Degrees Without Freedom? re-evaluates debates on education, modernity, and social change in contemporary development studies and anthropology. Education is widely imputed with the capacity to transform the prospects of the poor. But in the context of widespread unemployment in rural north India, it is better understood as a contradictory resource, providing marginalized youth with certain freedoms but also drawing them more tightly into systems of inequality. The book advances this argument through detailed case studies of educated but unemployed or underemployed young men in rural western Uttar Pradesh. This book draws on fourteen months' ethnographic research with young men from middle caste Hindu, Muslim, and ex-Untouchable backgrounds. In addition to offering a new perspective on how education affects the rural poor in South Asia, Degrees Without Freedom? includes in-depth reflection on the politics of modernity, changing rural masculinities, and caste and communal politics.