes within the broadly Marxist discussion. These include the search for a criterion of measurement and identification of economic agrarian classes; the existence or otherwise of barriers to technical change or capitalist penetration posed by certain relations of production or exchange; explanations of land productivity in terms of 'size', intensity', 'class'; the distributional aspects of technical change and capitalist investment and the attendant issue of depeasantisation and proletarianisation. Underlying these issues is the important preoccupation of the book—can production relations, on their own, explain the process of agrarian change? Should particular production relations, or class structures, be associated with particular ecotypes?

The two ecologically different areas for study are chosen from Tiruchirapalli district, and the sample consists of household belonging to the resident agrarian population. The survey was conducted in the six villages in 1979-80, but their rationale for the choice of 'quantitative' methods over 'qualitative* ones displays at best a cavalier attitude towards the issues involved. This is borne out by their somewhat odd characterisation of the latter as 'ethnographic

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

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 1-2, January-February 1991

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