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Does ‘Landlordism’ Still Matter? Reflections on Agrarian Change in India

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Abstract

The three principal communist parties of India continue, in their programmes, to emphasize the significance of landlordism. This paper subjects their arguments about the current state of agrarian production relations to scrutiny, in the light of contemporary research and scholarship. This strongly suggests that classic ‘semi-feudal’ landlordism has very largely gone. The paper argues however, that there remains a strong case for redistributivist land reform, even though it does not supply the answer to the agrarian question of India that once it did. For all the evidence of the ‘declining power of caste hierarchies’ and the reduced significance of the village, landed power remains a major factor in Indian politics and society.

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