This paper traces the rise of a new class of businessmen out of the class of capitalist farmers in coastal Andhra Pradesh and explores some of its social and economic characteristics. The emergence of this class is explained by reference to the convergence of several historical processes: the development of a productive and commercialised agrarian economy in the late nineteenth century and the emergence of a 'rich peasant' class, the integration of town and countryside, an early interest in education on the part of the rural elite, the politicisation of caste identity and, later, the green revolution and land reforms. High productivity and profit rates in agriculture have contributed to the development of capitalist tendencies in the system of agricultural production, and the 'capitalist farmers' are accumulating surpluses which they seek to invest in ever more profitable enterprises. The result has been a pattern of urban migration and economic diversification among the rural elite which, over several generations, has produced the new urban business class. The paper is being published in two parts. This, the first, part provides a brief sketch of the history of the region and the roots of the new capitalist class and describes some characteristics of the rural elite in the region based on the results of village studies. The second part of the paper, to appear next week, will present the results of a survey of urban-based businessmen coming from the rural elite and discuss the reasons for the development of a rural-based capitalist class in the area and some of the theoretical implications of this development.
The Economic and Political Weekly, published from Mumbai, is an Indian institution which enjoys a global reputation for excellence in independent scholarship and critical inquiry. First published in 1949 as the Economic Weekly and since 1966 as the Economic and Political Weekly, EPW, as the journal is popularly known, occupies a special place in the intellectual history of independent India. For more than five decades EPW has remained a unique forum that week after week has brought together academics, researchers, policy makers, independent thinkers, members of non-governmental organisations and political activists for debates straddling economics, politics, sociology, culture, the environment and numerous other disciplines.