Agarwala R. & R.J. Herring, (eds.).

Author:Zentella, Yoly
Position:2009 - Book review

Agarwala R. & R.J. Herring, (eds.). (2009). Whatever happened to class? Reflections from South Asia. Lanham, MD.: Lexington Books. 216 pp.

Edited by Agarwala and Herring, Whatever happened to class? Reflections from South Asia, is a collection of 7 essay chapters. Here, the authors question the loss of moving away from the concept of class and use of class analysis on South Asia within a globalized context. The diverse articles respond to these questions by discussing the relationship between labor sectors, an increased working class, the diversification of accumulation, the genetically modified food production (GMO) trend, emerging middle classes, and resistance to GMO use. Included in a modern definition of class are changes in South Asian societies with unique capitalist styles, and alliances and divisions among social groups. Relationships between sectors of the population and place, and between individuals, production, corporate interests, the media, resistance rhetoric, social movements, activism, manipulation and cooption of grassroots populations, traditional culture, identity, and the role of science--add to the contemporary meaning of class.

When we were undergrad students studying Marx, the concept of class meant a group of individuals holding common economic interests within a particular society; this was a neater manner in which to understand the world and a path toward comprehensive analysis. This has changed however, with the economic order becoming more complex. A modern definition of class is clear in Herring's chapter 6 essay, Why did "Operation Cremate Monsanto" fail? Science and class in India's great terminator-technology hoax. This piece is representative of the volume's thrust in its discussion of globalization and class.

GMO production has crept into much of the world's planting fields from com production in Mexico to cotton in India and China. Herring's account of Monsanto's Bt cotton biotechnology promoted by the Indian government, and the conflict that ensued is described as divisions created by its use and resistance to it. Indian farmers, the group most affected by GMO production, differed in their attitudes--to use or not to use, based on information received through various channels--rumors, opposition activism, government propaganda, and corporate media. The consequences of use or non use impacted farmers, cotton day laborers, consumers, and production with a variety of outcomes. Here was a case where...

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