Labour Markets, Identities, Controversies

Reviews and Essays, 1982-2016


Debates about labour markets and the identity of those who, in an economic sense, circulate within them, together with the controversies such issues generate, have in the past been confined by development studies to the Third World. Now these same concerns have shifted, as the study of development has turned its attention to how these same phenomena affect metropolitan capitalist nations. For this reason, the book does not restrict the analysis of issues such as the free/unfree labour distinction and non-class identity to Third World contexts. The reviews, review essays and essays collected here also examine similar issues now evident in metropolitan capitalism, together with their political and ideological effects and implications.
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Biographical Note

Tom Brass, D.Phil (1982) formerly lectured in the SPS Faculty at Cambridge University and directed studies for Queens' College. He edited The Journal of Peasant Studies for almost two decades, and has published extensively on agrarian issues and rural labour relations, including Class, Culture and the Agrarian Myth (Brill, 2014).     

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ... ix Introduction: Labour Markets, Identities, Controversies ... 1 Part 1: Reviews 1 Reinventing India? ... 33 2 Saints and Sinners ... 44 3 Seeing Ghosts ... 51 4 Brief Encounters with Class ... 56 5 Interns Interned ... 59 6 Marxist Academics and Liberal Hypocrisy ... 62 7 Backing into the Limelight ... 68 8 A Marxist Defence of Marxist Theory ... 73 9 Houellebecq, Anthropologist? ... 77 Part 2: Review Essays 10 The Struggle of/(over) Post-emancipation Rural Labour (‘At Their Perfect Command’?) ... 85 11 Shifts and Stasis in Development Studies ... 106 12 Zomia, or a Postmodern History of Nowhere ... 140 13 The Populist Drift of Global Labour History ... 157 Part 3: Essays 14 The Sabotage of Anthropology and the Anthropologist as Saboteur ... 181 15 How Agrarian Cooperatives Fail: Lessons from 1970s Peru ... 192 16 Capitalism Bonded Labour in India: Reinterpreting Recent (Re-)Interpretations ... 239 17 The Unsaying of Marxism: Capitalist Accumulation and Unfreedom ... 292 18 Academia as Mode of Seduction, or the Elephant in the Socialist Room ... 312 19 The Industrial Reserve Army: What’s Not to Like? ... 354 Bibliography ... 385 Author Index ... 425 Subject Index ... 433


The book is aimed at an audience of undergraduate, postgraduate and academic researchers with an interest in agrarian issues, labour conditions, development studies, and political economy.