Nigel Harris Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Nigel Harris


(Autumn 1963)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.14, Autumn 1963, pp.38-39.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Economic Development and Social Change in South India
T. Scarlett Epstein
Manchester University Press. 42s.

Indian Political Thought: The Nationalist Movement
D. Mackenzie Brown
University of California Press (Cambridge). 12s.6d.

The brief limits of a review do not allow adequate justice to be done to Dr Epstein’s excellent contribution to knowledge of Indian rural life and, more important, the impact upon it of differing sorts of economic change. Dr Epstein has examined the impact of irrigation upon two Mysore villages – the one directly irrigated, the second close to an irrigation system in which it could not share. The results are the reverse of what might be expected – irrigation in the first, Wangala, while increasing absolute income and existing differentials, basically strengthened the existing rural situation and tied peasants more closely into the autonomous and traditional life of the village. Non-irrigation in the second, Dalena, stimulated entrepreneurship, closer village integration into the region, town employment of the villagers, and the beginning of the breakdown of the traditional structure of village life. In recounting this divergence, the basic starting point of development, the author in turn examines the economic, ritual, familial, political and social organization with great illumination, fully demonstrating how economic stimulation can merely result in a strengthening of the existing structure, even though it may alter detail of village life. An unfortunate tendency to excessive repetition should not detract from the value of this book, the underlying assumptions of which are a considerable advance on much that is written about development. Professor Brown’s book is a collection of Indian political documents, woven together into a continuous narrative relating the development of the Nationalist movement. Professor Brown’s account is rather more interesting than the relative dull, and pious meanderings of politicians off-duty: most of what is included is significant only within its historical context, rather than as a contribution to eternal wisdom. Indeed, reading such pieces leaves one wondering how it was that the writers included managed to reach such eminence, until one reflects that eminence is rather more a function of social context than innate wisdom. However, the book provides a preface to the study of Indian political history.

Nigel Harris Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 25 March 2010