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Feeding the Baniya: Peasants and Usurers in Western India

David Hardiman (Author)
Synopsis A peasant proverb in western India gives expression to the hegemony of Baniya usurers over the peasants: 'I love the Sheth Baniya so much that I have given him a fat belly.' The indebted peasantry feeds the Baniya merchants' never-ending demands for agrarian produce, enriching the usurers while being itself trapped in a cycle of poverty. In this detailed and comprehensive study of the relationship between peasants and Baniya usurers in western India, David Hardiman examines how and why usurers have, over the centuries, managed to exert their power over the peasantry. An explanation purely in terms of the economics of the relationship is, he argues, not adequate. Crucial also has been the support extended to the Baniyas by successive states from pre-colonial to colonial times. But over and above this is the ideological or hegemonic power that Baniyas have been able to exert over their clients. Applying insights derived from the works of Gramsci, Foucault and Bourdieu, Hardiman explores the nature of this hegemony, seeing how a shared set of beliefs could help the Baniyas consolidate their power. Despite this, the relationship was by no means a harmonious one. There was a whole range of tensions which at times gave rise to protest and resistance. The history of peasant resistance to Baniya usury is examined here in depth. Feeding the Baniya spans the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods of Indian history. The role of merchant and usurer capital in the appropriation of the peasants' surplus is examined, revealing crucial changes over time, and it is argued that the institution of usury has undergone a metamorphosis in the period since Indian independence. This book, by a leading 'Subaltern' historian, provides important insights into the social, economic and cultural history of the subaltern classes of rural India. It will interest historians, sociologists, anthropologists and political economists, as well as activists working in rural areas.
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About the author

David Hardiman

David Hardiman has held research fellowships in Calcutta, Surat, Princeton and Manchester.

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Bibliographic information

Title Feeding the Baniya: Peasants and Usurers in Western India
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2000
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 0195651995
length xviii+386p., 23cm.
Subjects History