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Misconceiving the grain heap: a critique of the concept of the Indian jajmani system

Fuller, C. J. (1989) Misconceiving the grain heap: a critique of the concept of the Indian jajmani system. In: Parry, Jonathan and Bloch, Maurice, (eds.) Money and the Morality of Exchange. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 33 - 63. ISBN 9780521367745

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Identification Number: 10.1017/CBO9780511621659.002


The exchange of produce, goods and services within the Indian village community, executed without the use of money, has long featured prominently in the literature of economic anthropology. It has served as a clear example of a socio-economic institution that is not subject to the operation of market forces, but is instead regulated by customary rights and privileges as these are expressed and enforced by the hereditary caste division of labour. From the nineteenth-century reports of British administrators in India to the modern literature of anthropology, the enduring symbol of this moneyless institution has been the grain heap divided into shares on the village threshing floor. In the contemporary ethnography of India, the village exchange system is usually referred to as the ‘jajmani system’. Few of the more perceptive writers on this topic have confined themselves to empirical description alone. They have looked too at the morality or values associated with exchange within the jajmani system and, especially in the work of Dumont, the argument has been powerfully put that these values, characteristic of ‘traditional’ Indian society, are fundamentally different from those of modern, Western society, dominated by its monetised, capitalist market economy. In other words, the village jajmani system has exemplified the radical opposition between traditional and modern economic systems and ideologies. Moreover, the argument has often been extended so that the pre-colonial Indian economy as a whole has also – if not always explicitly – been firmly consigned to the traditional side of the dichotomy.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1989 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
JEL classification: Z - Other Special Topics > Z1 - Cultural Economics; Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2011 14:56
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2021 23:02

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