Book review: Elizabeth Chatterjee and Matthew McCartney, eds. Class and Conflict: Revisiting Pranab Bardhan’s Political Economy of India

AuthorSudhir Kumar Suthar
Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 301
transformation from being enshrined in the Indian constitution as one of the directive principles to a fun-
damental right. It has highlighted the significance of this right being enforceable. Matthey-Prakash has
aptly identified the weaknesses existing in the current grievance redress system. The old dilemmas in
addressing grievances in the field of education—whether to adopt centralisation or decentralisation, sepa-
ration of power or collaboration of power between three branches of government—are still relevant. The
sudden changes in the ground realities due to COVID-19 are the only thing that makes this book a bit
outdated. New challenges associated with large-scale disruption in the education process and online
classes, now not limited to children of poor families, demands a wider take on new forms of grievances
and their redressal. This book gives us a starting point to address the enforceability of the Right to
Education and therefore can be recommended for practitioners and policymakers associated with the field
of education.
Rashmi Gopi
Rashmi Gopi
Miranda House, University of Delhi, Delhi, India
Elizabeth Chatterjee and Matthew McCartney, eds. Class and Conflict: Revisiting Pranab Bardhan’s Political
Economy of India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2019. 299 pages. `1,395
DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043604
This book is a collection of nine essays that attempt to understand the relevance of the findings by Pranab
Bardhan in his volume on Political Economy of Development in India (PEDI), published in the year
1984. These essays critically analyse the two major hypotheses presented in PEDI: first, the class
character of the Indian state, consisting of three dominant proprietary classes (DPC) of industrial
capitalists, wealthy farmers, urban professionals; and second, the ability of these classes to set the policy
agenda of the Indian state. Bardhan had further argued that the subsidy regime and neglect of the
manufacturing sector were the two major outcomes of the prevailing class structure and state–society
relations in India during the 1960s and 1970s.
Another pertinent question that the book dwells upon is the changing nature of Indian state since the
publication of PEDI in 1984: is it autonomous, or a state controlled by the three dominant classes? The
essays do not question the validity of Bardhan’s conclusions about the nature of the Indian state per se.
They analyse Indian state as a ménage à trois of classes in the emerging changes especially in the
aftermath of 1991 economic reforms and rise of identity politics. The essays in the volume consider how
autonomous the Indian state has become over the last few decades and how it ceases to be a hostage of
the interests of the three dominant classes.
The essays also challenge some of the popular perceptions about Indian politics (the nature of the
Indian state, for example); the economy (the link between subsidies and growth); and the emerging
nature of the new middle class. The introductory essay by the Matthew McCartney and Elizabeth
Chatterjee explores the macro-level generalizations presented in PEDI and the emerging trends in Indian
politics, society and economy after publication of the volume. The introductory essay also highlights
theoretical contributions made by Bardhan in the field of political economy. Interestingly, Bardhan
himself has contributed a chapter in the volume where he revisits some of his conclusions about the

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