Labour, state and society in rural India

A class-relational approach

Intended for researchers, students, policymakers and practitioners, this book draws on detailed longitudinal fieldwork in rural south India to analyse the conditions of the rural poor and their patterns of change. Focusing on the three interrelated arenas of production, state, and civil society, it argues for a class-relational approach focused on forms of exploitation, domination and accumulation. The book focuses on class relations, how they are mediated by state institutions and civil society organisations, and how they vary within the countryside, when rural-based labour migrates to the city, and according to patterns of accumulation, caste dynamics, and villages’ levels of irrigation and degrees of remoteness. More specifically it analyses class relations in the agriculture and construction sectors, and among local government institutions, social movements, community-based organisations and NGOs. It shows how the dominant class reproduces its control over labour by shaping the activities of increasingly prominent local government institutions, and by exerting influence over the mass of new community-based organisations whose formation has been fostered by neoliberal policy. The book is centrally concerned with countervailing moves to improve the position of classes of labour. Increasingly informalised and segmented across multiple occupations in multiple locations, India’s ‘classes of labour’ are far from passive in the face of ongoing processes of exploitation and domination. Forms of labouring class organisation are often small-scale and tend to be oriented around the state and social policy. Despite their limitations, the book argues that such forms of contestation of government policy currently play a significant role in strategies for redistributing power and resources towards the labouring class, and suggests that they can help to clear the way for more broad-based and fundamental social change.

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