Social Scientist. v 19, no. 219-20 (Aug-Sept 1991) p. 4.

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and national political discourses. The coercive and asymmetrical nature of this articulation selectively suppresses the concerns of the rural poor without, however, attaining cultural hegemony at the local level. The reality of any hegemony,' Raymond Williams has noted, 'is that while by definition it is dominant, it is never total and exclusive.' Indeed the explicit criticisms of rich-peasant based agricultural development by 'subaltern' groups and their separate symbolic universe illustrates one of the major limits of local ideological domination.1 Stated in plainer terms, poor and marginal peasants and landless labourers possessed a clear and lively sense of their separate class identity and of the economic polarizations that affected their lives. It is through these gaps and spaces that they have actively constructed an alternative vision, albeit one that is religiously transcendental.

In the economic microcosm of a village increasingly spliced by capital/labour contradictions, poor peasants' rejection of caste-fuedal ideology has meant that relations between rich and poor peasantry have been increasingly maintained by coercive forms of control, rather than by morally persuasive leadership. The decline of the intellectual and moral hegemony of the state and the rise of mafia-like forms of rural party politics have been often-noted features of post-Nehru political culture. (P. Chattopadhyay 1976; R. Kothari 1981, 1989; S. Kaviraj 1988) Key indicators of 'changes in political culture include the erosion of provincial party organizations, increasing centralization of political power, referenda-style elections in which violence plays a role in rural areas, the use of populist rhetoric, and an overtly authoritarian apparatus of law and order.' (R. Kothari 1989, S. Kaviraj 1986) From the late sixties onwards, this increasingly populist and authoritarian political culture has accompanied neocolonial and World Bank pressures to promote a more hospitable environment for the private sector and foreign investment. (S. Kaviraj 1986:1699) However, the local effects of such realities of power have tended to be largely invisible in sociological village studies, perhaps because they have defied analysis in existing paradigms. (A. Turton 1984:33)

Yet at the local level, the intermittent use or threat of coercion can play an important, albeit sporadic, role in the channelization and construction of potential ideological opposition. World-views, symbols, mythologies and practises can occur through threats, as well as persuasion. In other words, the less that moral hegemony exists, the more there will exist ideological gaps through which the threat of coercion becomes an immanent feature of social reproduction in both civil and political society. At the same time, the existence of an overtly oppositional ideology can illustrate the boundaries that have been constructed between rich peasant and subaltern definitions of social reality and indicate the affirmation of a positive class identity

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