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From Structural Conflict to Agrarian Stalemate: Agrarian Reforms in South India

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Academic and policy literature is replete with accounts of failure and cynical symbolic manipulation in the field of agrarian reforms. Kerala state in Southwestern India represents a significant exception, far surpassing the more publicized reforms of West Bengal. The argument is that the necessary conditions for structural change-primarily radical mobilization of agrarian underclasses-developed in Kerala for an unusual set of reasons, including an especially oppressive and exploitative agrarian structure, early and extensive commercialization of the state's broader economy and integration of agrarian and social reform issues with development of the anti-colonial movement. Radical reform does not, however, mean either economic progress, as often assumed, nor unambiguous liberation for the most depressed classes, as field investigations of the post-reform structure illustrate.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, U.S.A.


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