- Beyond Regimes: China and India Compared ed. by Prasenjit Duara and Elizabeth J. Perry
With vastly different political, social, and economic systems one is likely to assume that India and China are not quite comparable. Beyond Regimes: China and India Compared, through its eight chapters, shows that comparison of state-society relations in the two countries to a great extent is not only in the realm of the possible but is a worthwhile academic endeavor. The theoretical framework within which all chapters are written is called convergent comparison. Circulatory forces which are manifestations of circulatory history demand local responses and form the zone of convergence. In the post-Cold War era and with the onset of globalization the various subnational and national responses form the basis of convergent comparison (p. 2). [End Page 297]
Chapter I ("The Origins of State Capacity: Workers and Officials in Mid- 20th Century Shanghai and Bombay") authored by Mark Frazier is an account of working class-relations with the state in the two industrial cities of Shanghai in China and Bombay (now Mumbai) in India from the 1950s to the 1970s. In both the cases the working-class organizations lacked autonomy. The chapter shows that during times of labor activism the state in some form or another intervened in ways which were inimical to the workers' interests in both Shanghai and Bombay. T. G. Suresh's study (Chapter 2, "Labor and State Absenteeism: The Intersecting Social Experience of Construction Workers in India and China") compares the issues pertaining to construction workers of Delhi and Shanghai. He points out that the "microlevel processes involving the tripartite exchange among labor, capital and the state (are found to be) closely parallel. Despite their variance in institutional capability, the state in both cases has either conceded or deliberately created nonjuridical spaces from which its own norms and instrumentalities are withdrawn or made to be passive" (p. 63). The state is, in other words absent. This chapter very aptly illustrates this point.
Chapter 3 by Sanjay Ruparelia is titled: "Contesting the Right to Law: Courts and Constitutionalism in India and China." It analyzes rights-based activism in the two countries. In both India and China there has been a striking nexus between prosperity, corruption, and inequality, particularly since the 1970s. Despite one being a federal parliamentary democracy and the other a communist-party ruled state, the trajectory of rights-based activism in India and China underscores the significance of courts, laws as well as constitutionalism as sites, techniques, and discourses of contestation. This chapter strongly suggests the irrelevance of classical political differences for understanding the relationship between the nation-state paradigms, logics of rights and citizenship, and the ramifications of globalization in each country across the three stylized temporalities on which the theoretical framework of this book is based. Manjusha Nair is the author of the next (fourth) chapter, "State-Embedded Villages: Rural Protests and Rights Awareness in India and China." Nair says that in her essay she focuses on a puzzle: villagers in both India and China, though living in vastly different political systems, reveal a similar awareness of their state-granted rights through their protests. Rural dwellers in India and China do have a certain conception of rights that are theirs and they know how to use the divisions within the institutionalized domain of politics to put pressure on the state to concede those rights. This point is further elaborated in her discussion of the land reforms and Green Revolution in India and the era of collectivization and communes in China.
Chapter 5 ("Parallel Trajectories: The Development of Welfare State in China and India") is written by Nara Dillon. Much of the chapter is devoted to pensions and cash benefits to the poor and elderly in the two countries. Her research shows that despite the states extending benefits, a majority of elderly Indians and [End Page 298] Chinese need to work...