Social Scientist. v 29, no. 342-343 (Nov-Dec 2001) p. 57.

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Movement, Politics and Development:

The case of Kerala

What is the significance of the new popular efforts in Kerala at development through democratisation from below? This is an attempt to carve out some of the conclusions on the basis of a not yet summarised programme during the 90s on popular movements, development and democracy based on repeated case studies in the very different contexts of Kerala, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In the first part of the essay, I begin by by relating Kerala to the mainstream discourse on development and democracy. Next I suggest some alternative propositions, discuss their fate in the context of Kerala and relate this to the general problems of popular efforts at democratisation, including in as contrasting cases as Indonesia and the Philippines. Hence it is possible to identify how and why the Kerala activists have pioneered vital attempts at solving common problems, but yet have some way to go. The second and main part of the essay, then, is to substantiate these conclusions. After some critical notes on the mainstream studies of third world democratisation, I suggest that we need to focus instead on problems of substantial democratisation and propose an analytical framework for this. By applying the framework to the concrete cases of Indonesia and Kerala, I summarise, finally, the analytical and empirical basis for the conclusions in part one.


To begin with, Kerala does not confirm the mainstream thesis about democratisation. According to this thesis, the rise of democracy is a result of social and economic development of capitalism, middle classes (in particular) and their capacity of organising themselves and

* Professor, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo, Norway

Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 11-12, Nov. - Dec. 2001

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