Abstract

Cooperatives are a promising link that can coalesce subdisciplines such as agrarian, labor, economic, and social history. This article reassesses the significance of cooperatives in the agrarian and social history of South Asia. It provides a broad sketch of the major historical developments—legal, economic, and social—in India up to 1970, emphasizing the continuity between the colonial and postcolonial periods in terms of state engagement with cooperatives. The article goes on to discuss the existing historiography regarding the cooperative movement on the subcontinent, arguing for the substitution of the prevailing notion of failure with a more historically grounded and nuanced approach that takes into consideration the broader economic context, as well as social stratification and inequality. Finally, some promising avenues—including, but not limited to, organizational economics, bottom-up social and cultural history, and global history—are suggested for the future historiography of cooperatives in South Asia.

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