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The Agrarian Question in Neoliberal India: Agrarian Transition Bypassed?


  • I am grateful for comments and suggestions from the participants of the workshop ‘Agrarian transformation in India: its significance for left politics’, Wolfson College, Oxford and from the Journal's anonymous referees.


This paper re-interrogates the positions on the agrarian question in India, to reach fresh conclusions about important agrarian policies of the Left, including that of land reforms. Internationally, the classical political economy approach to agrarian transitions has been challenged by positions arguing (a) that neoliberalism and the international corporate food regime have led to a new dominant contradiction between the peasantry and multinational agribusiness or (b) that the agrarian question for capital has been bypassed. It is shown that most analyses of the agrarian question in India, including those of Indian Left parties, tend to adhere either to the classical political economy approach, or their analyses are close to the peasantry versus the corporate food regime approach. In spite of this, it is here argued that an empirical analysis of agrarian transition in India lends credence to some aspects of the third position; that is, the argument that the agrarian question for capital has been bypassed. The paper finishes with a discussion of the political implications of this.