Alvi was born in the Bohra community in Karachi, in the then British India which now constitutes Pakistan and migrated in adulthood to the UK. The focus of his academic work was nationality, gender, fundamentalism and the peasantry. His most noted work was perhaps his 1965 essay Peasant And Revolution in the Socialist Register which stressed the militant role of the middle peasantry. These middle peasants were then viewed as the class in the rural areas which were most naturally the allies of the urban working class. In the 1960s he was one of the co-founders of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. He believed that a “salary-dependent class of Muslim government servants, called the ‘salariat’ led the movement of an independent state for Muslims in the subcontinent as they saw a decrease in their share of jobs in pre-partition India. which finally resulted in the creation of Pakistan.
His publications include:
- Jagirdari or Samraaj, fiction house Lhr (Urdu)
- Takhleq-e-Pakistan, Fiction House Lhr (Urdu)
- Pakistan Ek Riasat ka Bohraan, Fiction House Lhr (Urdu)
- Alavi, Hamza (1965) Peasant and Revolution, Socialist Register, pp. 241–77
- Alvi, Hamza & Shanin, Teodor (2003) Introduction to the Sociology of "Developing Societies", Monthly Review Press
- Alavi, H. (1982). Capitalism and colonial production. London: Croom Helm.
- Alvi, H., & Harriss, J. (1989). South Asia. New York: Monthly Review Press.
- Alvi, H., & Harriss, J. (1989). Sociology of 'developing societies': South Asia. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education.
- Halliday, Fred & Alavi, Hamza (1988) State and Ideology in the Middle East and Pakistan, Monthly Review Press
- "Hamza Alavi". The Guardian.com. 19 December 2003. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
- Brass, Tom (2004) Hamza Alavi (1921–2003) Journal of Peasant Studies, 1743-9361, Volume 31, Issue 2, Pages 341 – 344
- "The White Paper: A Spur to Racialism". CARD. 1965.
- R S Pannu (1985) Review of Introduction to the Sociology of 'Developing Societies' by Hamza Alavi; Teodor Shanin, Third World Quarterly, Jan., vol. 7, no. 1, p. 162-164