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Journal ArticleDOI

Reconceiving the grain heap: Margins and movements on the market floor

22 Jan 2018-Contributions to Indian Sociology (SAGE PublicationsSage India: New Delhi, India)-Vol. 52, Iss: 1, pp 28-52

AbstractThis article returns to what was once an ethnographic staple in the sociology of India: the post-harvest grain heap. Having long occupied centre stage in analyses of a moneyless, redistributive transactional order widely known as the jajmani system, it has also been the subject of influential critique, where it has been argued that the misconceived heap sustained a powerful anthropological fiction. Moving beyond these positions, which seem to have left the heap grounded in the past, the grain heap in this work is reconceptualised as a critical entry point and analytic for the study of contemporary commodity markets. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in an agricultural market (mandi) in Madhya Pradesh, it finds that it is along the seams or internal margins of the market, at routine sites of physical transfer and exchange, assembly and dispersal, integration and disruption, that heaps of agricultural produce materialise. An analysis of critical aspects of the heap—its position, composition, measure... more

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Although they are ubiquitous, grades and standards are usually considered to be merely convenient technologies for organizing and regulating markets so as to reduce transaction costs. In contrast, in this paper it is argued that grades and standards are part of the moral economy of the modern world. Grades and standards both set norms for behavior and standardize (create uniformity). Grades and standards standardize (1) things, (2) workers, (3) markets, (4) capitalists, (5) standards themselves, (6) those who make the standards, (7) consumers, and (8) the environment. Grades and standards may be established by (1) national and international governmental standards bodies, (2) industry and independent standards setting bodies, (3) industry leaders, (4) specialized standards setting bodies, or (5) purchasing agents. Who participates in setting the standards, the processes by which standards are set and what the consequences of setting the standards are have considerable impact on fundamental questions about who we are and how we shall live.

297 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: This article argues against the mainstream view that eighteenth-century common rights were of little significance to working people. Markets in common rights and in their products provide an index of value, and when neither common rights nor derived products were bought and sold, values are imputed from the market prices of similar goods. Since women and children were the primary exploiters of common rights, their loss led to changes in women's economic position within the family and more generally to increased dependence of whole families on wages and wage earners.

258 citations

Book ChapterDOI
01 Nov 1989
Abstract: The exchange of produce, goods and services within the Indian village community, executed without the use of money, has long featured prominently in the literature of economic anthropology. It has served as a clear example of a socio-economic institution that is not subject to the operation of market forces, but is instead regulated by customary rights and privileges as these are expressed and enforced by the hereditary caste division of labour. From the nineteenth-century reports of British administrators in India to the modern literature of anthropology, the enduring symbol of this moneyless institution has been the grain heap divided into shares on the village threshing floor. In the contemporary ethnography of India, the village exchange system is usually referred to as the ‘jajmani system’. Few of the more perceptive writers on this topic have confined themselves to empirical description alone. They have looked too at the morality or values associated with exchange within the jajmani system and, especially in the work of Dumont, the argument has been powerfully put that these values, characteristic of ‘traditional’ Indian society, are fundamentally different from those of modern, Western society, dominated by its monetised, capitalist market economy. In other words, the village jajmani system has exemplified the radical opposition between traditional and modern economic systems and ideologies. Moreover, the argument has often been extended so that the pre-colonial Indian economy as a whole has also – if not always explicitly – been firmly consigned to the traditional side of the dichotomy.

95 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Jason Ditton1
Abstract: History lives on. The perpetual and perpetuating myth of the present is to believe that we -are liberated from the anguish of the past. On the contrary, the greatest source of history is impregnated in the mundane and everyday world of the present. The meaning of the world of work, for example, is revealed in its relationship to its past. Workers are not only, on the whole, paid as a class,1 those situated at structurally disadvantaged parts receive large segments of their wages “invisibly” - as tips or fiddles from customers, or pilferage and perks from employers. The crucial common factor in these forms of “invisible wages” is the added power which accrues to employers through their establishment. They are meaningfully located, however, not simply as archaic relics in the gradual rational liberation of the present from the feudal bond, but as forms of domination crucial to the persistence and growth of modern capitalism because of their solution to those disciplinary problems not soluble in money alone.

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: As states grapple with the forces of liberalization and globalization, they are increasingly pulling back on earlier levels of welfare provision and rhetoric. This article examines how the eclipsing role of the state in labor protection has affected state-labor relations. In particular, it analyzes collective action strategies among India's growing mass of informally employed workers, who do not receive secure wages or benefits from either the state or their employer. In response to the recent changes in state policies, I find that informal workers have had to alter their organizing strategies in ways that are reshaping the social contract between state and labor. Rather than demanding employers for workers' benefits, they are making direct demands on the state for welfare benefits. To attain state attention, informal workers are using the rhetoric of citizenship rights to offer their unregulated labor and political support in return for state recognition of their work. Such recognition bestows informal workers with a degree of social legitimacy, thereby dignifying their discontent and bolstering their status as claim makers in their society. These findings offer a reformulated model of state-labor relations that focuses attention on the qualitative, rather than quantitative, nature of the nexus; encompasses a dynamic and inter-dependent conceptualization of state and labor; and accommodates the creative and diverse strategies of industrial relations being forged in the contemporary era. Since the late 1990s, a literature designed to examine the variable effects of "globalization" has grown exponentially in the social sciences. 1 Within this literature, several scholars have bolstered the significance of globalization by arguing that the economic policies and the social forces that integrate national economies are

56 citations