© 2016

Social Movements and the State in India

Deepening Democracy?

  • Kenneth Bo Nielsen
  • Alf Gunvald Nilsen


  • Scrutinises the aids and constraints that social movements face in advancing collective projects

  • Offers rich and stimulating accounts engaging with the broader question of democracy in India across a range of sites of contention

  • Gives a broad thematic coverage of the implications of past and present struggles for the nature of India's democracy


Part of the Rethinking International Development series book series (RID)

Table of contents

About this book


Questions of the extent to which social movements are capable of deepening democracy in India lie at the heart of this book. In particular, the authors ask how such movements can enhance the political capacities of subaltern groups and thereby enable them to contest and challenge marginality, stigma, and exploitation. The work addresses these questions through detailed empirical analyses of contemporary fields of protest in Indian society – ranging from gender and caste to class and rights-based legislation. Drawing on the original research of a variety of emerging and established international scholars, the volume contributes to an engaged dialogue on the prospects for democratizing Indian democracy in a context where neoliberal reforms fuel a contradictory process of uneven development.   


State formation Slow-motion counterrevolyution Neoliberalism Caste Dalit Feminists UN Global Justice Activism Collective Action 'Right to Work' Right to Information Act Labour Movement Mobilization Class Alliances Maoist Mobilization Agrarian Change

Editors and affiliations

  • Kenneth Bo Nielsen
    • 1
  • Alf Gunvald Nilsen
    • 2
  1. 1.University of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.University of BergenBergenNorway

About the editors

Kenneth Bo Nielsen is an anthropologist working at the Department of Sociology at the University of Bergen, Norway, and also coordinates the Norwegian Network for Asian Studies, hosted by the University of Oslo’s Centre for Development and the Environment. His current research focuses on social movements and land dispossession in India.

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Bergen, Norway, and Senior Visiting Researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His work focuses on social movements in the global South, with a particular concentration on India. 

Bibliographic information


“Social Movements and the State in India is a model for social movement analysis, situating multiple struggles within a sustained analysis of the trajectory of the Indian state in the shadow of neoliberalism. In a well-coordinated set of historical, international, regional, and ethnographic approaches, this volume offers nuanced accounts of the possibilities of political democracy across Indian time and space, and a promising template for future comparative research.” (Philip McMichael, Cornell University, USA)

“This timely book provides an insightful understanding of the way in which Indian democracy has been shaped by the mutual interaction of social movements and the state in the 21st century. Avoiding simplistic assumptions, with contributions by fresh scholars, and covering a range of social movements – from farmer’s and women’s movement to struggles for rights-based legislation and its implementation to labour and the Maoist movement -  this volume will be widely welcomed by all those interested in questions of power, political economy and social change.” (Nandini Sundar, Delhi School of Economics, India)

“This anthology focuses on the contemporary social movements of subalterns seeking a space in a democratic system which has increasingly been geared to serve neoliberal economic agenda. The scholars critically examine to what extent social movements have been capable of deepening democracy in such a way as to enhance the political capacities of subaltern groups and thereby enable them to contest and challenge marginality, stigma, and exploitation. The various chapters provide rich and stimulating accounts of the struggles of the India’s poor and deprived communities for their rights and to carve out space in the system. The book will be valuable to all who are concerned with understanding nature and extent of deepening of democracy beyond formal elections.” (Ghanshyam Shah, Centre for Social Studies, Surat, India)