Changing Socio-Economic Relations in the Kandyan Countryside

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Newton Gunasinghe’s masterly and brilliant analysis of Kandyan agrarian society, combines detailed field research with rigorous theoretical analysis based on Marx, Gramsci, and Althusser. The study examines the changing socio-political formations in Kandyan society and argues that “peripheral capitalism” as in Sri Lanka led to the “reactivation of archaic production relations.” Dr.Gunasinghe describes the Kandyan social formation, and its disintegration after the imposition of capitalism. He also makes a valuable contribution to understanding what he calls “the dialectic of caste and class” in both agricultural and craft production. This sharply argued analysis, (Newton Gunasinghe’s Ph.D thesis) written in his lucid hard-hitting style has become a classic reference work for understanding the changes in Kandyan society.

Newton Gunasinghe, born in Nawalapitiya in 1941, went to school in Nawalapitiya and Gampola and graduated in sociology and anthropology from the University of Peradeniya in 1963. He received and MA from the University of Monash, Australia and his Ph.D in 1979 was from the University of Sussex in Britain. At the time of his death in 1988 he was a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Colombo. Gunasinghe was a founder of the Workers and Peasants Institute in Kandy and was active in Left politics, trade unionism and the peace movement.