"A Movement of Subsidized Capitalists ? The Multi-level Influence of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in India"
This paper investigates the relationship between the state and India's rural informal sector by focusing on the collective mobilizations of middle-sized agricultural producers in Western Uttar Pradesh. These cultivators are involved in an economic sector which is at the same time capitalist, largely informal but also, to some extent, state-regulated. Through their mobilizations organized by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), they have attempted to influence state regulation of agricultural markets, obtaining increased input subsidies and better procurement prices for their produce, and thus an increase in the rates of return and profitability of their farming activity. The paper conceptualizes the modality of production of these farmers as ‘subsidized capitalism’, alluding to the self-employed and self-funded producers with holdings large enough to support a pair of bullocks defined as ‘bullock capitalists’ by Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph (1987), while denoting the crucial role of public subsidies in preserving this faction of informal agrarian capitalism. The paper also points to the ambivalent relationship between the ‘subsidized capitalists’ of Western Uttar Pradesh and the state: although they seek protection from the central government in the context of globalization, they confront and contest local state institutions by deploying collective strategies to distort local regulations of agricultural markets.