This is a blog about the margins of modern capitalism, and about the politics of existence in a post-agrarian, post industrial world. You could say that it is a blog about rural development, or urban poverty, but really it is about a situation where economic change is creating new zones that are no longer rural, and where the urban economy offers few opportunities for prosperity or betterment. These are the ‘in-between’ zones of modern development – the rural slums, peri-urban shantytowns, formal and informal townships, agri-villages and commercial farmlands where urban and rural economies are being connected, remade and stitched together in sometimes surprising ways. More and more people are living in such places. Peasants, farm labourers, small farmers and rural denizens are being induced to leave rural areas and land based livelihoods, often in the name of economic growth, progress and development, and find themselves marginalised in a world where the formal and informal non-farm economy offer them few viable paths towards prosperity or even towards simple survival. Without access to land, they have scant refuge from an increasingly commodified world; excluded from the economy as workers, farmers, traders, they straddle the rural-urban divide, dependent on both the urban economy and on the rural hinterlands, but profiting from neither. But while they are often ‘socially excluded’ or (to use a term I prefer, adversely incorporated), they do not cease to live or seek to prosper; they are sometimes still the bearers of rights; they are often organised, and they always form part of the dynamism of society.
My interest is to understand the causes and the consequences of this situation, and to explore the responses it – both on the part of governments and on the part of marginalised people themselves. How do displaced and marginalised people respond to their status as ‘surplus people’? How do they give effect to their desire to survive and prosper? And how do governments deal with the challenges involved in managing the large, vulnerable and sometimes unruly populations created by present day processes of economic change? How do these struggles play out in the ‘grey zones’ of modern capitalism – the slums, farmlands and shantytowns at the frontiers between rural and urban economies? And what can these struggles and encounters at the peripheries of the ‘developing world’ teach us about the nature of economic and political change in the world more generally?
This website is where I share some of my writings, my research and my reflections on these and related questions. Reflections and comments on ongoing developments are shared in the news page, while the blog will contain somewhat more substantial and reflective pieces. In time, there will also be a resources section where relevant articles, papers, and other useful materials will be shared.
I also write about politics, myth, desire and ideology in another blog, A Subtle Knife