Labour migration, capitalist accumulation and feudal reproduction: a historical analysis from the Eastern Gangetic Plains

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This paper engages with the long-running debate on the transition from farm-based livelihoods to capitalism in the context of labour migration. Tracing the historic evolution of modes of production in the peripheral Mithilanchal region of the Eastern Gangetic Plains, it notes how the economic processes which are today driving the peasantry into the labour force through migration are not directly connected to the process of capitalist accumulation in the diverse locales where labour is employed, as is somtimes implied in the research on classic situations of “accumulation by dispossession”. The entry of the peasantry into the surplus labour pool is instead linked firstly, with a complex convergence of internal changes within a non-capitalist feudal mode of production on an economic, cultural and political level, and secondly, with the stresses brought about in the wake of expanding capitalist markets. The paper notes however that migrant labour still generates substantial profits for capitalism with a sharing of surplus between the latter, and landlord-money lenders. It argues that the relationship between modes of production in this context, is neither functional nor coincidental, and is linked instead with larger – at times opportunistic – class alliances which have evolved to fit the current political-economic conjuncture.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1600-1639
Number of pages40
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • India, Nepal, accumulation, agriculture, capitalism, feudalism, migration