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Agricultural merchants' capital and class formation in India


, : Agricultural merchants' capital and class formation in India. Sociologia Ruralis 29(2): 166-179

Some theoretical and empirical contradictions are discussed in this paper. First, in a strict sense merchant capital is not capital. It is not a source of surplus value but it shares in surplus value distributed as profits. By itself it cannot be a prime mover in the formation and dissolution of classes. But secondly, while merchant capital is analytically distinct, it is hardly ever found empirically in its pure form. There are at least four sources of empirical 'impurity': (i) the combining of merchant capital with productive activity necessary to the circulation of commodities; (ii) the mobility of merchant capital with industrial capital; (iii) the progressive subordination of merchant capital to industrial capital; (iv) in relation to the interlinkage of merchant capital with finance or usurer's capital. It is argued that impure commercial capital has shown itself capable of contributing to the development of social classes (with discussions of the agrarian and industrial bourgeoisie in three regions of India) but that it also may work so as to preserve aspects of old social relations (with discussions of the role of commercial capital in hindering proletarianization from case studies in the north and south of India). Finally the paper explores and provides a critique of economic and political domination of merchant capital.

Accession: 001748813

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9523.1989.tb00364.x

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