A recent article on Al Jazeer English with Shi Yan’s approach to organic farming that is helping to break the country’s “addiction to pesticides” and an interview with Rural Sociology’s Jan Douwe van der Ploeg.
The Journal of Peasant Studies is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013-14. Volume 1 of JPS was published in October 1973 to September 1974. Part of our series of initiatives to commemorate the anniversary of JPS is the publication of virtual special issues, starting with the 40 Classics in Peasant Studies.
The second in the series is JPS 40: Peasants & Politics. This collection highlights some of the key articles that have been published in the journal over the past four decades on peasant politics.
The articles share one common feature: they all remain extremely relevant, especially in the context of today’s massive, worldwide revival of critical agrarian studies. We hope academics will find the virtual special issue useful in their courses. We hope students of contemporary critical agrarian studies and critical environmental studies, among others, will find it useful in building their theoretical foundations. We hope policy practitioners will find it relevant in informing policy debates. We hope agrarian, food and environmental activists will find it relevant in their political struggles.
By Leonardo Ayabe van den Berg, MSc graduate International Development Studies
Recently I completed my MSc-thesis. The thesis research is set in the municipality of Araponga in Brazil, where (re)peasantisation occurred and continues to occur. Here I describe some of the findings of my research. When interested you can downlaod a pdf of my thesis ‘Invisible peasant movements: A case study of (re)peasantisation in Brazil‘.
When I started to read about the peasantry there were two major things that occurred to me as striking. First, in policy peasants are often considered as a group of laggards: who are unable to take care of themselves and therefore need social assistance; who rely on primitive forms of technology and therefore must be modernized; or who are impeded by a stagnant, traditional mentality and must therefore be converted into small entrepreneurs. The peasant mode of farming is seldomly considered in its own right. Second, in academic theory peasants are predicted to disappear, weaken or live a life of poverty as a result of their inferior mode of production and their helplessness. Departing from the assumption that actors are driven by a specific economic-rational logic, neo-liberal approaches roughly theorise that peasants commoditize, compete with other farms as a result of which there will be regional growth. Tradition or culture can block economic rationality and the transition from peasant to entrepreneur. The peasant will then be doomed to poverty. In contrast to the neo-liberal approach, neo-Marxist approaches, most of which also assume that the peasant is driven by an economic logic and commoditize, theorise that commoditization will either lead to the destruction of the peasant enterprise or to a fate of poverty. This is the result of price fluctuations, squeeze in agriculture (caused by the trend of decreasing produce prices and increasing input prices for farmers), or newly emerging food networks (through which income from weaker, peasant, parts of the chain are squeezed in favour of the more powerful, retailers, part of the chain). These predictions and preconceptions contradict with what happened in Araponga, a rural municipality in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil where there was a rise in the number of peasants and an increase in welfare. The objective of this thesis was to find out how this was possible: how had (re)peasantisation occurred in Araponga. Continue reading