Theories of Agrarian Development

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2EC2164

Semester and Year Offered: Winter Semester, Second year

Course Coordinator and Team: Arindam Banerjee

Email of course coordinator: arindam[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in


Aim: This course engages with the structure and problems of agriculture in developing countries, with a focus on India. The course provides an opportunity to students enrolled in the MA economics programme to engage with the rural economy and its challenges. This course seeks to introduce students to various theories of organization of agricultural production and agrarian transition theories. The varying experiences of the development of capitalism in agriculture in different parts of the world and the debates regarding such experiences are also covered. Further, it delves into the experiences of agrarian development under different economic regimes in post-independent India. The early debates on production conditions in Indian agriculture and the new constraints for agrarian development emerging in the period after economic liberalization are also introduced to the students.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Acquire knowledge of various theoretical frameworks, like neo-classical, neo-populist and Marxian, to analyze the agrarian production systems.
  2. Develop an in-depth understanding of the development in Indian agriculture and various sets of policies adopted for the agricultural sector after independence.
  3. Acquire the capacity to read, understand and interpret various kinds of primary and secondary data relevant to Indian agriculture.
  4. Develop the capacity to comprehend and articulate complex arguments and perspectives through their term papers and essays.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1. Theories of Peasant Economy and Agrarian Transitions:

  • Chayanovian peasant economy and demographic differentiation - Sen’s theory of ‘peasant dualism’ – Peasant class differentiation and capitalist development
  • GKI Theories of land redistribution and the return of the neo-populist – Critique of GKI framework – Market-led land reforms - Capital Accumulation in peasant agriculture
  • Agrarian Transitions – The ‘Prussian’ path and the ‘American’ path – Capitalism from ‘above’ and Capitalism from ‘below’ – Comparative study of transition experiences
  • Agrarian question in contemporary world under globalization – developing country experiences

2. Conditions of Agricultural production in India:

  • Colonial inheritance of agrarian structure – the rationale for land redistribution - ‘Mode of production’ debate – Capitalism and semi-feudalism in Indian agriculture – Green Revolution (GR) and its Political economy
  • Comparative study of regional agricultural growth in India - Terms of Trade debate and agricultural expansion – Post-GR challenges for agrarian development
  • Indian agriculture under economic reforms – WTO agreement and its implications for agriculture – Export-oriented agriculture versus food security – new constraints to agricultural growth and development – prices and markets under liberalization – institutional changes: credit, inputs and extension services – agrarian crisis: tenets and scope
  • Capitalism in agriculture and agrarian underdevelopment under neo-liberalism – the question of technology in agrarian development – the status of food security and poverty – associated debates

Assessment Details with weights:

The assessment plan for the course will be the following:

Group Presentation (20%): Students will make presentations on topics which engage with various traditions of analysing the agrarian and land questions and on the development of Indian agriculture.

Article Review (40%): Students will review an important article in the literature around agrarian development, engaging with the hypothesis of the article in light of the wider literature on the topic/subject.

Term Paper (40%): Students will critically engage and articulate various theoretical debates regarding agrarian development and the development of Indian agriculture in a 2500 word paper.

Reading List:

  • Basu, Kaushik (1984) ‘Implicit Interest Rates, Usury and Isolation in Backward Agriculture’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 8(2).
  • Bernstein, Henry (2002) ‘Land Reform: Taking a Long(er) View’, Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 2(4), pp.433-463.
  • Bhaduri, Amit (1973) ‘A Study of Agricultural Backwardness under Conditions of Semi-Feudalism’, Economic Journal, Vol. 86; pp. 120-137.
  • Byres, T.J. (2002) ‘Paths of Capitalist Agrarian Transition in the Past and in the Contemporary World’ in Ramachandran, V. K. and Swaminathan, M. eds. Agrarian Studies: Essays on Agrarian Relations in Less-Developed Countries, New Delhi, Tulika.
  • Byres, T.J. (2004b) ‘Neo-Classical Neo-Populism 25 Years On: Déjà Vu and Déjà Passé’, Journal of Agrarian Change. Vol. 4(1&2): 17-44.
  • Chayanov A.V. (1966) The Theory of Peasant Economy, ed. by D. Thorner, B. Kerblay and R.E.F. Smith, Homewood, Illinois, Irwin.
  • Deininger, Klaus (1999) 'Making Negotiated Land Reform Work: Initial Experience from Colombia, Brazil and South Africa', World Development, Vol.27(4); pp. 651-672.
  • Dyer Graham (2004) ‘Redistributive Land reform: No April Rose. The Poverty of Berry and Cline and GKI on the Inverse Relationship’, Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 4(1&2); pp. 45-72.
  • Griffin, K., A. R. Khan and A. Ickowitz (2002) 'Poverty and the Distribution of Land', Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 2(3); pp.279-330.