A recent UNDP report makes the astonishing claim that India has halved its poverty between 2006 and 2016. Moving us past the rosy picture, Alpa Shah
and her co-author's multi-authored, masterful Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st-Century India
(Pluto Press, 2017) focuses on those left behind by, and indeed ground down by, India’s much touted growth. Based on intensive fieldwork in multiple locations across India, the book finds that in particular it is India’s ‘untouchables’ (Dalits) and ‘tribals’ (Adivasis) who toil at the bottom of the pyramid in thankless conditions and for little reward. Instead of eradicating inequalities of caste and tribe, the intensification of capitalism has in fact further entrenched them, transforming them into new mechanisms of oppression and accumulation. Analytical rigor paired with lucid prose makes this co-researched and co-authored book indispensable for scholars and citizens concerned with the Global South, inequality, capitalism, economic growth, and social difference.
Aparna Gopalan is a Ph.D. student at Harvard University with interests in agrarian capitalism in rural Rajasthan.