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The Lagging Countryside


Keshab Das

GLOBALISING RURAL DEVELOPMENT: COMPETING PARADIGMS AND EMERGING REALITIES
Edited by M.C. Behera
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 468, Rs. 895.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 4 April 2007

Poised between the extreme confidence over neo-fabianism - that still more of state needed – and the great expectations from neo-liberalism – that more of markets would deliver – the developmentalism of the rural has taken a beating from both the thesis and its anti-thesis, during the last sixty years or so, if not more. The perspectives on developing the rural, overwhelmingly, have drawn upon the lamenting the absence and / or inadequacy of ‘modern’ infrastructure and institutions of governance. On a purely materialistic plane, the pace of urban-industrial growth – and its eventual concomitant social consequences – has always left the ‘lagging’ countryside far behind. In this quintessentially irreversible and inequitable process of ‘progress’, societies – from local to global – have pondered over and experimented with numerous ‘models’ of intervention hoping for the most noble outcomes, for instance, sustainable and participative use of natural resources; collective action for decentralized local governance; ensuring gender and social equity; heightened role for the para-statal agencies; and so on. The editor of the book under review has done well by bringing together seventeen papers, excluding his two, a detailed introduction and even a conclusion, documenting and reflecting on the aforesaid. Expectedly, south Asian and African (including Sub-Saharan) cases dominate while discussing abject poverty, equity and role of the agency. Issues on endogenous rural development do, however, include a few European case studies.   The first set of seven papers - a mix of conceptual enquiries into the varied approaches to rural development since the 1970s and close look at sporadic micro experiences - do, somehow, highlight the vital role of state in effecting rural development. Despite the homogenizing forces of globalization, the state - importantly, the local state - attempts to distinguish between the undifferentiated rural life and differentiated rurality.   Depending upon the nature and spread of globalizing tendencies the state has been envisaged to perform the multiple roles of the provider, doer and liberator; it is a cause of concern if it has been somewhat on the back foot. The examples come up both from Africa and Asian nations. An interesting case has been that of the hunting and gathering communities of south Thailand who while pursuing their traditional livelihood strategies have been ‘enwrapped’ by the state’s perusal of policies in tune with globalization. There have been counter cases as well, exemplified through studies in Bangladesh, which propose agricultural and ecological movements to protest forces of globalization. In most ...


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