James Scott study of the Malaysian village he calls "Sedaka" (alms) shows a unique opposition to Marx's idea of mystifying ideologies. Marx's theory is understood that the core of society is class conflict. This conflict is what drives things forward; it will eventually lead to the proletariat realizing that they are being exploited and a radical reformation of society as it is. The proletariat, no longer chained down by bourgeoisie hegemony, would revolt and cause other epochal change.
The people of Sedaka are portrayed very realistically in the sense that Scott does not leave any element out. He is extremely detailed in his theoretical criticisms as well by arguing against the idea that these people fit into any one theory. Most noticeably, Scott critiques Marx who said that ideologies were mystifying, meaning that the proletariat did not know that they were being exploited. Scott points out rather obviously that these people are well aware of the way in which they are treated and as a result engage in a variety of forms of resistance.
Understanding the village dynamics is key in understanding the ways in which theory can be applied or disproved. Scott uses Chapter one to lay out exactly how the villagers interact with one another. He introduces to opposing extreme characters Razah and Haji Broom. Chapter two explains resistance and its history. It is here where he explores Gramsci's concept of hegemony, which he later disproves. Chapter three explores resistance in the Malaysian context. The relationship between classes as well as the relationship that classes have to the state is also discussed.
During the second half of the book, Scott writes on the changes that occurred due to the green revolution. Major societal changes were a result of double cropping, the mechanization of farming, and combine harvesting. The ideologies that had been upheld for generations began to deteriorate with the arrival of the new ideologies associated with capitalism: greed, self-interest, accumulation, maxim profit at the lowest cost, etc. Scott discusses hegemony and questions whether or not it is upheld by false consciousness, or is slowly being worn down by acts of resistance.
The final two chapters of the book explore more deeply what exactly Scott meant by resistance, what Marx meant by false consciousness, and similarly what Gramsci called hegemony. Scott concludes that even though the term resistance is still debated, in his opinion, the people of Sedaka are actively engaging in both individual and collective acts of resistance. False consciousness and hegemony are two ideas that he sees as false because they imply that the subordinate class is not aware of their position in society.