Murió comiendo rata
armed struggle, the community has received a good deal of scholarly andmedia attention in recent years. Understandably, this research has focusedon Chuschi’s experience during the immediate period of political violence(1980-2000).
The analysis that follows draws from and builds upon theories of moral economy. Conventional scholarship in moral economy emphasizesthe subsistence ethic and legal/material concerns that drive rural powerrelationships.This study seeks to broaden our understanding of both Ayacucho and the political violence by exploring the nature of local powerrelationships in Chuschi in the forty years leading up to the armed conflict.This approach will help explain why some indigenous Ayacuchans initially supported Shining Path’s “people’s war.”
In his influential 1978 study on peasant revolutions, JamesC. Scott argued that the advent of capitalism and commercial agriculturecaused landlords in Southeast Asia to abandon their longstanding socialand economic commitments to the peasantry, thus giving peasants cause tosupport collective violence.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, somescholars used this notion of moral economy to explain peasant support forShining Path. Cynthia McClintock, for example, placed a subsistence crisisat the heart of Ayacuchan peasants’ decision to support the Maoists.
Similarly, Ronald Berg linked initial support for Shining Path in Andahuaylas to peasants’ cries for “economic justice.”
The conclusions of these moral economists have since been contested, some of them heavily. A good deal of this criticism focused on the moral economists’ analysis of economic structures, conditions, and relations. Samuel L. Popkin famously took issue with Scott’s assertion that the breakdown of pre-capitalistinstitutions jeopardized peasant livelihood, arguing that “there is no needfor dramatic subsistence crises before peasants in ‘feudal’ or subsistenceareas will support revolutionaries.”
The Shining Path
, 17-20; Isbell, “Shining Path and PeasantResponses”; Sánchez Villagómez,
Pensar los senderos
. A notable exception isIsbell’s
To Defend Ourselves
, which focuses on Chuschi’s community structuresduring the 1970s.
McClintock’s detractors were equally
E.P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy”; Scott,
The Moral Economy
The Moral Economy
McClintock, “Why Peasants Rebel.”
Berg, “Peasant Responses,” 116.
The Rational Peasant