The Land Question in India: State, Dispossession, and Capitalist Transition

ISBN : 9780198792444

Anthony P. D'Costa; Achin Chakraborty
368 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Apr 2017
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This volume takes a fresh look at the land question in India. Instead of re-engaging in the rich transition debate in which the transformation of agriculture is seen as a necessary historical step to usher in dynamic capitalist (or socialist) development, this collection critically examines the centrality of land in contemporary development discourse in India. Consequently, the focus is on the role of the state in pushing a process of dispossession of peasants through direct expropriation for developmental purposes such as acquisition of land by (local) states for infrastructure development and to support accumulation strategies of private business through industrialization. Land in India is sought for non-agricultural purposes such as purchasing land to reduce risk and real estate development. Land is also central to tribal communities (adivasis), whose livelihoods depend on it and on a moral economy that is independent of any price-driven markets. Adivasis tend to hold on to such property, not as individual owners for profit, but for collective security and to protect a way of life. Thus land, notwithstanding its role in the accumulation process, has been, and continues to be, a turbulent arena in which classes, castes, and communities are in conflict with each other, with the state, and with capital, jockeying to determine the terms and conditions of land transactions or their prevention, through both market and non-market mechanisms. The volume goes beyond the traditional political economy of the agrarian transition question, and deals with, inter alia, distributional conflicts arising from acquisition of land by the state for capital accumulation on the one hand and its commodification on the other. It provides new analytical insights into the land acquisition processes, their legal-institutional and ethical implications, and the multifaceted regional diversity of acquisition experiences in India.


Prelude: Land and the Political Management of Primitive Accumulation, Partha Chatterjee
1: The Land Question in India: State, Dispossession, and Capitalist Transition, Anthony P. D'Costa and Achin Chakraborty

Part I: Primitive and Contemporary Accumulation
2: From Primitive Accumulation to Regimes of Dispossession: Theses on India's Land Question, Michael Levien
3: Land Grabs, Primitive Accumulation, and Resistance in Neoliberal India: Persistence of the Self-Employed and Divergence from the 'Transition to Capitalism'?, Shapan Adnan
4: Agrarian Crisis and Accumulation in Rural India: Locating the Land Question within the Agrarian Question, Arindam Banerjee

Part II: Legal-institutional Dimensions of 'Regimes of Dispossession'
5: Law Struggles, Lawmaking, and the Politics of Hegemony in Neoliberal India: Towards a Critical Perspective on the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, Kenneth Bo Nielsen and Alf Gunvald Nilsen
6: Land Acquisition and 'Fair Compensation' of the 'Project Affected': Scrutiny of the Law and its Interpretation, Malabika Pal
7: The Adivasi Land Question in the Neoliberal Era, Rajesh Bhattacharya, Snehashish Bhattacharya, and Kaveri Gill

Part III: Regional Perspectives
8: Noncultivating Households Owning Land in an Agrarian Economy: Some Observations from Andhra Pradesh, R. Vijay
9: Land and/or Labor? Predicament of Petty Commodity Producers among South Indian Villages, R.V. Ramana Murthy
10: Land Reform in Kerala and West Bengal: Two Stories of Left Reformism and Development, Anirban Dasgupta
11: How Much Land Does a Capitalist Need? Historical Patterns of Land Acquisition and Indian Industrialization, Mircea Raianu
12: An Ethnographer's Journey through Land Grab for Capitalists by the Left Front Government in West Bengal, Abhijit Guha
13: Land and Dispossession: The Criticalities in the Hills of Northeast India, Gorky Chakraborty and Asok Kumar Ray
Postscript: Land, Livelihoods, and Late Capitalist Development, Anthony P. D'Costa

About the author: 

Anthony P. D'Costa is Chair and Professor of Contemporary Indian Studies at the University of Melbourne. He has published on the political economy of development, global capitalism, inequality, and industrial restructuring using the steel, auto, and IT sectors. His books include International Mobility, Global Capitalism, and Changing Structures of Accumulation: Transforming the Japan-India IT Relationship (2016), Transformation and Development: The Political Economy of Transition in India and China (2012); Globalization and Economic Nationalism in Asia (2012); and After-Development Dynamics: South Korea's Contemporary Engagement with Asia (2015), all published by Oxford University Press. He has held fellowships from Fulbright-Hays, American Institute of Indian Studies, Korea Foundation, Japan Foundation, and POSCO at the East West Center. ; Achin Chakraborty is a Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK), engaged in teaching, research, and research guidance in the areas of welfare economics, development economics, and methodology. Before joining IDSK as a Professor in 2004 he had been an Associate Professor at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, India. He received his PhD in Economics from the University of California at Riverside. He has published widely in peer-reviewed journals including Economic Theory, Social Indicators Research, Journal of Quantitative Economics, Environment and Development Economics, Indian Economic Review, and Economic and Political Weekly.

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