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Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change

Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change

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Published by Fernwood Publishing
An excerpt of Fernwood's Fall 2010 book Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change.
Agrarian political economy investigates the social rela-
tions of production and reproduction, property and
power in agrarian formations, and how they change.
Using marx’s theory of capitalism the book argues that
class dynamics should be the starting point of any
analysis of agrarian change.
as an introduction to agrarian political economy, this
book includes explanations and applications of its key
concepts, a glossary of analytical terms, and a historical
approach and framework for examining agrarian change
in capitalism. The author assumes no prior knowledge
of political economy on the part of readers but aims,
through this stimulating introduction, to encourage
them to study it further.
An excerpt of Fernwood's Fall 2010 book Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change.
Agrarian political economy investigates the social rela-
tions of production and reproduction, property and
power in agrarian formations, and how they change.
Using marx’s theory of capitalism the book argues that
class dynamics should be the starting point of any
analysis of agrarian change.
as an introduction to agrarian political economy, this
book includes explanations and applications of its key
concepts, a glossary of analytical terms, and a historical
approach and framework for examining agrarian change
in capitalism. The author assumes no prior knowledge
of political economy on the part of readers but aims,
through this stimulating introduction, to encourage
them to study it further.

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Published by: Fernwood Publishing on Sep 14, 2010
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1
Introduction
Te Political Economy of Agrarian Change
 Agrarian political economy, as dened in the mission statement of the
 Journal of Agrarian Change
 , investigates “the social relations anddynamics of production and reproduction, property and power inagrarian formations and their processes of change, both historicaland contemporary.” Understanding agrarian change in the modern world centres on the analysis of capitalism and its development. By capitalism I mean a system of production and reproduction basedin a fundamental social relation between capital and labour: capitalexploits labour in its pursuit of prot and accumulation, while labourhas to work for capital to obtain its means of subsistence. Beyondthis initial and general denition, and indeed within it, there aremany complexities and challenges that this book aims to exploreand explain.First, I want to set the scene, introduce my approach and identifkey issues it addresses.
Te Big Picture: Farming and World Population
Tony Weis (2007: 5) suggests that “the origins of the contempo-rary global food economy could be traced back through a series of revolutionary changes, which once took shape over the course of millennia, then over centuries, and which are now compressed intomere decades. 
 Millennia
– From about 12,000 years ago, one form or anotherof seled farming became the material foundation of society. ereference to revolutionary changes taking place over millennia in-dicates that although changes were profound in their consequencesthey were typically gradual, more usually termed “evolutionary.” Agrarian civilizations came to encompass most people in Asia, thesown” areas of North Africa and Europe, and parts of the generally 
 
Class DynamiCs of agrarian Change
2
less populated expanses of sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas. Inthese agrarian societies the vast majority worked the land as peasantfarmers. By 1750, they supported a world population of some 770million.
Centuries
– From the second half of the eighteenth century, theemergence and spread of industrialization started to create a new kindof world economy, to “accelerate history” and to transform farming.By 1950, world population had grown to 2.5 billion.
Decades
– World population grew to six billion in 2000 (and isexpected to increase to about nine billion by 2050). is suggeststhe part played by increases in the productivity of farming, whichhave kept up with population growth. And in 2008, global urbanpopulation equalled rural population for the rst time, and startedto overtake it.
One part of the big picture, then, is the growth in food productionand in world population, especially since the 1950s. Both are aspectsof the development of capitalism and of the world economy it created. Another part of that picture is massive global inequality in incomeand security of livelihood, and in quality of life and life expectancy, as well as in productivity. While more than enough is produced to feedthe world’s population adequately, many people go hungry much orall of the time.
 Who Are the Farmers oday?
Some Figures
 As countries industrialize, the proportion of their labour force working in agriculture declines. In 2000, the proportion of the totallabour force employed in agriculture in the U.S. was 2.1 percent, inthe European Union (E.U., then with een member countries) 4.3percent, in Japan 4.1 percent, and in Brazil and Mexico 16.5 percentand 21.5 percent respectively. In China, the proportion of the totallabour force employed in agriculture has declined from about 71percent in 1978 to less than 50 percent, which still amounts to over400 million people. With an additional 260 million people in Indiaand 200 million in Africa working in farming — in both cases about60 percent of their “economically active population” — it is clear

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