This book, spanning a long period from about 1500 to 300 BC, tries to identify the main currents in the material life of northern Indian and explore their linkages with social processes.
This study is based on the assumption that the mode of production involving the theory of surplus leading to class formation continues to be the best working hypothesis, despite countless assertions to the contrary.
The effort to eliminate class and surplus has introduced the ?elite?, ?status?, ?hierarchy?, decision-making, etc. in their place. The theory of surplus is rejected on the ground that people do not produce more on their own but are forced to devote more work or mobilise more people for work. Nearly all serious investigators admit that only extra produce can support whole-time administrators, professionals, full-time priests, craftsmen and other specialists who do not produce their food themselves.
A large number of theoreticians frequently raise the problem of status and in explaining the structure and dynamics of a society, the use of status is preferred by those who feel fed up with the ?worn-out? concepts of class. It is argued that the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras form statuses and not classes. The problem is not to find out who is rich and who is poor but to assess the role members of a varna play in the mode of production which keeps the society going. The notion of class is an integral part of the materialist approach to history.
A few scholars who take an anthropological view of history hold that consideration of kinship played a vital role in ancient times.
The author then talks of the early Vedic period when tools were invented, like iron hoes, sickles and ploughshares and which led to the agricultural revolution which in turn strengthened the rice transplantation.
The author concludes that neither the ?theory of slavery nor that of the despotic agrarian emperor can be applied in the pre-modern history of India?At any rate, no single mode of production can be posited for the period from the Rig Vedic times to the Gupta times.?
Rural relics of ancient life and its glimpses in terracotta are also discussed in the book.
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