Gatekeeping as accumulation and domination: Decentralization and class relations in rural South India

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Gatekeeping is taken here to mean the act of channelling formal and informal resources between the state and society for private economic and political gain. Based upon fieldwork in Karnataka, India, this paper argues that whilst traditional forms of control over the labouring class have been eroded, gatekeeping increasingly allows the dominant class to exert a more subtle form of political control, which in turn facilitates processes of accumulation. Rather than equalizing political power and control over public resources, heightened levels of fiscal decentralization to village councils (gram panchayats) have increased levels of gatekeeping, which both provides a significant share of the politically active dominant class's income and forges new patterns of labouring class dependence upon the dominant class. This heightens socio-economic differentiation and reproduces the latter's political dominance despite the loosening of labour-related ties. In addition, it is argued that although a minority of gatekeepers are from the labouring class, their inclusion facilitates dominant class accumulation rather than their own upward mobility. The paper stratifies gatekeeping in order to locate it amongst the totality of social relations between and within classes, which collectively produce processes of accumulation, differentiation and domination within society. The paper concludes that although the forms taken by extra-economic aspects of capital's control over rural labour have been altered during the erosion of traditional forms of dominance, they remain highly significant and are increasingly so in the fieldwork area in a context of decentralized governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-194
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Agrarian Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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