Labour, state and society in rural India

A class-relational approach

By Jonathan Pattenden

Labour, state and society in rural India


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8914-5
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2016
  • BIC Category: Reference, information & interdisciplinary subjects / Development studies, Sociology, Regional & area planning, Development studies, POLITICAL SCIENCE / NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Regional Planning, Anthropology, Society & social sciences / Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)


Behind India's high recent growth rates lies a story of societal conflict that is scarcely talked about. Across its villages and production sites, state institutions and civil society organisations, the dominant and less well-off sections of society are engaged in antagonistic relations that determine the material conditions of one quarter of the world's 'poor'. Increasingly mobile and often with several jobs in multiple locations, India's 'classes of labour' are highly segmented but far from passive in the face of ongoing exploitation and domination.

Drawing on over a decade of fieldwork in rural South India, the book uses a 'class-relational' approach to analyse continuity and change in processes of accumulation, exploitation and domination. By focusing on the three interrelated arenas of labour relations, the state and civil society, it explores how improvements can be made in the conditions of labourers working 'at the margins' of global production networks, primarily as agricultural labourers and construction workers. Elements of social policy can improve the poor's material conditions and expand their political space where such ends are actively pursued by labouring class organisations. More fundamental change, though, requires stronger organisation of the informal workers who make up the majority of India's population.


'This book is a valuable addition to the "great tradition" of studies of the political economy of change in rural India. It is very much up to the moment in its excellent contextualisation of contemporary change; its investigation of rural "classes of labour" and what shapes their prospects, is innovative, theoretically sophisticated and empirically precise.'

Henry Bernstein, Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London

'This outstanding book, based on more than a decade of richly textured research illuminates the character of agrarian social relations in contemporary India and is a major contribution to understanding of the social implications of India's pursuit of neoliberalism.'

John Harriss, Professor of International Studies, Simon Fraser University


1. Introduction: poverty and the poor
2. A class-relational approach
3. Labour, state and civil society in rural India
4. Changing dynamics of exploitation in rural South India
5. Dynamics of domination in rural South India: class relations at the state-society interface
6. Social policy and class relations: the case of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
7. The neoliberalisation of civil society: community-based organisations, contractor NGOs and class relations
8. Organisations of labouring class women
9. Conclusion: poverty and class


Jonathan Pattenden is Lecturer in Politics and International Development at the University of East Anglia

Labour, state and society in rural India

By Jonathan Pattenden

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

Paperback £25.00 / $36.95

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