Whatever Happened to Class? : Reflections from South Asia book cover
1st Edition

Whatever Happened to Class?
Reflections from South Asia

ISBN 9781138987067
Published September 6, 2016 by Routledge
228 Pages

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Book Description

Class explains much in the differentiation of life chances and political dynamics in South Asia; scholarship from the region contributed much to class analysis. Yet class has lost its previous centrality as a way of understanding the world and how it changes. This outcome is puzzling; new configurations of global economic forces and policy have widened gaps between classes and across sectors and regions, altered people’s relations to production, and produced new state-citizen relations. Does market triumphalism or increased salience of identity politics render class irrelevant? Has rapid growth in aggregate wealth obviated long-standing questions of inequality and poverty? Explanations for what happened to class vary, from intellectual fads to global transformations of interests. The authors ask what is lost in the move away from class, and what South Asian experiences tell us about the limits of class analysis. Empirical chapters examine formal and informal-sector labor, social movements against genetic engineering, and politics of the "new middle class." A unifying analytical concern is specifying conditions under which interests of those disadvantaged by class systems are immobilized, diffused, coopted -- or autonomously recognized and acted upon politically: the problematic transition of classes in themselves to classes for themselves.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction — Restoring Agency to Class: Puzzles from South Asia Ronald J. Herring and Rina Agarwala

2 On the Decline of Class Analysis in South Asian Studies Vivek Chibber

3 Was the Indian Labor Movement Ever Co-opted? Evaluating Standard Accounts Emmanuel Teitelbaum

4 From Work to Welfare: A New Class Movement in India Rina Agarwala

5 Middle-Class Activism and the Politics of the Informal Working Class: A Perspective on Class Relations and Civil Society in Indian Cities John Harriss

6 Why Did "Operation Cremate Monsanto" Fail? Science and Class in India’s Great Terminator-Technology Hoax Ronald J. Herring

7 Hegemonic Aspirations: New Middle Class Politics and India’s Democracy in Comparative Perspective Leela Fernandes and Patrick Heller

8 Workers’ Organizations in Pakistan: Why No Role in Formal Politics? Christopher Candland

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Rina Agarwala is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. She holds a Doctor in Philosophy (Ph.D.) in sociology and demography from Princeton University, a Masters in Public Policy (M.P.P.) in political and economic development from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in economics and government from Cornell University. Agarwala has also worked at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in China, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, and Women’s World Banking (WWB) in New York. 

Ronald Herring has taught at Cornell University since 1991, where he's served as Director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and John S. Knight Chair of International Relations, and Chair of the Department of Government. Before Cornell, Herring was Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where he also was Editor of Comparative Political Studies. Recent work explored connections between development and ethnicity -- e.g. Carrots, Sticks and Ethnic Conflict: Rethinking Development Assistance (University of Michigan Press, edited with Milton Esman) -- and biotechnology [as editor of Transgenics and the Poor: Biotechnology and Development Studies]. He is now with Ken Roberts team leader of Cornell's Institute for the Social Sciences theme project on authoritative knowledge, science and social movements: http://www.socialsciences.cornell.edu/theme_projects.html.


"This is an outstanding volume, a must read for both friends and foes of class analysis. The contributions are sophisticated, sober, and timely."

— Atul Kohli, Princeton University

"This important book revives the concept of class to illuminate the dramatic changes occurring in contemporary South Asian society. Its intriguing insights make it essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the social dynamics of the region and the continuing relevance of class."

— John Echeverri-Gent, University of Virginia

"This terrific, sharply focused book illuminates how very much we have lost by dismissing class analysis and why. From workers to middle classes to migrants, and from social science to natural science, these distinguished scholars show us what was right before our eyes if only we would see it.."

— Marc Blecher, Oberlin College

"Thus book shows, contrary to recent social science claims, that smart class analysis is not only possible but still carries a power explanatory punch. Refusing to shy away from the difficulties of class theory, and carefully considering the naysayers, the contributors continually push readers onto promising new turf. That these lessons from South Asia also apply to other non-core countries is what makes the book valuable to a wide body of students and researchers."

— David Ost

"South Asian capitalism fragments the political organization of labour while the working class multiplies; it consolidates the organization of capital while pathways to accumulation diversify. The willful ignoring or destruction of class analysis obscures our understanding of the complex class and non-class dynamics of capitalism. Agarwala, Herring and their colleagues are to be congratulated for bringing class back in."

— Barbara Harriss-White, Oxford University