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Far From the Rural Reality

Arvind Narain Das

By Biplab Dasgupta et al
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1977, 229, 40.00

By John Connell & Michael Lipton
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1977, 180, 35.00

By John Connell et al
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1976, 228, 40.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 5 September-October 1977

Since the early 50s, coinciding with the setting up of the ‘national’ govern­ments in many of the Third World countries, and perhaps consequent to it, several thousand intensive surveys have been made of single villages in those countries. This concern of academics in the ‘developing’ nations with rural realities is perhaps because of a realiza­tion on the part of the ruling sections in those countries that wide-scale economic development cannot be brought about in a situation of rural and agrarian back­wardness, stagnation and underdevelopment. As long as the rural population remains sunk in the morass of poverty, deprivation and backwardness, any development which may take place in the industrial-urban sector will essentially be superficial, dependent on external ‘aid’ and a manifestation of what Andre Gunder Frank has called ‘lumpen capita­lism’ and ‘lumpen development’. In order, therefore, to find deeper roots for the developmental strategies pursued by these ‘developing’ countries, their elites, which include the academic communi­ties, decided to first find out exactly what the rural situation was. This was impor­tant from their point of view because for many of them climbing down from the ivory towers of academia into the harsh world of the peasant marked a great transition, because in most of these countries the umbilical cord of the elite to the mother civilization or the peasant had been severed by the midwifery of colonialism. Hence, when the urban elite encountered village situations in their own countries as a part of research and investigation they saw it in the wide-­eyed manner of beholding something strange. The attempt was therefore coloured by a certain patronizing attitude which academics adopted in studying peasants. Thus, there grew a tendency to ‘adopt’ villages for microscopic exami­nation by scholars. Hence the spurt of studies relating to ‘my village’ (e.g. M.N. Srinivas, Scarlett Epstein, F.G. Bailey, Prafulla.Mohanty, et al).   However, while this type of investi­gation into antiquarian ‘objects’ was undertaken mainly by sociologists and social anthropologists, some other scho­lars, particularly from the disciplines of economics and history, concerned them­selves not only with the peculiarities of villages but with wider issues of political economy which may explain the existing situations and help to change them. Such studies did not deal with ‘my village’ but, nevertheless, used the methods of field survey and grass-root investigation to collect substantial amounts of data relating ...

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