The Persistence of Debt Bondage in South India: Market and Political Alliances

  • Isabelle Guérin
  • Govidan Venkatasubramanian
  • Santosh Kumar


Drawing on India, Guérin, Venkatasubramanian, and Kumar explore the dynamics of debt, debt bondage, and unfree labour in the age of financialized capitalism. Debt has long contributed to the impoverishment and exploitation of the labouring poor, and it often takes on a variety of forms, from capitalist employers and local usurers, to private financial companies. Labourers have acquired greater agency and protest capacity through public social programmes, pressure from civil society, and growing exposure to new lifestyles. But capitalism, in turn, demonstrates a remarkable ability to reiterate its methods of controlling, disciplining, and exploiting manpower. More specifically, in India, alliances between private capital and the state are instrumental in the continuation of labour exploitation.

Select Bibliography

  1. Breman, J. Footloose Labour: Working in the Indian Informal Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ———. Labour Bondage in West India: From Past to Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  3. Breman, J., I. Guérin and A. Prakash, eds. India’s Unfree Workforce: Old and New Practices. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  4. Guérin, Isabelle. “Bonded Labour, Agrarian change and Capitalism: Emerging Patterns in South-India.” Journal of Agrarian Change 13, no. 3 (2013): 405–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Lerche, J. “A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour? Unfree Labour, Neo-liberal Globalization and the International Labour Organization.” Journal of Agrarian Change 7 (2007): 425–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Guérin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Govidan Venkatasubramanian
    • 3
  • Santosh Kumar
    • 4
  1. 1.Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)MarseilleFrance
  2. 2.Centre d’études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques (CESSMA)ParisFrance
  3. 3.French Institute of PondicherryPuducherryIndia
  4. 4.Independent ResearcherPuducherryIndia

Personalised recommendations