Comparing Elite Subversion of Peasant RebellionsVasabjit Banerjee
Undoing the Revolution looks at the way rural underclasses ally with out-of-power elites to overthrow their governments—only to be shut out of power when the new regime assumes control. Vasabjit Banerjee first examines why peasants need to ally with dissenting elites in order to rebel. He then shows how conflict resolution and subsequent bargains to form new state institutions re-empower allied elites and re-marginalize peasants.
Banerjee evaluates three different agrarian societies during distinct time periods spanning the twentieth century: revolutionary Mexico from 1910 to 1930; late-colonial India from 1920 until 1947; and White-dominated Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) from the mid-1960s to 1980. This comparative approach also allows examination of both the underclass need for elite participation and the variety of causes that elites use to incentivize peasant classes to participate, extending from religious-ethnic identity and common political targets to the peasants’ and elites’ own economic grievances.
Undoing the Revolution demonstrates that both international and domestic investors in cash crops, natural resources, and finance can ally with peasant rebels; and, after threatened or actual state collapse, they can bargain with each other to select new state institutions.
“Vasabjit Banerjee’s fascinating book solves one of the most important puzzles of agrarian politics: why do successful peasant rebellions always lead to peasant remarginalization? Banerjee shows that peasants and elites need each other to overthrow the old order but that the victorious elites no longer need or want peasant allies to create a new order. This carefully crafted argument features illuminating case studies of revolutionary Mexico, late-colonial India, and White-dominated Zimbabwe.”
—James Mahoney, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Northwestern University
“Karl Marx famously compared peasants to potatoes in a sack, devoid of resources, incapable of coordinating their behavior, and hence unable to exercise political influence. Yet peasant-based rebellions were a major form of social and political change across the globe in the twentieth century. Using fine-grained case studies of rural rebellions in India, Mexico, and Zimbabwe, Vasabjit Banerjee presents an important and novel perspective of how alliances between peasants and local elites make rebellions possible but also deprive peasants of the fruits of their labor, as elites bargain among themselves to determine post-rebellion state formation and the redistribution of wealth.”
—David Waldner, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
"Banerjee discusses peasant-based rebellions in three countries (India, Mexico, and Zimbabwe) as a way of examining post-revolutionary state formation in the modern epoch... (and) provides detailed descriptions of each case study.... (H)e argues for the importance of elite participation and the resources that elites can provide for the success of peasant rebellions, and the conditions under which elites have either supported or incited agrarian uprisings.... Summing Up: Recommended."
"Undoing the Revolution provides an innovative and much needed bridge between grand theories of statecraft developed throughout the last century and more recent critical literature on the ‘local turn,' which explores the private and societal spheres of everyday politics.... Banerjee’s analysis is significant, and the findings and arguments explored within the text's 244 pages challenge many central and commonly held assumptions surrounding state formation within political science today. It is a thought-provoking assessment of how elites both support and subvert peasant rebellions."
— Political Science
" The book makes several important theoretical and empirical contributions to research on rebellion and state formation in agrarian societies.... Focusing on the role of elites, Undoing the Revolution suggests a convincing argument for how the features and dynamics of rebellions shape the subsequent processes of institution-building.... The book paves the way for a very interesting research agenda that analyzes the role of elites in mass mobilization in more detail.... All in all, Banerjee offers a compelling account of the role of elites in peasant rebellions. As such, Undoing the Revolution is an instructive and inspiring read for all researchers interested in the dynamics and outcomes of political mass mobilization."
— Perspective on Politics
" The author ’s extensive research travels in Mexico, India, and Southern Africa provide a compelling empirical depth to his theoretical generalizations emerging from a systematic and multi-dimensional comparison of three different epochs and continents. No less impressive is the knowledgeable use of historical and ethnographic literatures on each location. A special intellectual feat, however, might be Banerjee’s extensive engagement with a whole range of theories... (A) concise and clear text."
" Banerjee’s take on organized religion is welcome, especially his take on how it facilitated coalitions between the peasantries and elites. His nuanced definitions of what constituted the elites across the cases are sensitive to the historical record. Overall, he provides the reader with good historiographies of his cases."
—International Journal of Comparative Sociology
Politics, History, and Social Change