Here’s an interesting article from Deepankar Basu and Amit Basole of the economics department at UMass Amherst.
But it tends to let facts speak for themselves, not getting bogged down in the usual pro- or anti-Naxalite boilerplate. Thus it contains a great deal of information about the nature of property holding and unpaid surplus labour in India’s agrarian and urban ‘informal’ sectors.
Those characteristics reveal, for contemporary India as for any other human collective, ‘the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state’:
One of the striking features of contemporary Indian capitalism is the predominance, both in agriculture and in industry, of small-scale production. In 2003, 70 percent of all operational holdings in Indian agriculture were less than 2.5 acres in size, with another 16 percent between 2.5 and 5 acres; around half of the produce from these small holdings is kept for family consumption while the other half is sold in the market. Similarly, informal manufacturing is dominated by petty proprietorships, which typically has an owner-employer and an unpaid worker (usually a family member); a large number of such firms neither employ wage labour nor are part of a putting-out system. Thus, while production for subsistence and for sale on small, unviable plots is a key characteristic of the agrarian scene, petty commodity production (or simple commodity production) marked by low productivity and income seems to be a pronounced feature of the non-farm economy. The vast majority of the Indian poor shuttle between these two.
Here, in the miserable tedium of ‘self-employment’ within the small workshop, household plot or home-based production, bound to the tyranny of the domestic patriarch or the local moneylender, is the reality behind journalistic effusions about ‘India’s growing middle class’.