Classes of Labour: Work and Life in a Central Indian Steel Town
Jonathan Parry (in collaboration with Ajay T.G.)
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Social Science Press

Classes Of Labour: Work And Life In A Central Indian Steel Town is a classic in the social sciences. The rigour and richness of the ethnographic data of this book and its analysis is matched only by its literary style. This magnum opus of 732 pages, an outcome of fieldwork covering twenty-one years, complete with diagrams and photographs, reads like an epic novel, difficult to put down. Professor Jonathan Parry looks at a context in which the manual workforce is divided into distinct social classes, which have a clear sense of themselves as separate and interests that are sometimes opposed. The relationship between them may even be one of exploitation; and they are associated with different lifestyles and outlooks, kinship and marriage practices, and suicide patterns. A central concern is with the intersection between class, caste, gender and regional ethnicity, with how class trumps caste in most contexts and with how classes have become increasingly structured as the ‘structuration’ of castes has declined. The wider theoretical ambition is to specify the general conditions under which the so-called ‘working class’ has any realistic prospect of unity.

About The Author: Jonathan Parry is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Anthropology in the London School of Economics. He has conducted field research in various parts of India on various different topics. His first study was in a rural area in the sub-Himalayan region where he focused on the classic anthropological themes of caste, kinship, and marriage. He subsequently worked in the city of Banaras where he studied the various communities of ‘sacred specialists’ in one way or another concerned with the ‘business’ of death-specialists who preside over rituals concerned with the disposal of the corpse, the fate of the soul, and the purification of the mourners. More recently, Professor Parry has been doing fieldwork on industrial workers in the central Indian steel town of Bhilai (in the Chhattisgarh region of Madhya Pradesh) which was built on a ‘green field’ site with Soviet collaboration and technology in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The public sector Bhilai Steel Plant is now one of the largest steel plants in Asia, and has served as a magnet for a great deal of private sector industrial development. Part of the fieldwork has focused on shopfloor organisation, but much of it has been conducted in the ex-villages-cum-labour colonies in which the workers have their homes. Professor Parry has also written more widely on the theoretical topics of death, the body, and exchange.

About The Collaborator: Ajay T.G. is a freelance documentary filmmaker and worked as Professor Parry’s research assistant throughout most of the fieldwork on which this monograph reports.

List of Illustrations|| Preface || Acknowledgements|| A Note on the Text||Abbreviations and Acronyms || Glossary

1. Introduction: A Symbol and a Portent
1.1 Preamble |1.2 A ‘tragedy of development’? |1.3 An instantiation of the dream? |1.4 A short guide to the text
2. Classes of Labour
2.1 The temptations of teleology |2.2 On the concept of class |2.3 Citadel or mountain?|
2.4 Naukri and kam |2.5 Jobs as property |2.6 A summary conclusion
3. Building Bhilai
3.1 An Industrial ‘monoculture’ |3.2 Pioneer stories and the development of class differentiation|3.3 The space of the town |3.4 Peripheral bastis |3.5 Of settlers and sojourners |3.6 A summary conclusion
4. The Price of Modernity
4.1 Preamble |4.2 Displacement |4.3 Churning |4.4 In the happy world of the fields |4.5 Sacrifice |4.6 A summary conclusion


5. A Post in the Plant
5.1 Framing |5.2 Recruitment and the reproduction of the workforce |5.3 Reservations |5.4 Compassionate appointments |5.5 ‘Source’ and ‘note’ |5.6 Promotions |5.7 The size of the purse |5.8 Moonlighting |5.9 The status situation of BSP workers |5.10 A summary conclusion
6. The Work Situation of BSP Labour
6.1 Preamble |6.2 On the shop floor in the 1990s |6.3 Changes on the shop floor (2006)|6.4 Contract labour in the Plant |6.5 The working world of contract labour |6.6 Union politics in the Plant |6.7 The unions in the mines |6.8 A summary conclusion
7. Private Sector Industry
7.1 Framing |7.2 Private industry and the public sector |7.3 The unions, the employers and the state |7.4 The Kedia unions |7.5 On the shop floor – a case history |7.6 Differentiation|7.7 Demand labour |7.8 A summary conclusion
8. Informal Sector Labour and the Construction of Class
8.1 Framing |8.2 The character of construction labour |8.3 The labour chauris |8.4 Sex on site |8.5 Sex and class |8.6 A comparative note on recycling work |8.7 A summary conclusion

9. Caste and Class in the Neighbourhood

9.1 Framing |9.2 From village to labour colony |9.3 Livelihoods |9.4 Indebtedness |9.5 Conflict and violence in the neighbourhood |9.6 Class differentiation in the basti |9.7 Caste in the neighbourhood |9.8 Caste ‘atrocities’ |9.9 A summary conclusion
10. Growing Up; Growing Apart
10.1 Preamble |10.2 The changed context of childhood |10.3 Childhood as a ticking clock |
10.4 The work children do |10.5 Shalini’s class |10.6 The end of childhood |10.7 Caste, class and childhood: A summary conclusion
11. Marriage and Remarriage
11.1 Framing |11.2 Ankalu’s errant wife |11.3 The ‘virgin’ bride and the ‘made woman’ |11.4 Breaking the marriage bond: Some ‘quantitative gossip’|11.5 BSP and the stability of marriage |11.6 Conjugality and the growth of intimacy |11.7 The burdens of women |11.8 A summary conclusion
12. Self-inflicted Death
12.1 Framing |12.2 Local discourse on suicide|12.3 The statistical fog |12.4 On the causes of ‘causes’ |12.5 Suicide and the law |12.6 A summary conclusion


13. Focusing and Expanding the Lens
13.1 Framing |13.2 Stocktaking |13.3 The contrast with Rourkela |13.4 In other company towns |13.5 Naukri and kam in other settings

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