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The &rowt. of Early 0111 Wurll Civilizations, Robert M.

The Siagei of HOlian Evotithln: Human al. Cullural Orir;ll!. C. Loring Brace
TN Sub-llumu Prillates and Their Snill Life, M ichael R. A. Chance and Cli fford J. Jolly

Hew Warld PrebislDry: Afchmlogy 01 th Amoricn



I ~d ian,

M ichael D. Coe

A. R ichard Diebo ld, Jr.

Ethnological nury. D,wid Kaplan

formalin .f t'e State. Lawrence Krader

Tri.csllu, M arsh"'l D . Sahlins

ThI HURlers, Elman R. Service

Pcamts, Eric R. W ol(
Th. Presul as Allhr..,llan. Peter \Vorsley
The Eulltionar, Basis If 11m. Ernst Goldsc hmidt


Marshall D. Sahlins, Editor




IC E 1I 1 L L ,

Eric It Wo lf,


I iii C .,

EngkwoodCliffl,New !mey

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Cop yright 1966 by PRENTICE-llALL. INC., E nglewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

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of Modern


The Foundations of M odern Anthropology Series is a docu men tatio n of

the hu man condition, past and present. It is concerned mainly with exotic
peoples, prehistoric times, unwritten languages, and unlikely customs. But
this is merely the an thropologist's way of expressing his concern for the
here and now, and his way makes a uniqu e contribution to our knowledge
of what's going on in the world. W e cannot understand ourselves apart
from an und erstandin g of m all , nor our culture apart from an understand ing of cultu re. Inevitably we a TC impelled toward an intellectual encounter
with man in all his varieties, no matter how primitive, how ancient, or
how seemingly insignificant. Ever since the ir discovery by an expanding
Europea n civilization, primitive peoples have continued to hover over
thoughtful men like ancestral ghosts, ever provoking this anthropological
curiosity. T o "ret urn to the primitive" just for what it is would be foolish;
the savage is not nature's nobleman and his existence is no halcyon idyll.
For anthropology, the romance of the prim itive has been something else:

Foundations 0/ M odem Anthropology Series


a search for the roots and meaning of ourselves-sin the context of all
The series, then, is designed to display the varieties of man and culture
and the evolution of man and culture. All fields of anthropology are relevant to the grand design and all of them -prehistoric archaeology, physical
anthropology, linguistics, and ethnology (cultural anthropol ogy)-are represented among the authors of the several books in the series. In the area
of physical anthropology are books describing the early condition of humanity and the subhuman primate antecedents. Th e later development
of man on the biological side is set out in the volume on races, while th e
archaeological accounts. of the Old W orld and the New document development on the historical side. 111cn there are the studies of contemporary
culture, including a book on how to understand it all-i.e., on ethnological
theory- and one on language, the peculiar human gift responsible for it
all. Main types of culture arc laid out in "Th e Hunters," "T ribesmen,"
" Formation of the State," and " Peasants," Initiating a dialogue between
contemplation of the primitive and the present, the volume on "The
Present as Anthropology" keeps faith with the promise of anthropological
study stated long ago by E. B. Tyler, who saw in it "the means of understanding our own lives and our place in the world, vaguely and imperfectly it is true, but at any rate more clearly than any former generation."

'111is book is concerne d with those large segmen ts of mankind wh ich sta nd

midway between the primitive tribe and industrial society. Th ese populations, many million strong, neither primitive nor modern, form the majority of mankind. T hey arc important historically, because industrial
society is built upon the ruins of peasant society. TIley are important contcmporancously, because they inhabit that "u nderdeveloped" part of the
world whose continued presence constitutes both a threat and a responsihility for those countries which have thro wn off the shac kles of backwardness. \ Vhile the industrial revolution has advanced with giant st rides across

the globe, the events of every day suggest that its ultimate success is not

yet secure.
T his book therefore serves a double pur pose. It is, first of all, conce rned
with a phase in t he evolution of h uman society. As such, it may be used
in courses in both an thropology and sociology which deal wit h the course
of the h uman career. But I th ink of t his book also as a primer on pcasan try, to he used by the econo mist ill cour ses Oil econom ic development,


, 61

by political scientists in courses on comparative government, by area

specialists in providing the social background for the study of world areas
in which the peasantry still forms the backbone of the social order. I insist
upon this function of the book, because the phenomenon of backwardness
itself is still poorly understood. Many writers speak of the underdeveloped
world as if it were simply an empty void which needed but the influx
of industrial capital and skills to quicken it into activity. In this book I
have attem pted to show that the peasant world is not amorphous, but
an ordered world, possessed of its particular forms of organization. Moreover, these fonns of organization vary from peasantry to peasantry. No
one easy formula WIl l do for all. Disregard of this fact has caused many
a well-meant decision, taken on the top levels of society, to founder against
the refractory barriers presented by the patterns of peasant life. Invisible
from the commanding heights of the social order, they nevertheless form
an infrastructure of society that cannot he wished away by willing.
If some writers have treated peasant societies as amorphous aggregates,
without a structure of their own, others have described them as "traditional" and labeled their populations "t radition-bound," the opposite of
"modem." But such labels merely describe a phenomenon-and describe
it badly- they do not explain it. To say that a society is " traditional," or
that its population is bound by tradition, does not explain why tradition
persists, nor why people cleave to it . Persistence, like change, is not a
cause- it is an effect. I have striven in th is book to present causes for
both persistence and change among the peasant populations of the world.
Eric It \ V olt

In writing th is book, I have acquired nu merous debts, both intellectual
and personal. I recall with pleasure conversations with Robert Redfield,
Borie Hanssen, and Daniel Throner. Many of the ideas presented here
were first conceived in seminars; the most successful of these has been
th e course on Peasant Societ y and C ulture, offered jointl y by W illiam
D. Scherger and myself at the University of Michigan. Mervin Meggitt,
Sidney W . Mintz, and Marshall D. Sahlins did me the kindness of subjecting both arguments and style to prolonged clinical scrutiny. S. N .
Eisenstadt raised more questions about my assumptions than I am yet
in a position to answer. Richard N. Adams, Ernestine Friedl, Donald
Pitkin, David M . Schneider, Elman R. Service, Sylvia L. Thrupp, and
Ararn Yengoyan all read the manu script during one phase or another of
its prolonged gestation, and gave me their advice, criticism, and encouragemcn t.
My ma jor debt, however, is of long stand ing. It is to Katia, who has
gOlle where I have gone, and lodged wherc I have lod ged, among peasants
and others. 'I'h iv i ~ therefore her hoo k.


Pemnlry and Its Problems

Page 1
Peasants dnd P rimitives. Civilization. Calori, Minimtt and Sur.
pluses. Social Surpluses. T he Role of the City. T he Place o f
Peascm try in Society. T he Peasant Dilemma.


En . ... ic Aspects at Pe ~ sa.trJ

Page 18
l'elL'<lll t

Ecotvpes. Paleotechnic Ecotypes. Neotcehnic Ecotypes.

T he Dis-

T he l'F(>vhlon of Complemeutary Goods .lUd Services.

I"' "itio" of I'CdS<lIl/ Surplw;lfs. Typ(" ~ of Domain.


Tnt Slci.1/


ii i

. 1 lteuutry

Page 60
T he Domestic Croup in r ecJS<mtry. PedSo:lnf Family T )'PU. Pat
t~ of Inheritancc. Selectn-e Pressure, <l1Id Def",m~ Strategin. Coalition.. PedSo:lnt Coalitions ttnd the Luger SocWl Order.


ltem_lrf and the

I du rng j t~ 1

Or' er

Page 96
Ceremonial. Levels in Religious Traditions. Peasant

Slrret" Rtftr1leu

r age 110

Page l H

Afo~emen ts.


This book is about peasants; its approach is anthropological. Although

anthropology had its beginnings in the investigation of the so-called primitive peoples of the world, in recent years anthropologists have become
increasingly int erested in rural populations that form part of larger, more
complex societies. Where an anthropologist previously examined the lifeways of a roaming band of desert hunters or of migratory cultivators occup ying a hamlet in some tropical forest, now he often sets himself the task of
investigating a village in Ireland, in India, or in China, in areas of the world
that have long supported a variegated and rich cultural tradition carried
on by man y different kind s of people. Amon g these, rural cultivators constitute onl y one-though an important-segment. Thus, the people now
under anthropological scrutiny are in continuous interaction and communication with other social group s. What goes on in Gopalpur, India or Alcala
de la Sierra in Spain cannot be explained in term s of that village alone;
l'11C explanation must include consideration both of the outside forces
impinging on these villages and of the reactions of villagers to these forces.

The rna;or


regio ns of the world,

Peasants and Primitives

Our f irst question, then, is to ask what distinguishes peasants from
the primitives more often studied by anth ropologists. \ Ve have spoken of
peasants as rural cultivators; that is, the)' raise crops and livestock in the
countryside, not in greenhouses in the midst of cities or in aspidistra boxes
on the windowsill. At the same time they arc not [armen , or agricultural
ent repreneurs as we know them in the United States. TIle American fann
is primarily a business enterprise, combining factors of production purchased in a market to obtain a profit by selling advantageously in a products
market. The peasant. however, docs not operate an enterprise in the economic sense; he runs a household. not a business concern. But there are
also primitive peoples who live in the countryside and raise crops and
livestock. \ Vhat then is the distinguishing mark of the peasant, as opposed
to the primitive cultivator?
On e way of approaching this question has been to say that peasants
fonn part of a larger, compou nd society, whereas a primitive band or tribe
does not. But this answer hardly docs justice to the question. For primitives seldom live in isolation. There are exceptions, like the Polar Eskimos
who were cut off from all outside contact until rediscovered for the larger
world by Admiral Peary in his attempt to reach the North Pole. But much
more frequently, primitive tribes also enterta in relations with their neighbors. Even the simple hunters and gatherers of the Australian deserts main2

PeClscmt ry Clud Its Problem s

rain ties which bring together groups of people, often widely dispersed,
into systematic economic and ritual exchanges. The tribes of the Amazon
basin, apparently isolated in separate pockets of the tro pical forest, trade
with one another, or marry one ano ther, or fight one ano ther - for warfare is indeed also a kind of relationship. \V e owe to an thropologists like
Bronislaw M al inowski, the author of A rgonduts of t he \V estern Pacific
( 1922) descriptions and analyses of the trade uniting the east end of New
Gu inea and the ad jacent archipelagoes into a network of ceremonial and
commercial transactions. Similarly, the Plains Indians of the United
Stat es, we now see, were part and parcel of American history, infl uenced
by the advancing frontier and influencing its advance in turn .
Th e distinction between primitives and peasants thus does not lie in the
greater or lesser outside involvement of one or the other, but in the cha racter of that involvement. Marshall D . Sahlins has characterized the economic and social world of primitives as follows:

In primitive economics, most production is geared to use of the producers or to discharge of kinship obligations, rather than to exchange
and gain. A corollary is that de facto control of the means of production is decentralized, local, and familial in primitive society. The following propositions are then implied: ( I) economic relations of
coercion and exploitation and the corresponding social relations of
dependence and mastery are not created in the system of production;
(2) in the absence of the incentive given by exchange of the product
against a great quanti ty of goods on a market, there is a tendency to
limit production to goods that can be directly utilized by the producers.!

Thus, in primitive society, producers control th e means of production,

including their own labor, and exchange their own labor and its products
for the culturally defined equivalent goods and services of others. In the
course of cultu ral evolution, however, such simple systems have been
superseded by others in which control of the means of production, including the disposition of human labor, passes from the hands of the primary
producers int o the hands of groups that do not eany 0 11 the productive
process themselves, but assume instead special executive and administrative functions, backed by the lise of force. T he constitution of society in
such a case is no longer based on the equivalent and direct exchanges of
goods and services between one group and another; rather, goods and services arc first furnished to a center and only later redirected. In primitive
socie ty, surpluses are exchanged directly among groups or members of
groups; peasan ts, however, are rural cultivators whose surpluses arc transI Marshall D. Schlins. " Political Power and t he Economy in Primitive Society," in
ESSclyS in the Science of Culture: In Hone r of Leslie A. \Vhite. eds. Gertrude E. Dole

and Robe rt L. C 3r1le iro ( New York; T ho1ll3S Y. C rowell Company, 19( 0 ) , p. 408.

Pe4Slmtry and Its Problemr

ferred to a dominant group of rulers that uses the surpluses bo th to und erwrite its 0 \\1\ standard of living an d to d istribute the remain der to groups
in society that do not fann but m ust be fed for th eir specific goods and
services in tum.

The development of a complex social order based on a d ivision
between rulers and food-producin g cult i....a tors is commo nly referred to as
the developmen t of civilization. C ivilization has a lon g and involved history; the archaeological record ind icates a great diversity in the processes
which allowed men in different parts of the world to make the transi tion
from primitives to peasants. N evert heless, gross features of the process stand
out. In the Old World, for examp le, cultivation and ani mal domesticat ion
seem to have been under way in Southwestern Asia as early as 9000 B.C .,
and it is probable th at sedentary Farming villages were established in th e
same area by 6000 B.C. Similarly, find s in Northeastern Mexico suggest th at
experimen ts with food produ ction were begu n around 7000 R.C., with
full-fledged cult ivation firmly established around 1500 B.C . F rom th ese or
similar original cent ers, cultivation spread out with variabl e speed in
differen t d irections, being adap ted to the de ma nds of new climates and
new social exigencies. But not all area s of th e world were caught up eq ually
in th is process. The peop le in some areas never accep ted cult ivation or
accep ted it only reluctan tly, while others forged ahead to atta in th e new
levels of prod uct ivity and social organizatio n which permitted th e un folding of t he functional division of labo r between cultivators and rulers wh ich
we have defined as the hallmark of civilization .

Caloric J\tinima and Surpluses

It is somet imes said that the capacity to sustain a funct ional division of labo r be tween culti vators and rulers is a simple consequenc e of
the capacity of a society to prod uce a surplus above and beyond the minim um requi red to sustain life. This min imum can be defined quite rigorously in ph ysiological terms as the daily intake of food calories required
to balan ce th e expenditures of cne rgy a man incurs in his daily ou tpu t of
labor. T his amou nt has been put at roughly between 2000 and 3000 calories
per person per day. It is probably not amiss to point out that this daily
m inimum is still no t met in most parts of the world. Abo ut half the populat ion of the world has an average da ily per capita ration of less t han 2250

Getting ready to cdrt win

ter I)'r IJUd on unf'lo~'t!d
ground before plowing it
V b.m,
French Alp. , F4U 19H.
(Photo by Robert K,

calories. This category includes Indonesia (with 1750 calories) China (with
1800 calories) and India (with 1800 calories). T wo-tenths of the world's
population fall into the category receiving an average daily per capita
ration between 22;0 and 27;0 calories. 111is group includes Mediterranean
Europe and the Balkan coun tries. O nly th ree-tenths of the world's population- the United Stat es, the British dominions, W estern Europe, and
the Soviet Union- attain figures higher than 27;0.2 Even this last achievemcnt must be seen in historical perspective. In the seventeenth century,
for example, France-s now among the fortun ate three-tent lis- attained
the amount of 3000 daily calories per person {represented by half a loaf
of bread per day ) in only one out of every five years. In the eighteen th
cen tury, this accomplishment became possible in one out of four years.
In the off years, the average daily rat ion clearly fcll below minimu m
rcqui rcmcnts.3
Cultivators must not only furnish themselves with minimal caloric
rations; they must also raise'enough food beyond this caloric minimum
10 provide suffic ient seed for next year's crop, or to provide adequate feed
for their livestock. Thus, for example, a -to-acre farm in Mecklenburg,
northeastern Germany, during the fourteenth and fifteent h centuries produccd 10,200 pound s of grain crops, of which 3400 pounds had to he set


' C~ ll I"(lur~ sti c, T he Cause. of \t'ealth (G lencoe: The Free Press, 1960 ) , pp. 102-

IIJjd., p. u ,

Peasantry ,m,1



aside for seed and 2800 pound s to feed four horses. More than half of the
total yield was thus committed in advance to seed and feed.' '111is amount
is therefore not absolute surplus, but an amount destined for the upkeep of
the instruments of production. The cultivator had to set aside time and
effort to repair his tools, to sharpen his knives, to caulk his storage bin,
to fence his yard, to shoe his work animals, perhaps to make and set up a
scarecrow to keep the eager birds out of his fiel ds. Moreover, he had to
replace such things as a leaky roof, a broken pot, or his cloth ing when it
became too tattered and tom . T he amount needed to replace his minimum equipment for both production and consumption was his replacement fund.
It is importan t that we think of this replacement fund not merely in
purely technical terms, but in cultural terms as well. The instruments and
techniques of a particular technology arc the product of a prolonged
process of cultural accumulation in the past. T here arc technologies with.
out pot tery or storage bins or work animals. On ce a technology has come
to include these items, however, they become part and parcel of everyday
existence, and hence culturally necessary. Like the Greek philosopher
D iogcncs, a man can rid himself of his last cup, since he need not suffer
thirst as long as he can make a cup of his hands. But once pott ery cups
arc a part of a man's cultural expectat ions, they become more than thatthey become something he must commit himself to obtain. Hence, a
drought or an invasion of locusts or any other misfortune which endangers
the replacement fund threat ens not only a man's minimal biological existencc but also his capacity to meet his cult ural necessities.
It is conceivable that a cultivator might cease his productive efforts
on the land once his caloric minimum and his replacement fund are assured. T h us, for example, the Kuikuru Indians of the Amazon arc able to
reach their caloric minim um and replacement requ irements by working
only three-and-a-half hours each day, and do not work beyond this time.
There arc neither technical nor social reasons wh y they should add additional hOUlS to their daily labor bud get." Production beyond the level of
the caloric minimum and the replacement level obeys social incent ives
and dictates. At stake is a major issue in economic anthropology. Th ere
are some who argue that the appearance of surpluses generates furth er developm ent; others hold that potential surpluses arc universal and what
counts is the institutional means for mobilizing them.
W ilhelm Abel , Geschichte der deut schen u lIldwirtschaft yom fruhen 1\Jitte1aller
bis WIll 19. Jahrhulldert, Deut sche Agrargeschichte II (St nttgart: Engen Ulmer, 1962) ,
p. 9,.
~ Robert L. Carneiro, "Sl ash-and-Burn C ult ivat ion among the Kuikuru and its Implications for Cul tu ral Development in th e Am a1.On Basin," in The E volution of Hortieu1l,mJ/ System s ill N alin' Sout h America: Causes alld Consequences, cd. Joha nnes
Wilb ert, Antrc>pu/ogica, Supplement, No .2 ( 1961), p. 49.

Peasantry and Its Problems

Social Surpluses
Ceremu i31 Flftd

There are two such sets of social imperatives. The first of these
occurs in any society. Even where men are largely self-sufficient in food
and goods, they must entertain social relations with their fellows. Th ey
must, for example, marry outside the household into which they were
born, and this requirement means that they must have social contacts with
people who are their potential or actual in-laws. They must also join with
their fellow men in keeping order, in ensuring the rudimentary acceptances
of certain rules of conduct so as to render life predictable and livable. They
may be required to help each other in some phase of the food quest. But
social relations of any kind are never completely utilitarian and instrumental. Each is always surrounded with symbolic constructions which serve
to explain, to justify, and to regulate it. T hus, a marriage does not involve
merely the passage of a spouse from one house to another. It also involves
gaining the goodwill of the spouse-to-be and of her kinfolk; it involves a
public performance in which the participants act out, for all to see, both
the coming of age of the marriage partners and the social realignments
which the marriage involves; and it involves also the public exhibition of
an ideal model of what marriages- all marriages-ought to do for people
and how people should behave once they have been married. All social
relations are surrounded by such ceremonial, and ceremonial must be paid
for in labor, in goods, or in money. If men are to participate in social
relations, therefore, they must also work to establish a fund against which
these expenditures may be charged. We shall call this the ceremonial fund.
Th e ceremonial fund of a society- and hence the ceremonial fund of
its members- may be large or small. Size is once again a relative matter.
TIle ceremonial funds of Indian villages in Mexico and Peru, for example,
are very large when compared to their caloric budgets and their replacement funds, for there a man must expend a great deal of effort and goods
in the sponsorship of ceremonials that serve to underline and exemplify
the solidarity of the community to which he belongs." Ceremonial ex6 Evidence from Middle America indicates t hat a man may have to expend at least
the equivalent of one year's local wages to act as a sponsor in a commun ity ceremonial.
Expenditures of two to twenty times this amount arc noted for particular communities.
For examples, see Ralph Beals, Chersn, a Sierra Tarascall Village, Smithsonian Institution Institute of Social Anth ropology, Publication No. 2 ( W ashington, D.C.: United
States Government Printing Office, 1946 ) , p. 8); Calista Cui teras-lIo lmcs, Perils of
the Soul: T he \V orld V iew o f a T zotzil Indian ( New York: Th e Free Press, 1961), p.
)8; Sol Tax, Penny Capitalislll:A Gu a/emalan i ndian Economy, Smithsonian Institution,

Setting up fjreworu for

religiolJl celebration .
Etla, O<n:o:aclJ, .\ferico.
(ph oto by l oseph Srci:endorf.)

pcnditurcs arc a matter of cult ural tradition, and will vary from cult ure
to cult ure. Yet everywhere the need to establish and maintain such a ceremon ial fund will result in the produ ction of surpluses beyond the replacement fund discussed above.
It is important at th is point, however, to rem ember t hat the efforts of
a peasantry are 1I0t governed wholly by th e exigencies internal to its own
way of life. A peasantry always exists within a larger system. Hence the
size of th e effort which it m ust put forward to replace its means of production or to cover its ceremonial costs is also a funct ion of the wavs in
which labor is divided within the society to which the peasan t belongs; and
of th e regulations governing that division of labor. Th us, in some societies, t he amoun t of effort required to meet these needs may be quite small.
This is true, for example, in a society where a man grows his own food
and makes h is own basic equipment. For him the amou nt of surplus required to ob tain articles from the outside is redu ced; indeed, it is identical
with his replacement fund . This is also true in societies where different
households manufacture di fferent objects or provide diffcrent services t hat
arc exchanged in equivalent reciprocal relations. If I grow grain, but do
not make my own blankets. I may exchange a given amount of grain for
Institute of Social Anthropulogy, Publication No. 16 (Was hington, D.C.: United
Stales Covcnunent Prinling Office, 19)3 ), pp. 177- 178. For the Andes, 5<."(: \ Villiam
W . Stein, li lJa/can; Ufe ill I1le l1ighlands o f Peru ( Ithaca: Cornell Uni\"('rity Press,
19(1 ) , 11. 52, 236, 255.

Peasttntry and Itf Problemt

a given number of blankets; th e blanket-maker thus gets food in return

for his labor. In such situations men obtain goods th rough exchanges, b ut
- and this is an imp ortant b ut- the amoun t of food they m ust grow to
get needed blankets or pots is still chargeable to th eir replacement fund ,
even though the manner by wh ich they repla ce goods they do no t make
themselves is ind irect. But it is possible, and increasingly so as societies
have grown more complex, that the excha nge ratios bet ween units of food
produced by th e cultiva tor and units of good s prod uced are not exchanged
in equi valen cies determined by the face-to-face negotiation of producer
and consumer, b ut according to asymmetrical ratios of excha nge determined by external conditions. W here th e networks of exchange are restricted and localized, the par ticipan ts mu st ad just the prices of the ir goods
to t he purchasing po wer of their potential customers. But where exchange
networks are far-flung and obey pressures which take no accoun t of th e purchasing power of a local popula tion, a culti vator may have to step up his
prod uction greatly to ob tain e\'C11 th e items th at are required for replacement. Under such cond itions, a considera ble share of the peasan t' s replacement fund may become somebody else's fund of profit.

There is yet a second set of social imperatives which may produce

surpluses beyond th e caloric minimum and replacement level. The relation
of t he cultivator to othe r craft specialists may be symmet rical, as we ha ve
seen above. They may exchange d ifferen t products, but at trad itional and
lon g-established ratios. However, there exist in more complex societies social
relations wh ich arc 1I0t sym metrical, b ut arc based, in some form , lIpon the
exercise of power. In the case of the M ecklenbu rg fann men tioned above,
for examp le, th e 4000 po und s of grain lef t over after th e cult ivator had
subtracted his committ ed replacement fund for seed and feed were not consumed by the cu ltivator's ho usehold alone. T went y-seven hundred pounds,
or more th an half of th e effective yield, wen t in payment of dues to a lord
who mainta ined jurisdiction, or domain, over th e land . O nly 1300 po unds
rema ined to feed the cultivator and his family, yielding a per capita daily
ration of 1600 calories." To sustain min imal caloric levels, therefore, the
cultivator was forced to seek additional sources of calories, such as h e
could derive from his gard e n or from livestock of h is own . This peasant,
then , was sub ject to asym me trical power relati ons which made a pennancnt cha rge on his prod uction . Such a charge. paid ou t as the result of some
superior claim to h is labor on the land, we call ren t, regardless of wheth er
that ren t is paid in labo r, in produce, or in money. Where someone exer1 Ahel , Gesf:hic!lte c/er c/cut schen Landwirtsclw ft. p. 95.

Peasantry 4I1d lis Problerru


cises an effective superior power. or domain. over a cultivator, the cultivator must produce a fund of rent.
It is th is production of a fund of rent which critically distinguishes the
peasant from the primitive cultivator. T his product ion in tum is spu rred by
the existence of a social order ill which some men call through power demand payments from others, resulting in the transfer of wealth from one
section of the population to another. The peasant' s loss is the powerholder's gain, for the fund of rent provided by the peasant is part of the
fund of power on which the controllers may draw.
It is important to note, tho ugh, that there are many diffe rent ways in
which this fund of rent is produced, and many different ways in which
it is siphoned from the peasant stratum into the hands of the controlling
group. Since the distinctions in the exercise of this power have important
structural effects on the W3 )' the peasantry is organized, there are conscqucntly lllany kinds of peasantry, not just one. So far, then, the tenn
"peasant" denotes no more than an asym metrical structural relationship
between producers of surplus and controllers; to render it meaningful, we
must still ask questions about the different sets of conditions which will
mainta in th is structural relationship.

T he Role 01 the Cit y

The developmen t of civilization has commonly been identified
with the development of cities, hence the peasant has commonly been
defined as a cultivator who has an enduring relationship with the city. It
is certainly true that , in the course of cultural evolution, the rulers have
commonly settled in special cente rs which have often become cities. Yet,
in some societies, the rulers mcrelv "camped" among the peasantry, as the
W at usi rulers did until very recent ly among the Bahutu peasantry of
Ruanda Unmdi . Or the rulers may have lived at religions cen ters such 01 $
tombs or shrines to which produce was brought by the peasantry. In ancient
Egypt, the Pharaoh set up his tempora ry capital near the pyramid being
built in his hon or; the role of cities remained insignificant. Among the
Pcten Maya, political integration appears to have been achieved without
the emergence of densely settled urban zones." The city is therefore a likely,
8 On \ Vatus! and Bah utu settlement patte rn, see PiC11l: B. G ravel , Th e Pld)' for
Power: Description of /1 Co mmunit)' in [ .mern RU4I1d/1 (Ann Arbor; Department of
Alllhropology, University of Mich igan, Ph .D. Th esis, 1962 ). On E~'Pt, see Hen ri
Frankfort, T he Birth of Ciyjlimtion in the Ne<1T Emt (Garden Cit y, N.Y.: Doubleday
and Company, 1956 ), pp. 97- 98, and John A. W ilson, Tile Cu lt ure of Ancient f:gypt

(Chkago: University of Chicago Press, 1( 51) , p. 37, pp. 97-9 8. O n the Maya, Sl.'C
Gmd oll R. \Vilk y, " Mesoamerica: ' ill Courses TowdI'd Urban Life, eds. Robert J.
Iha id\\~)(ld and Co rdon R. \\'illcy (Chkago; A!dine Publishing Company, 1( 62 ), p.
101, and ~lich ;ld Cce, "SlN:ial T ypology and the T fIlpical Forest C i\ilir.ati"115," Co m
p<lTrJli l'fl Stll<Jil!f ill Soo.'I)' Imd Il il/m )', IV. No. ! ( 1911!), p. t>6.

Pe=atry tl1Id Irs Problems


but not an inevitable, produ ct of the increasing complexity of society.

I should like to think of it as a settlement in which a combination of funclions are exercised, and which becomes useful because in time greater
efficiency is obta ined by having these functions concentrated in one site.
Yet there remain vel)' different kinds of cities. In India, until recently,
some large sett lements contained the castle and power apparatus of military rulers, and served as administrative centers. O thers, the sites of famous
shrines, functioned primarily as religious centers, att racting devotees in
periodic pilgrimages to its temples. Still others were settlements of literati,
specialists in elaborating some aspect of the intellectual trad ition of the
country." It is only where one or anot her of these functions comes to
overshadow all the others and exerts a powerful attraction on others that
these come to be concentrated under one roof or in one site. But there arc
areas where no such dominant cen ters arise, where political, religious, or
intellectual functions remain dispersed in the countryside, W ales, for
instance, and Norway arc areas in which many funct ions remain dispersed
over the countryside, and the development of cities is weak. Th e presence
or absence of cities will certainly affect the pattern of a society but the
particular seat for the apparatus of power and influence is only one phase
in the establishment of power and influence, not its totality. A piano is an
instrument for making polyphonic music; but it is possible to make poly.
phonic music without pianos. Similarly, the city is bu t onc- though common-fonn in the orchestration of power and infl uence, h ut not its
exclusive or even decisive fonn .
_TIIJ.~~LiUh c_ C1)1..t;3 11 i za tio~t executh'e PQwer which sen'es t~ distinguish the p-.rjmitive_from_the civilized, rather than whether or notsuch "'
P!lwcr~t~~~_~loca te~Li!1~~ 'md-ot p)ace_9 ~_ all o~th~r~ Not -the --cft "f;but the state is.the decisive crit~fiQ.ll of eivili7.at_ig n and it is the ap~,~a.l!.c c:
of the statewhich marks the threshold of transition between .food cultivatorsin genmLand-~sants. Thus, it is only when a cultivator is int~"iat(ir
into a society with a state-that is, when t h ~~ltiva t ()Lbecom esiul>j!..
to the demands and-.nct ionu f powt:!.:hold~rs~~~ide_hls social stratumth;l-Lwe can appropria~:..spcak...ot peasantr)' .
It is, of course, difficult to place this th reshold of civilization in terms
of time and space. Nevertheless, on the basis of such data as we now
possess, we ~a y mark the beginnings of thc state and hence of a peasantr y
at around 3500 B.C. III the Near East and around 1000 B.C. in Middle
America. \ -venn-Ist-emplla"si; e that the processes of state-build ing are multiple and complex. Different areas were integrated into states in markedly
different wan and at different times. In some areas of the world these
proces~es have not yet run their course, and in a few places we can still
9 ~ k Ki 11l Ma nott and Bernard C . Cohn, " Net works and Ce nters in the Integration
of Indian C ivilizatioll," I v ufIl al vf Sod al He~"edrclr [ Runchi. Bihar, India ) , I. No. I
( 19,8 ) .

Peasantry and II. Problnm


witness the encounte r be tween primitive cultivators and state societies

which impinge on the primitive and tr)" to bring th em wit hin control.

T he Place
of Peasantry in Society
N ot on ly docs our world contain both primit ives on th e verge of
peasan try and full-fledged peasant s, bu t it also con tains both societies in
wh ich thc peasant is the ch ief produ cer of th e store of social wealth and
those in which he has been relegat ed to a seconda ry posit ion. There are
still large areas of t he world in which peasants who cult ivate th e land with
their tradi tional tools not only fonn thc vast ma jority of the pop ulation,
but also furnish the fun ds of rent and profit wh ich underwrite the en tire
social structure. III such societies, all other social groups depend upon
peasants bot h for th eir food and for any income that may accrue to them .
There are other societies. however, in which the Ind ustr ial Revolution has
created vast com plexes of machines that prod uce goods quite independen tly
of peasants. If there are any peasants left in such societies, they occupy a
secon da ry position in the creation of wealth . Moreover, the vast and growing nu mbe rs of industrial workers who man the wealth-creating mach ines
mu st also be fed . More often th an not t he provision of food for these
workers is no longer in the han ds of peasan ts who work small units of lan d
wit h tradit ional techniques, but in the hands of new " factories in th e field,"
wh ich apply th e technology of t he Indust rial Revolution to the growing
of food on large, heavily capitalized, scienti fically ope rated farm s.w Such
farms are staffed not by peasants, but by agricultural workers who are
paid wages for the ir work m uch as an industria l worker is pa id for running
a blast furnace or a spinning machin e. Both kinds of society contain th reats
to the peasant, whethe r these threats emanate from demands for surplus,
or from competi tion wh ich may ren der the peasant econom ically useless.

Th e Peasant Dilemma
The outsider may look down upon th e peasant as upon a sheep
to be sho rn per iodically of its wool: "three bags full-cone for my master,
one for my dame, and one for th e littl e boy who lives down th e lane." But
10 For a discussion of t he planta tion sec Eric R. \VoU and Sidney \ V. ;"Iintz,
"H aciendas and Plantations in Middle America and the Antilles," Social and Econom ic
Studie s, V I, No . , ( 1957 ) , and Plalltatioll Systems of the Nell' \V orld. Papers and
discussion summa ries of the Seminar held in San Juan, Pucrto Rico, Social Science
1\.follOgTaphs, V II . Pan Americall Union, \V ashillgtoll. D.C . 19 59 . For a good case
!I ndy of I I..e replacement of pcaunts b)' planta tions 'ICe Ramiro Gncrra y sa nchc:z.
SIl"," aud Socidy iu tlUf Ca, ibho.all (S ew llaven : Yale Unin-nit y I',o s, 19(1 ) .

Peasantry and Its P,oblems

to t he peasant, his caloric mnu mu m and his replacement fund will be

primary, toget her wit h such ceremonial payments as he must make to ma intain the social order of his narrow peasant world . These need s, as we have
indicated abo ve, arc culturally relative, they will differ in C hina from what
th ey are in Puerto Rico . Yet they are bo th func tionally and logically prior
to the de mands of t he outsider, whet he r lord or merchant. T his attitude
is neatly im plied in t he old song, sung during the peasant uprisings of the
late E uropean Mi ddle Ages :

when Adam delved and Eve span,

\Vb o was then the gentleman?
Peasant needs-th e requiremen t to main tain a caloric minimum, a replacemcnt fund, and a ceremonial fund -will often conflict with th e requ iremen ts imposed by the outside r.
Yet if it is correct to define th e peasan try prima rily in terms of its subordi nate relationships to a group of con troll ing outsiders, iti!- also correct
to assert as a corolla ryof this definition that a peasantry will be forced tc .;
maintain.abalan ce be tween its own dem and s and the.demands.of.theout.sidcrs an d will bCSilb ject to tljeJcnsio!:l~ P!oduc~si byjhis st ruggleJo..!~L
_ th e balan ce. The ou tsider sees th e peasant primarily as a source of labor
and good s with which to increase his fund of power. But tbe peasaJl---L!L...
at once an3mnom ic~~ ta nd _t he head of a household . His holding is

hoth an economic unit and a home.

T he peasant un it is thus not merely a productive organization consti tuted of so many "hands" ready to labo r in the fields; it is also a unit of
consumpt ion, conta ining as many mouths as there arc workers. M oreover,
it does not merely feed its mcmbers; it also supplies them with man y other
services. In such a un it ch ildren arc raised and socialized to the demands
of the adult world . Old people may be cared for until th eir death, and
their b urial pa id for from t he unit' s stock of wealt h . Mumage provides
sexual satisfaction, and relationshi ps within thc unit generate affect ion
wh ich ties the members to each othe r. Using its ceremon ial fund , such a
un it paJ s "the costs of represen tation" incurred by its members within th e
larger commu n ity. lienee, labo r is con tributed as needed in a great number
of different con texts; its expen d it ure is no t prompted directly by the existcncc of an econo mic system gover ned by prices and profits.
\Ve are, of course, familiar with this kind of economic beha vior in our
own society A mot her will also sit up all night with a sick child or cook
a meal for the family. without reckoning the cost of her labor. A father
may do min or repa irs around the house; a teen-age son may mow the lawn .
Purchased in the open market , such services would cost a good deal. It has
been estima ted, for example, that in our society a man can save ann ually
$6000-$8O(X) in payments for econo mic services if he gets married , rat her
th an paying for th eir performa nce by specialists at prices current in the

PetU41ltry cmd Its Problem,


open ma rket. W ithin the fam ily, such labors of love are pe rformed read ily,
with o ut the need for cost accounting.
Peasan t ho useh old s funct ion sim ilarly. Certainly peasants a re awa re o f
the price of labor an d goods in th e m arket-thei r econ omic and socia l
su rvival d epends on it. 1 11e sh rewd ness of pea sants is proverbial. Certa inl y
man y an thropo logists would seco nd Sol T ax, who concl ud ed in a st udy of
In d ian peasa nts in Gua temala tha t " the purchasers of good s m ake a choice
o f m arkets accordi ng t o what the y want to b uy and how m uch t ime they
a rc willing to spe nd to get it more chea ply and closer to its source." 11
H owever, to the exten t that a pea sant holdi ng serves to p rovision a gro up
of people, every deci sion mad e in terms o f t he external m arket also ha s its
in ternal. d omestic aspect.
This fact has caused the Russian economist A. V . C haianov to spea k of
a spec ial kind of pea san t eco nomics. lie expla ins th is co ncept in the foll owing terms :
The first fundamental charact eristic of the fann economy of the
peasan t is th at it is a family economy. Its w hole organization is determ ined by th e size and compositio n of th e peasan t family and b y the
coord ination of its consump tive demands with the number of its working hands. This explains w hy the conception of profit in peasan t economy d iffers from that in capitalist economy and why th e capitalistic
conception of profit canno t be applied to peasant economy. Th e capitalistic profit is a net profit computed by sub tracting 1111 the expenses
of production from the total income. The comp utation of profit in
this mann er is inapplicable in a peasant economy because in the latter
the elements en tering into expenses of product ion are expressed in
units incomp arable to those in a capitalist econolll}'.
In peasant economy, as in capitalist economy, gross income and material expend itures can be expressed in rubles; b ut labor expended can
neit her be exp ressed in, nor measured by, rubles of paid \\':Iges, but only
in the labor effort of the peasant family itself. Thee efforts cannot be
subtracted from, or added to, money units; they can merely be confront ed with rubles. The comparison of the value of a certai n effort of
the family with the value of a ruble would be \'cry subject ive; it would
\':Iry with the degree to which the demands of the family were satisfied
and vvith the hardships involved in the working effort itself, as well as
with other condi tions.
So long as the requiremen ts of the peasant family arc unsatisfied,
since the sub jective significance of its satisfaction is valued more highly
tha n the burden of labor necessary for such satisfaction, the peasant
family will work for a small remuneratio n that would be definitely
unp rofitab le in a capitalistic economy. Since th e principal object of
peasan t econom y is the satisfaction of the yearly consumption bud get
of the family, the fact of most int erest is not the remuneration of the
labor unit (the working day), bu t the rem uneration of the whole labo r
II SuI T al. Penny C<lf'ila/iwl. p. H .

PlI!'<U<Dltry 411d Ils Problll!'m$


year. Of course, if there is an abundance of land any working unit expended by the family ",'ill tend to receive the maximum wage for that
unit, whether it be a peasant or capitalistic economy. Under such conditions, peasant economy often results in more extensive cultivation
than the economy of privately (entrepreneurially) owned land. There
will be a smaller income from a unit of land but higher wages for a
unit of work. But when the amount of available land is limited and is
under a normal degree of intensity of cultivation, the peasant family
cannot usc all its labor forces on its own land if it practices extensive
cultivation. Having a surplus of these forces and being unable to secure
all its necessities with the income derived from the annual wage of its
members, the peasant family can utilize the surplus of labor in a more
intensive cultivation of its land. In this "''3y it can increase the yearly
income of its working members, though the remu neration for each
unit of their work will be lower. . . . For the same reason the peasant
family often rents land at an exceedingly high price, unprofitable from
a purely capitalistic standpoint, and buys land for a price considerably exceeding the capitalized rent. 11Jis is done ill order to find a usc
fo~ ,the surplus la~r, of the family, ",:hich (otherwise) could not be
utilized under conditions of land scarcity.w
The perenn ial problem of th e peasant ry thus consists in ba lancing the
demands of th e externa l world against th e peasa nts' need to provision their
households. .Yet in m c;e!~ng th is root probl;nLpeasa nts . ma)'Jollo\'.dwO-,diametricall)' ra tcgics....The_ first of these is to increase production ;
J be.-sew nd, to eu}:t;3:il CQns.u m ~tion.
If a peasant follows the first strategy, he mu st step up the outp ut of
labo r upo n his own ho lding, in orde r to raise its prod uctivity and to increase the amo unt of produce with which to enter the market. His ability
to do so depends largely on how easy it is for him to mobi lize the needed
fact ors of production - land , labo r, cap ital {whet her in th e form of savings,
read y cash, or credit) - an d, of course, on the general cond ition of the
market. Let us remember that amo ng peasants factors of prod uction are
usually heavily encumbe red with prior com m itments. especia lly in th e
fonn of com mitted surpluses for ceremon ial expenditure and for the paymen t of rent. It is ,eIT rare, if not im possible. for a man to raise himself
singlehandedly by his econ omic bootstraps to a level of productivity abo ve
and beyond that demanded by the mandat ory payments. !.Lis_also_d ifficult
j ormost peasants to sec their possessions in an economic con text-divorced
from the provisioning ofthe. household. A piece of land , a ho use. arc no t
merely facto rs of prod uctio n ; th ey are also loaded with symbolic values.
Family jewelry is not merely a form of cold cash; it is often an heirloom ,

A, V. Chaianov, "The Socio-onomic Nature of Peasant Farm Economy," in A

S)'stll!'m4tic SourC'e lJooJ: ill R ural Sociology, eds. Pitirim A, Sorokin, Carle C . Zimmcrmall, and Charles J. Galpin ( Minneapolis: The Umversity of :-.fil\t1csota Press, 193 1),

II , pp. IH- l oH .

P/I<J$<1lItry tmd Its Problemt


encumbered with sentiments. Yet our analvsis can tell us also when we
~y_ex~t inc:.reasing numbcn 'of peasall t;~on~w the strategy of in.~~~g production.
First, this becomes possible when traditional liens on the_peasants' _
funds of rent have weakened-a condition likely to occur y,hen thepower,
structure through which funds have been siphoned off to traditional overloras hiiSllecome ineffective. Second, we may expect to find this phenomenon where it has become possible fO!J.he_peasanL to escape. thc.dcmands .,
~ced on him to und e~t e_wi th . c~~<;x penditures the.traditional
social-ties--with- hisfeTIows. 1f he can refuse to commit his surplus to cere~ i"a l o utlays, he can use the funds so released to support his economic
ascent . The two changes frequently go together. As the ovcrarching power
structure weakens, many traditional social tics also lose their particular
sanctions. .Th ~ sa n t community, U~~ ~!J.t!<;.h_~ irf..l!f!l~Il ~CS, _may sec the
rj ~~oLwC'J l thy_. pcasa n ts _wTio::-sh OliTdcr aside their less fortunate:.. fellows
and move into the PoW~...y~cUl,lIn left by the retreating superior holders or - power. In the course of their rise, they frequently violate traditional expectations of how social relations are to be conducted and symbolizedfrequent ly they utilize their newly won power to enrich themselves at the
cost of their neighbors. Such men were the rising )'eomen of sixteenth
century England, the rich peasants of China, the kulaki or "fists" of prerevolutionary Russia. In other cases, large numben of peasants may end
their ceremonial commitments, as happened among man)' Middle American Indian groups who have abandoned their traditional Ca tholic folk
rituals- with their great costs paid out in the support of religious organizehans and events- and have turned to a sober Protestantism for which such
expenditures are not rcquired.v
111e altemaf ve strategy is to solve the ba ~ic ~sa n t dilemma b~ur
. tailing conmmp t i~ l1ie pea san tma )'"roouce his caloric Intake to the most
basic items of food; he may cut his purchases in the outside market to a
few essential items only. Instead, hc may rely as much as possible on the
labor of his own domestic group to produce both food and needed ob jects,
within the confines of his own homestead. Such efforts to balance accounts
by undcrconsumpt ion go a long way towards explaining why peasants tend
to cleave to their traditional way of life, \vhy they fear the new as they
would fear temptation: Any novelty lIIay undermine their precarious balance. At the same time, such peasants will also support the maintenance
of traditional social relations and the expenditure of ceremonial funds
required to sustain them. As long as these can be upheld, a peasant community can ward off the further penetration of outside demands and
13 See. for instance, June Nash, "P rotestantism in an Indian Village in the w estern
IIighlallw uf C uall:lllala." T he Alpha KapP4 Dellan, XXX, No.1 ( 1960 ) , p. 50.

Pe<Ua1llry and Its Probk ms


pressures, while at the same time forcing its more fortunate members to
share some of their labor and goods with their less fortunate neighbors.
In many parts of the world, therefore-se ven in those where the peasantry
has been relegated to a secondary role in the total social order-we shall
encounter the phenomenon of peasants striving to stay alive without undue
commitments to the larger system. At the same time, it must be rcmembered that in many situations-especially during wartime and depressions
-cpeasant holdings represent sanctuaries from the ravages which affl ict
people in cities and industrial centers. A man with 40 acres and a mule
has a hard row to hoc; at the same time he has at least some measure
of probable caloric output when others may have to seck their sustenance
in the garbage cans of crumbling towns. The peasant retains-in h iL CQIl:
~ d.,all d _ h~~citr to raise cropumjt- both_his. autonomy_and .
I~ capacity to.!.urvivc whell--.2t!le!S,}gorc_delicatcly_dcpcndcnt.upon.jhe;
l a rg~yJnd such .!.l!rvival diffi cult.
\ Vhile the two strategies of peasant operations point in entirely different directions, we must not. however, think of them as mutually exclusive.
\ Ve have seen that their relative dominance is largely a function of the
larger social order within which the peasant must make his living. To the
extent. tbec.tbat asccal order gro~vs in strength..9~ca.~ens. th ~ ~sants
~'ilI favor onc_.oUhc--2t!Jer. sometimes playing both at the same time in
diffe rent contexts. Periods in which the fi rst strategy is strongly favored
may be followed by others when the peasant retrenches and renews his
social fabric within a narrower orbit. Similarly, at any given time, there
will be some individuals who will risk the social ostracism involved in
testing the limits of traditional social tics, while others prefer the security
involved in following the na nn that has been tried, and is therefore thought
to be true._Literary cliches about the immovable ~_~n t n" to the contrar".
a ~sa n t!rJs.-al\}'~'S in a dmal.Tliu t!'ing cont inuollsly between two...
. PQ es in for.a.solution of its ba s~c dilemma._
The existence of a peasa;rtl')' thus involves not merely a relation between peasant and nonpcasant, but a type of adaptat ion. a combinat ion
of attitudes and activities designed to sU~IL1he cultivator in his effort
to maintain h im selLandJlis.. ki~i th i ll a social order which threatens
.t rat mai.ut~lce, In this study. we shiIEillcmpnooiiflineliOth the kmdS
of relations peasants entertain with outsiders and the strategies they follow
ill modifying or neutralizing the effec ts of these relations.


In the last chapter, we discussed the basic characteristics of peasant ry and

its recurrent and enduring problems. In this chapter, we shall deal with
peasant economics. \ Ve shall do so in three sections. We shall first describe
and discuss the ma jor systems of gaining nourishment and surpluses from
the soil, both in the past and at present. Here we shall analyze the peasant's
act ivities as he cut s the soil with an animal-drawn plow or irrigates a field

that will bear mature rice. In the second section, we shall deal with the
ways in which peasants obtain goods an d services that they do not produce
the mselves. Here our focus will be on th e peasa nt househ old and its needs
for subsistence , replacement, and ceremonia l, and our emphasis will be on
the way in which th e peasant comp lements the goods he himself produces
and the skills which he himself commands, by other goods and services.
Ou r th ird sectio n takes us into the subject of the linkage between peasantry
and those who derive their living from peasant activities through the liens
which they have on peasant surpluses. Her e we shall focus on th e ways
funds of rent or profit are transfe rred. In e ach section, we shall anal yze




('f Peeerutry


the ma jor patterns of rela tionship s exh ibited in different pa rts of the world
and attempt to und erstand their impl ications for peasan t existe nce.

Peasan t Ecotypes
U ntil the large-scale int rodu ction of artificially synthesized foods,
men must depen d for t heir food supply on othe r organisms. Plants build
Ill' food from various chem icals ill th e process of ph otosynt hesis. M en can
ob tain the food so produced by eat ing a plan t either directl y or indi rectly
- that is, by first letting an ani ma l eat the plant and t hen tapping it in
an ima l fon u, eit her as m eat or as some by-prod uct such as milk. Thus,
E!.-a_n tran sfers energy- th e ca~ c!!y to do ",,:grk=f!QDL P1;In!Land an.i.mal.L,
to himseInVifh the tw in techniques of plant cultivation and animal
~ion he renders th is tran sfer me re assured . A field of wheat and
an an imal byre are, from t his poin t of view, means of accumulating and
con t rolling readil y available sources of cnergy. These sources form the basis
of an y ordered set of act ivities through which a peasan try adap ts to its
natural environmen t.
But man also exploits other ene rgy.resources. in his environment, such
as the wood of the forest, th e water of strea ms, or coal in the grou nd .
Peasants make usc primarily of organic sources of ene rgy, such as wood ;
bu t wit h simple devices the y may also pump water to irrigate their fields
and ha rness the wind to del iver force to a mill that grinds their grain. The
ecological ada pta tio n of a peasantry thus consists of a set of food transfers
an d a set of devices used to harness inorgan ic sources of energy to the
prod uct ive process. T ogether, these two sets make up a system of cnc rgv
transfers from the environ ment to man . ~....5.f5.iC!Il of energy tra nsfers
~t}' pc.

For om purposes we nee d to d istinguish bet ween ~nill.~ype_s :

by the cmploymcnt..of - h uma n . a n d _'~~ l i ~~la l-!ab.or, aridHie
ot he r by i ne r_eajj!lg lel tJJKLQI Uhc_eI.lergr_~lI ppliedJ}y_co m b us tible fuels
and the skills supplied by science. \ V e shall call the first- G~d of ecotypc,
with its reliance in the main on h uman and an imal organisms, J!!;1lgS!.:
tcclwJc, the second neotecll11ic.

_0 1H~_.-J.!.1 ,~rk ed


Palcotec1mic Iccorypcs
The palcotcch n ic ccotypcs based on cultivation are the direct
offspring of what we may call the First Agricultural Revolut ion . T his
revolutio n started ab ou t 700~OOO II.C., and possessed its essential cha ractcns n cs by about JOOn II.C . As ment ioned above, ih main characteristic

Economic Aspect' of Peasantry


is its reliance on human and animal energy: Men and animals are used
to produce food to grow more men and animals. Moreover, production is
aimed at providing foodstuffs, usually cereals such as wheat, rye and
barley, to feed the producer and those who have a lien on his output and
who live within a radius determined by the simple devices of transportation that are available. T he simplest of such devices is the human carrier
who brings his produce to a local market on his own back; the most complex of these the wind-driven sailing ship. A mark of this palcotcchnlc
system is that cultivator and noncultivator live off the same crop. T he
cultivator consumes the same product that he transmits- through taxes or
sales- to another. In addition to the organic energy supplied to the system
by men and animals, there are simple machines making use of easily available wind and water-the boat. the water pump, the windmill. What skills
are applied to cultivation arc apt to be traditional. stemming only ra.rely
from the advice of specialists.
Th e chief criterion for our classification of the paleotechnic peasant
ecotypes themselves will be the degree of use of a given piece of land over
time. Th e basic distinction between ecotypes can be expressed in terms of
the amount of land used. W e shall also consider the labor requirement of
one ecotype, as compared with another, and the degree to which occupancy of a piece of land requires a given input of labor. 111at labor is always
applied through usc of a given implement , and here we shall- in the traditional ant hropological manner-ask whether the system principally utilizes
hand labor applied by means of the hoe, or also employs animal laha r
in providing traction for a plow. \Vc shall also point to the length of the
growing season, or its shortness, as a criterion in fanning a peasant
ecotype. Th e distinction here is between systems which can extend work
throughout a long productive period and those which must compress their
labor into shorter periods of time. The major paleotedmic fonn s of peasant

I. Long-term fallowing systems, associated with d earing by fire and

cultivation with the hoc. These svstcms arc called swidden. 'stems, after
an English dialect word for "bum'ed clearing." Fields arc c eared by fi ring
the vegetation cover-grass, bush, or forest; planted to the point of decreasing yields; and abandoned to regain their fertility for a stipulated
number of years. Th en other plots are similarly opened up for cultivation,
and reoccupied after the critical period of regeneration is past. Swidden
svstems are found in both the Old and the Nev.' World. As we shall see
below. such systems have supported peasantry only under exceptional circumstances.
2. Sectorial fallowin.g ~eJ'llS. ill which cultivable land is divided into
two ~liKlI arcjilantcd for two to three }"cm and then left

Economic Aspect. of Peasantry


to fallow for three or four. The dominant tool is the hoe or the digging stick.
Such systems arc also fou nd in bot h th e Old an d the N ew \ \'orld, for
instance, in W est Africa and h ighland Mexico.
3.2!!ort.tenn fallowing s)'stems, in which lan d cult ivated for one
or two years is reoccupied after a year of regeneration . 'In c dominant
tool is the plow, dra wn by draft an imals. Such systems are usually associated with the cultivation of cereals and are primarily found in Europe
and Central Asia, Hence they may also be called Eu rasian gfdinfarming.
4. P.erm anflJlL...Jl1jvatioll, associated with techn iques for assuring a
permanent water supp ly for t he growing crops. Such systems have been
called h rdra!4ic systems because they depen d upon th e construction of waterworks. They occur in the dry lands of both th e N ew and t he Old \ Vorld
whe re rivers can be tapped for irrigation, and in the tropical areas of the
Old \ Vorld whe re cultivators have succeeded in subst it ut ing a man-made
landscape for the original forest covet and in tapping water resources to
insure the produetion of their crops. There are no parallel systems in the
tropical lowlands of the New W orld .
; . Pennanent cultivatio n of favored plots, combined with a fringe of
sporadically utilized hinterland. Such systems have been called in field-outfield systems where th ey occ ur along the Atl anti c fringe of \ Vestem Europe.
They are, ho wever, also found in the Sudan, in highland M exico, and elsewhere. '111e ability to cult ivate permanen tly a given set of plots depends
either upon special qual ities of the soil, as in Atlan tic E urope (where the
limited areas of good soil on deltai c fans or fluvial and marine terraces
are further supplemen ted by caref ul ma nuring}, or upon the ability to
irrigate permanently some port ion of an otherwise unpromising landscape,
as in parts of the Sudan and Mexico.
Of th ese five types of palcotcchnic peasan t ecotypcs, thr ee have been
of major importance in th e course of cult ural evolution . These are the
swidden. the short-term fallowing, and the hyd raulic types. TI le oth er
two, appearing only rarely and under special circumstances, have been of
rest ricted in fluence, important th ough th ey may have been in par ticular
local sett ings. In the discussion which follows we will leave th em aside
in order to emphasize the thr ee ma jor types.

Let us first consider in greater deta il the systems based on swidd en

cult ivation. As indicated, swidden cult ivation involves several steps. First,
land is cleared by bu rnin g off the vegeta tion cover. Second, crops are
plan ted in the clea ring. usually witho ut an)' additional man uring othe r
than th ai pr ovided hy the ashes of th e bnmed vegeta tion. Third, the plot

Swidden cultivator: Huastec -speaking cultivator clearing land along th e

Pan American Highway, near Tal1Ja:wnchale, Mexico, late August, 1956.
(Pho to by Eric R . \ V olf, from Sons of the Shaking Ea rth, published by
The Un iversity of Ch icago Press, 1959.)

obtained is used for one or mo re years, th e dura tion depend ing upon local
circumsta nces. F ourth , the plot is abandoned for a time so th at it can
regain its fertility. Fifth, a new plot is opened for cultivation. This seq uence
is repeated with a nu mber of plots, until th e cultivator retu rns to the field
cleared first and repeats the cycle.
The critical factors in this system are threefold. T hey are: availability
of land, availabili ty of labor required to produce the key crop, and the
length of the growing season during which th e key crop or crops may be
produ ced or alterna ted with other supplementary crops.
T he need for land is determ ined by th e rapid ity with wh ich an original
plot, cleared and farmed to the point of sharply declining yields, can
recover its original fert ility. This capacity d iffers sharply from area to area,
and generaliza tions are therefore hazardous. Around Lake Peten in the
tropical forest of Gu at emala- th e home of the famed Maya -civilization->
th e tend ency on the part of present-day laya cultivators is to. use a plot
only one year and let it rest for four years. Some who plant two crops in
succession in th e same plot allow it to rest six or seven years. In northern
Yucat an th e average fallow period is ten yC'J rs. For the H anu noo of th e
Phil ipp ine Islands, th e minimu m rest period is seven to eight years. But
the re may be factors othe r than soil depletion involved in the aban donmen t of plots. T hus, amo ng th e Totonac-speakers of the sta te of Veracruz
in Mexico and in many parts of the Ph ilippi nes, new clearings are threatene d by invasion of tough grasses, and th e cultiva tor may prefer abandon 22 .

Econ omic Aspects of

Pea.~m try


ing a plot to weed com petition than fighting it.' El sewhe re, as in pa rts of
the Amazon , cleared plo ts attract insect pests, and the cultivator may
continue clear ing forest, rat her t han return to hi s original plot. TIl e significant techn ical limitation of this kind of ccotypc therefore lies in leaving
the tasks requ ired to regen erate used plot s in the hands of na ture; th e
cultivato r wou ld rather take lip new la nd than expend addi tional skills
and labor. H ence, if th e cult ivator wishes to assure h is sustena nce, he
II1l1St always have sufficien t land to let rest some po rtion of it, while uti lizing another . T he "m el ill fallow usual ly grea tly outweighs th e are a un der
As lon g as thi s procedure is feasible, however, suc h syste ms can be rema rkabl y productive. Under favorabl e circumsta nces, the Yagaw l lauunoo
of the Philippines can gro w an amo unt of rice per uni t of labor put int o
their swiddcns q uite comparable to the production Oil doublecrop pcd lan d
und er int ensive hydrau lic cultiva t ion in the Tonkin delta of N orth Vict
Nam . Simi larly, swidden cultivat ion in 'I'cpoarlan in M exico produces
yields equal to the best in plow cultiva tion of th e permanen t fields and
about tw ice as high as the average yields of plow cult ure . Moreover, with
lon g growi ng seasons, m ore th an one crop can be tak en d urin g a yea r. In
the Pcten area of Guat emala, for instan ce, a cult ivator can plan t h is regular
ma ize crop on good rested land of bla ck soil, hut to assure the prod uct ion
of a crop in the d ry season, he may sup pleme nt th is wit h a plot op ened
in swam py area and also with a rainy-season plot Oil the steepest and
highest portion of th e area, where thc pitch of the land ins ures adequa te
runoff of wa te r. Or, as ill ma lly pa rts of Sou theast Asia, nee grown in
swiddcns m ay he Intc rcroppcd with add itio nal crops, such as yam s, which
ma ture at differen t seasons, Another such insta nce is illustrated by figur es
cited for the Yako 111 Eastern Nige ria, where ya m.~ a re grown. l lcrc an
average ga rden of 15 acres, con tu uung 2440 yam hills, has a mean yield
of 25"45" yams. The range of yields fo r different gardens extends all th e
way from 235 to 11,410 tubers,"
I See Ursula A. Cu wgill, Soil Fertility and the Ancient M ay<l, T ransactions of the
Co nnecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, XLI I (New Ha ven : Conn ecticut Academy
uf Arts and Sciences, 1961 ), p. 31; Harold C. Conklin. Hamm oo Agricultu re: A Report
VII <III 17l fegr<ll S)'stem of Shitt ill/; C ultiv<lfioll in the Philippines, FAO Forestry Developme nt Paper Xo. 12 ( Rome: Food and Agriculture Organiza tion of the United Nanons, 19 57) , p. 138; Isabel Kelly and Angel Palcnu , T he T <l;in T OtOIl <lC, Part J H istory,
Subsist ence, Shelter aJ ld T echllology, Smithsonian Institution Institute of Social Anthropology Publicatio n No. 13 (\ Vashington, D.C.: United States Covcr umcnt Printing
Office, 19 52) , pp.II 3-1l 4.
:.' C. Daryll Forde, " Land and Labour in a Cross River Village, Southern Nigeria,"
Geographical Journal, XC, No. I (1937 ) . PI'. 32-34, 41; Con klin, Hcnunoc Agriculture,
p. 152; Pierre Couron, "The Quality of Land Usc of T ropical C ultivators," in ,"'fan's
Rille in Ch,mgiug tile Fuoe of the E(/rth , cd . William L. Th omas, Jr. (C hit-ago: Uni.
w rsity of Chicago Press. 19:;6 ). p. 342; Oscar Le wis. Li fc ill a I\fexil'<l u Vill<lg~ ;
T "lw ;:tlJn Ik ,(wli,'" (U rbana : University of Illinois Press. 19Q ), p. I ~(l; Cowgill.
Spil "'",tilitr. pp , 11. 1-1

Economic Aspect: of

P~dSan try


Undoubtedly, there are great di fferences between particular swidden

sys tems, especially in tenu s of the length of the cycle of regen era tion,
in crops grown , and in length of growing season. Some systems arc incapable of furthe r expansion; they face the problem of insufficient land .
Othe rs, however, are still capable of ad ding cons iderable populations to
the area now exploited. ' Th us, the l lan uno o could sustain a 60 per cent
pop ulation increase from the present level of abo ut 150 persons to about
240 persons per square m ile. Similarly, it has been estimated th at the area
of Lake Pcten, which now holds only one person per square mile, co uld
sustain between 150 to 200 people per square mile. 111e reasons for
stab ilization at much less t ha n maximum levels are obscure.but at least 'difficul~' of getl~~_ti-~~~\I~I . lIlechanisllls f~r
~cgration ..Ei such a Jar~po.~~l JLhas .e\'cll _becn argued~at
socialand political integration of populations . utilizing swiddcn systciiis
is improba ble, bccilllse the need f~r new land tend s to scatt er the pop ulation over the landscape and inh ibits its concen t ration and -con trol. \V e do
fi nd among some populations with a tradition of swidde n culti....a tion a
distaste for concen tration in sett lemen ts and its attendan t centralized
political cont rols. C roups of swidden cultiva tors in Sout heast Asia, for
example, forced to switch to intensive hydraulic cultiva tion on terraces,
have, when new lan d frontiers became ava ilable, abando ned these terra ces,
which absorbed a great deal of labor and att ent ion, for swiddens."
Their decision may be due to their realizat ion that swiddcns provide a
prod uctivity comparable to intensive cultivation, b ut the imp ulse is p robably intensifi ed by th eir inab ility or unwillingness to give up the ir traditional social and political autonomy for the role of a depend en t peasant ry
in asymmetrical relationships with dom inant overlords. W e owe to Edmund Leach an excellent case study, among the Kachi m of moun tain
Burma, of the dvuamics invoked in such choice.
Similar considerations apply to the prob lem of whethe r a swiddcn system
is capable of yielding suffic ien t surpluses to support a nonc ultivating elite
of cra ft specialists. Some swiddcn systems undoubtedly operate at a level
whe re furt he r increased yields arc impossible, and such increased yields
would in any case be d ifficult to collect, du e to the d ispersal of the pop ulation an d t he decent ralizat ion of social tics. However, some swiddcn sys
tcms ap pear capable of further increases and of surplus production. Th us,
it has been estimated that with a population of between 150---200 persons
per sq uare mile of arable land among th e Map of La ke Peten, half the
ad ult population could have produ ced suffic ient surp luses to feed the other
S Robert von Heine.Celdem , "Sudosta sien," in Illustne rte V olknkunde. 00. Georg
von Buschan (Stuttgart, Strecker und Schroder. 1923 ). II. p. S08; Edmund R. Leach,
r olitical S)'stems of High/dlld Ilumld (C ambridge: Harvard Un il"t"rsit) Press, 19 )-1).
Jlp. 27-2 8.

Economic Aspects of ,Pe<1Sdntry


half .' Similarly, popu lations like those of th e Yako, with their ab undant
yam hills feeding a populatio n of 1, 0 people per squ are mile, could probably, given the social orga nizat ion a nd necessa ry incentives, have provided
a surplus for noncultivators. Und er except iona l circums tances one can envisage such growing integrati on, either through growing ties to a ceremonial
center of t he kind that has been postulated for the Maya, or through conquests by invaders such as ap pear to ha ve taken place in W est Africa.
Swidden planters, however, arc easily able to stcp from the sta tus of
a utonomous cultiva tors to that of dependent peasan t ry whe re some othe r
syste m serves as an anchoring point. An exam ple of this comes from Africa,
where the C a uda of Uganda maint ain plantain gardens whic h bea r 20
years or mo re, even up to ;0 yea rs. Here an average-sized plan tain garden
of th ree acres will bea r from 12 to 18 to ns of fruit a yC-J r. These plantain
gardens a re surro unded by im perman ent fields in which other cro ps arc
grown. \ Vhile the system docs not inh ibit popu lat ion movem en t it fosters
bot h pop ulat ion concentra tion an d relative sta bilit y."
As suc h areas move into the orbit of the com me rcial world, moreover,
we also find com mer cial cro ps function ing increasingly as an choring points
for swiddcn farmers. Thus, the slashing -and-b urning Totonac-spcakcrs of
Veracruz grow vanilla trees to obtain vanilla for sale; swidden fanning may
also be comb ined with the cult ivation of pcppcr trees or coffee, as in
In don esia and New Guinea , or with cocoa trees, as a mong the Ashanti of
W est Africa. And we also find secon dary slash-and-bum cult ivation in conjunction with sta tionary permanen t populatio ns, in a reas where land
scarcity and popula tion pressure have d riven peo ple to clea r and cultivate
marginal lands. Th is has been th e case in Europe, as in the Hund sriiek
a nd t he Vosges Mountains and is currently th e case in many pa rts of

HydrJulic Clltintial

\ Ve have seen tha t ecoty pes based on swidden can suppor t a

peasantry onl y under exceptional circum stances or whe re swiddcus become
"anchored" to a no nswidden crop. I~as t. hydraulic cultivation pm:..~li d basis for pcasa nt society . W h ile swiddcn syste ms can be
Cowgill, Soil Fertility, p. 40.
:; Harold B. Thoma s and Robert Scott, Ugandtt (London : Oxford University Press,
19 35),pp.I12- 124.
6 On the Totonac, see Isabel Kelly and Angel Palcrm, T he Tttjin Te re nce, pp. 100126; on Indonesia, Karl J. Pelzer, Pioneer Settlement irr the Asiatic T ropics, American
Geographical Society Special Publication :\'0. 29 {New York: American Geographical
Society, 1945) , pp. 25-26; on Ashanti, Robert A. Lystad, T he Ashallti: A Proud People
(New Hrunswirk: Rutgers University Press, 1958 ), p. 34; Oil Mexico. OSC<lr Le wis.
I .ife iu ,/ AI"\k<lr1 Villdge, p. 157.

E conomic Aspe cts




foun d in many differen t environm en ts, however, hydra ulic fanning is

largely restricted to dry zones that receive less than ten inches of rain fall
per }'ear and to those tropical areas where men have cleared an alluvial
fan of its original rank vegetation to plant a water-seeking crop like rice.
In dry lands, especially, it is the life-giving water which constitutes the
critical factor in agricu ltural success. To obtain it, in sufficien t quantity,
is the cultivator's crucia l an d enduring problem . Spotty water sources
appea r occasiona lly along talus slopes whe re mountains descen d int o lowerlying ba sins, or where the bed rock is cracked and water rises to the surface
in occa sional oases. But it is the valleys of great rivers which provide the
ideal sett ing for th is kind of cultivation , Rivers usually depo sit alluvial
soils, rich in plant food, and th eir wate r can be led off to pot ent ial fields
over a netwo rk of irrigat ion canals, \Vith irrigatio n, great yields become
possible, In the dry coun try of Lebanon , where farming ba sed a ll rainf all
alone results in yields only th ree to five t imes the amoun t of seed utilized
(1 :3-5) , irrigated cultivat ion in the nearby river valleys could produce a
yield of 1:86, a figure based on records recovered from an cien t Sumer.t
Frequ ently, the cons truct ion of large wat er works has been associated with
th e emergence in a societ y of st rongly cen tralized polit ical controls capable
of marshalin g men an d goods towards t he building of necessary di kes and
A second environmental sett ing for hydraulic cultivatio n ha s been the
tropical forest of Sou th and Sou thea st Asia, That no compara ble development has ta ken place in t he tropical forests of the New W orld demonstrates that th e ada ptation is not inevita ble, only possible. In Asia, men
have succeeded in cutting down the forest and replacing it by a ma nmodi fied en vironment.
T ropical soils appear, indeed, to pose certai n critica l problems to th eir
occupants. W here rainfall exceeds evaporation and t he soils are eithe r too
penneable or not permeable eno ugh, there is a tenden cy for the rainwa te r
to wash the surface soil clean of th e substances req uired to feed cult ivated
plants. 111is condi tion mar prod uce a growing impo verishment of the soil.
1 Raymond E. Crist, "The Mountain Village of Dahr, Lebanon: ' Smithsonian
Report f or 1953, Publication 4163 ( Was hington, D.C.: Smithsonian Instit ution, 1954 ),
p, 410; Richard Th um wald, Economics in Prim itiw Com1l1u Ilities ( London: Oxford
University Press, 1932), p, 9;.
e Cause and effect are here not entirely clear. It would certainly scorn as if the construction of large region-wide water works or the integration of many smaller irrigation
systems into a large ovcrarching system was ~reatly facilitated by the rise of autocratic
governments which could coerce men to contribute the neceM3ry labor. Yet recent
comparisons of ethnographic dat a suggest that "centralization of authority is an exceptional response to the problems of irrigation agriculture,' Sec Rene :\Iillon, "Variations
in Social Responses to the Practice of Irrigation Agrirultllre." in C il'jfi:aliofl in Dtlsert
L mdf . ed. Richard B. \ \ 'oodhury. Ulli\'ers;it ~, of Utal., Deparhncnt of Anthropology,
Anth ropological Papers No, 62 (S3lt La ke City: Ullin'nity of Uta h I'rl'SS, 1962) , p. 87,

Economic Aspects of Peasantry


In high-temp erature areas characterized by alternating rain y and dry seasons,

however, it is possible to achi eve a fine balan ce between the impoveris hing
processes and the processes by which micro -organisms build organic ma tte r.
This balan ce is accomplished by creating an ar tificial environment, a ne twork of lakes and pond s in which the soil is flooded periodically. H ere
the impermeable soil pan is insulate d from th e direct action of rain fall by
a layer of water, and micro-organisms th at work witho ut oxygen from the
air con tr ibute to the creatio n of a rich layer of black soil under water.
The most characteristic adaptation to this latter set of cond itions is
found in the wet rice complex of the O rien t. This is an adap tation that
requ ires an enormous input of labor to fulfill its promise. Field s must
be carefully graded so tha t irrigation water wiII no t only stay nea r the ir
centers, bu t also reach the marg ins. Dikes m ust be constructed parallel to
the marg ins to insure that water wiII not flow towards the center alone .
Simi larly, trenche s m ust be dug to drain off water in times of excess. Rice
is first planted in a nursery where the seedlings mu st be caref ully watered.
In the mean time, the field for which they are dest ined m ust be prepared
by breaking, condi tioning, irrigating, and leveling the soil. T he work of

Harrowing paddy fields for tile spring sowing in Szechuan Province.

(Eastfoto, by Chen Chiell.)

Economic Aspects of Pe4Sdn!ry


readying th e soil is often do ne manually with a hoc, and the irrigation

water has to be pumped to the field with man-operated devices. T hen th e
fields must be leveled alice more, befo re th e young shoots from the nu rsery
are transplanted by han d in bun ch es of six to seven stalks. On ce the rice
is in the ground, the field has to be kept free of weeds; fcrtilizer-ccou sisting of huma n an d shee p man ure as well as of soya beau pulp- is sp read
on th e fields; then th e fields arc weeded once more. T hro ughou t, the
rice mu st be carefully watered; th is operation invokes more pu mpi ng, either
to add water to the fields or to rid it of excess. \Vhcn th e rice is mature,
it is cut by means of sickles, bundled, thr eshed by st riking the ears of grain
against a wooden box, and finally hu lled.
Where the h ills dip down to the lowlan ds, work in the rice padd y may
often be combin ed with work on land that cannot be irrigated . Ilere the
peasant may grow oil-bearing seeds or perhaps cot ton. l lill slopes may be
planted to trees, such as mulberry, tea, or pepper t rees. .M th e same time,
fish can also be raised in the artificial ponds; somet imes in con junc tion
with irrigated rice fields, ducks are allowed to feed on aq uatic plants,
and the aq uat ic flora itself may be ret urned to the fields as fertilizer.
This ecotype is characterized by high prod uctivity per un it of land, but
low prod uctiv ity per unit of labor. A given piece of land farmed with
such intensive hand labo r will produce a great deal more th an it might wit h
more extensive methods, but it will absorb inordinate amounts of hu man
effort, especially whe re the main crop is irrigated rice. Such an input of
labo r is most applicable in areas where lund is scarce and labo r plen t iful.
The comparison between hydrau lic cultivation and more extensive ccotypes
using moisture derived from rainf all alone is pu t in sha rp relief when
stated in terms of man-d ays- each involving IO hou rs of work-devo ted to
the cult ivation and care of a single acre . T hus, palootechn ic cultivators in
Morocco and Algiers devote between 18 and H man-da ys of work to each
acre. In Tepoztldn, Mexico, plow cultivation involves an average of 19.4
man-days per acre; the comparable figure for hoe cultivation is 57.9. But
hydraulic cultivation of rice ascends to lXl man-da ys per acre in Japa n and
to 178.2 man-days per acre in Southwestern C hina."
Yet if hydraulic cultivation requires a great deal of labor, it can also
sup port dense pop ulations. Archaeologists estimate tha t population deusities in the Ncar East doubled with th e ad ven t of hydraulic cultivati on:
Neolith ic Jarmo in the Kurdi sh hills (da ted abou t 6750 B.C.) had an approximate population den sity of 25 per sq uare mile; alluvial Southern
~ The figures arc drawn from Rene Dum ont , Types of R ural Economy: Sludiu in
World Agrjculture (London : '-Ic lhuen and Co., 1957 ). pp. 181-1 90. Lewis. Lite in "
.\ Ie~ican ViII<JgI. pp. 1'i'i; Fred Co ttrell , En"gy lInd ~ty: T he Relation lwhH:en
Energ}'. Social Ch"nge, "nd Economic Den lopnum t [ Xew YOfk : '- kCraw-lIi11. 19 ) ,
p. 138; II siao-Tun.r; h i and C hill I Chang, Earthbound Chilla; .\ Study of RUT"I Eccn omy in Yunl/all (Chicago: Ullh'cn ity of C hi(':lgo Press, 19i'i ) , p, 31

Economic Aspects of PeClSl3ntry

Mesopotamia-Sumer- of 2500 B.C, probably had a populat ion density of

50 per square mile. Even more impressive are modern density figures, as
in such heavily irrigated areas as the lower Yangtse Valley in China, which
has 1980 per square mile as compared to the total Chinese average of 254
per square mile, or the 5000 per square mile reached in some areas of
north-cent ral Java as compared to the Indonesian average of 155 per square
mile.!" Th e same capacity to sustain heavy population has been noted in
areas under intensive hydraulic cultivation in Mexico. T hus, it has been
estimated that a community of 100 families with swiddens of the kind
found in lowland Veracruz would require 2964 cultivable acres. One hundred families living under conditions of permanent cultivation of garden
plots with swiddens (confonnmg to our ecotype Number 5) would require
1606 acres, TIle same number of families, with some fiel ds under short-term
rotation and canal irrigation would occupy 212 acres. Finally, the same
community in a completely irrigated area would require but 91 acres to feed
itself through commercial production, and between 148 and 173 for mixed
subsistence and commercial product ion.'!
But we can imagine a different \veighting in the relation among avail.
able labor, land, and growing season. Suppose that labor is scarce. Swidden
cultivation could still show high yields per unit of land, but with a small
labor force the total output will be low also. Now suppose further that
year-round cultivation is impossible and that elimatic conditions impose
a shortened growing season, so that labor cffort will have to be concentrated
in a short period of time. Under these circumstances a population of cultivators would view with favor an innovation which can allow one worker
both to extend the area under cultivation and to concentrate his labor
effort in a shorter period of time, 'I1Ie d raft plow is such an instrument. T he
great value of the draft animal lies in the rate at which it can deliver
energy, allowing a man to plow a much larger area in a much shorter time
than he would be able to accomplish by himself. 1f we further consider
the fact that such a population may be under pressure, by its Tillers or
other forces, to produce more than it needs to feed itself, the attract iveness
of this combination of stcckraising and cultivation appears still greater.
10 For prehistoric population estimates see Robert J, Braidwood and Charles ,\ .
Reed. "T he Achievement and Earll Consequences of Food-Productio n: A Consideration
of the Archaeological and Natura .I hstoncal Evidence," Cold Spring Harbor Symposia
on Quantitatiw Biology, XXII (1937), pp. 25-29. The C hinese populatio n fi gures compare densities in the Yangtse Plain, as of the time of first field work by Hsiao-Tung Fei
in 19 36, with estimates for China as of 1929. The figures for Indonesia arc from C lifford
Geertz , Agricultural Involution; Th e Processes of Ecological Chang e it, rn do tl e~l<l
( Berkeley: University of Ca lifornia Press, 196 3), pp. 13, 33.
11 :\ ngd Palenn , "The Agricultural Bases of Urban C ivilization in :\lesoalllcrica," in
Irrigatioll C ivili:w tiolls; A Como-native Study, ed. Julian II . Steward, Social Science
Monographs I, Soual Science Section, Department of Cul tu ral Affairs (\ Vashingtoll,
D.C. : Pan AmeriC"J Il Union, 19 55) , pp. 29-30.

Economic Npects o f Pe4S<ln try


Under such circumstances, a man with a draft plow may be able to feed
not only himself and his family, but other men and their families as

Such considerations may underlie the spread of the third major

palcotcclmic peasant ecotype, characterized by short-term fallowing, in
whieh the dominant tool complex utilizes the plow with animal traction.
\Ve have seen that th is ccotypc is associated in the main with the production of cereals. Neither swidden nor hvdranlic cultivation makes extensive
use of domesticated animals during tillage and harvest. In Eurasian grain
fann ing, however, cultivation is closely geared with livestock raising. Large
work animals draw the plow and harrow; they also provide manure for the
fields and aid in threshing. In addit ion they furnish meat and milk, hides
and wool, and they C4J,n be mount ed or harnessed to carts or wagons.
The use of large domesticated an imals such as oxen or horses in agriculture greatly Increases the mechanical energy available to those who
are able to harness them to the plow or to othe r instruments. The me or
the horse function in this respect like an organic machine. 'The work
animal; ' says Pfeiffer, is " the genuine forefather of modem machinery. In
fact, plow agriculture contained a germ for further technology, in that the
harnessed power of the animal was to be applied, in time, to other implements for sowing and harvesting. '111e consequence was that larger areas
might be conquered. TIle method was particularly adapted to the small
grains, which are sown broadcast." a
\ Ve have seen that this ecotype would have proved especially favorable
in lands characterized by a scarcity of agricultural labor. Conditions of
labor scarcity in agriculture can be of two kinds: either absolute, because
the total population is small, or relative, because alt hough the population
is large, only a fraction of it is engaged in cultivation. \ Vhere labor scarcity
is relative, it is nevertheless real, because social pressures exist to make
seine men produce a surplus of rents from as much land as is available
for as many noucultivators as they can feed. \ Ve may pccsume that such
condit ions existed in the densely populated areas of the Near East and
Mediterranean where we fi nd the earliest evidence for the draft plowMesopotamia, Egypt, and Cyprus before 3400 II .C. '111e hulk of agricultural
produce in these areas was produced by hydraulic cnltl....a tion in the irrigated river valleys of thc Nile and the twin rivers Ti gris and Euphrates.
Even Rome in its heyday d rew from irrigated Egypt and North Africa the
surpluses that fed it. Yet there were many areas where hydraulic cultiva12 Gottfried Pfeiffer, 'The Quality of Peasant Living in Central Europe: '
Role in C11C1IIging the ""<ICC of the Edrlh. p. 250.

i ll


Economic AspeClS of Pe<tSantry


tion was impracticable, but where rainfall cultivation by means of the

draft plow was perfectly feasible and was indicated by conditions of relative labor scarcity.
111e demand for such an instrument would prove to be equally great ,
if not greater, in areas with a low absolute population and short growing
season, yet with relat ively abundant areas of land. Such an area was transalpine Europe, \ in the early Middle Ages population densities were

Peasant plowing under the supefllision of 011 overseer. (RoderiCtls

Zamorensis, Spiegel des menschlichen Lebcns ( Mirror of H uman Life) ,
Augsburg edition, Peter Berger, 2 3 August 1488.)

still astonishingly low. Around ;00 A.D. there were probably no more than
five to thir teen persons per square mile even in favored areas. England in
1086 had a density of only 30 persons per square mile; by 1377 it had risen
to about 52. Holland was, in the late Middle Ages, one of the most densely
populat ed areas of Europe: In 1514 populatio n densities came to 96 per
square mile. Elsewhere they remained much lower: Switzerland had 36
in 1479, T irol 39 in 160-+.u Here and there local cond itions might impede
the spread of the draft plow. In Scotland and Ireland, for instance, the
u Abe l, GexhiclJle der deutschell L<lIrdll'irtschaft, pp. 13- 17; Ber nard I lcndrik
Slichcr Van ltath. n it' Agrorioll History of \"(/ estem I~ rj rope ; A D . 500- 1850 ( Loudon:
Ed ward Aruuld Ltd .. 1 l)6 ~ ) , JlP, 81-82.

Economic i\sptl of Pt <1Sd1ltry

foot-plow, breast plow, an d spade often proved more efficient 0 11 tou gh,
rocky hillsides than the draft plow, Elsewhere, local conditions would favor
the int roduction of new plows, especially when soils could be taken und er
cultivation that had proved impermeable to hoe or d igging stick.
This third major paleotec hn ic ecotypc-cculti vation with an ani maldrawn plow, toget her with sho rt-term fallowing-has developed two main
variant s. These arc the M editerranean ecotype and the transalpine, or
Con tinental, ecot ypc.
MEDITERRANEAN' ECOT YPE. The M editerranean area of Europe is in
essence an ad junct of the dry lands surrounding it to the east and south,
but it is blessed with a slightly different dist ribu tion of rain fall. The surnmers arc ho t and dry, yet rain falls during the mild winters. Hence, the
original vegetation cover of the area is a scrub forest characterized by
stan ds of oaks and chest nuts. Crops dependent on rain fall are usually
planted in th e full and ha rvested in th e spring. Land is d ivided into two
fields, each used alternately for cultivation and stock past urage. The cha racteristic agricult ural device is the scratch-plow, or "rd, the aratrum of the
Rom ans. It is the oldest form of the plow kno wn, and its form has remained basically the same in t he area s where it is still used. Essentia lly
it is a crooked stick. '111e cultivato r lavs hold of on e end, the other is shod
with metal; t he plow is drawn by a pair of draft an imals, usually oxen . It is
light and easily transpo rted; it is cheap to make and easily repaired . The
ard is especially adapted to light and friable soils where the chief problem
is to prevent moisture from rising to th e surface by capillary attraction .
Where a heavier plow would damage the capillaries and cause the wa ter
to evaporat e during the summer drought , th e ard merely scratches the soil,
thus keeping the capillary system intact . F ields are plowed and cross-plowed
several times, hence acqu iring a squarish shape. Such a field system will, as
we have seen, be associated with some livestock keeping. But the livestock
is usually small. C oots which can survi ve on dry scrubby margina l land
are especially characteristic. In addition, tree crops such as olives or pistachio nu ts may be cult ivated, and vines may be tended to produce grapes
for wine .
This prope nsit y for sup plemen ting basic cereal produc tion with specialized crops has provided the basis in many arC'JS of the Mediterranean for
the development of a ncotcch nic peasant ccotypc, operating to provision
urban cent ers with tree and hort icultural products, as we shall see presently.
Ea rly commercializa tion of such crops has tended to con vert the individual
cultivator into an independent economic agent. This drift is also reinforced bv the fact that neith er ard cult ivation nor an v of the associated
activities' requires a cooperat ive labo r un it larger than the indi vidual

Economic Aspech of Peasantry


domestic group, a feature th at sta nds in marked cont rast to the pict ure
presen ted by cult ivation in tran salpine Eu rope, where the dominant implement is th e improved northern plow-the whe eled plow, wh ich the
Roma ns called the cameo.
It is also impor tan t to remember that, al th ough th e M editerranean
ecot ypc represents a special adaptation to a part icular set of environmental
circumsta nces, it has not remained restricted to Eu rope. T he conquest of
the Ne w World by Port uguese and Spaniards in trodu ced the ard an d the
associated syste m of cultivation to the Americas, where ma ny peasants in
Lat in America to thi s day fann in ways basically cut from an originally
M editerranean pattern.
TRANSALP INE ECOTYPE. Transalpine Europe, in contrast to Southern
E urope , is characte rized by rather plentif ul rainfall, stro ng cont rasts between wint er and summer, and th e developme n t of a forest cover of mixed
conifers and broadlea ves. Here th e ligh t Mediterranean ard gave way to
the heavy wheeled plow, capable of cutt ing a deep furrow ill the heavier
clays and loams of the no rth , wh ich are watered by heavier rainfall.
The aim of the plowman was not to prevent eva poration of scarce wat er,
bu t rat he r to achieve adeq uate drainage. T h is goal was accom plished by
plowing in one di rection, cutt ing sod and t urning a furrow. TIle movement
was th en reversed, resulting in characte ristic long and st rip-like fields.
The plow was invariably dra wn by d raft animals. T wo oxen sufficed to
draw the Med iterranean ard, but the heavy wheeled plow of th e nort h
needed more ox-power. Usually four or six oxen were originally tied to th e
plow; later horses were substituted for oxen. Farming with th e heavy
plow thu s implied the employmen t of ani mal resources which was oft en
beyond the capac ity of th e single cultivator. Hence, it led gradually to
some syste m of pooling of animal resources, in wh ich neighbors or a lord
and h is subjects combined their draft an imals to furnish th e req uired plow
team .
The draf t an imals, moreover, mus t be fed an d cared for, if they arc
to be available season after season. T his is imperative in areas with severe
wint ers, where arran gements have to be made for stall-feeding the animals
during the cold season. The provision of hay and oth er feed th us became
a necessary adj unc t of plow culti vation, and the plowman requ ired not
on ly cultiva ble la nd, but also meadows on which to raise feed for the
ani ma ls. \ Vhere land was scarce and had to be used intensively, therefore,
competition develo ped bet ween the lise of land for huma n 'and an imal
T his transalpine ccot ypc ope rated first with a t wo-field cycle of rotation, in which fi elds were alternatel y ntili zed and t urned over to stock,

Economic AsfWcu

of Pe4Santry


much as in the M ed iterranean . Gradually, however, marc complex patterns

of field rota tion developed ; fields might be planted to a succession of
crops with d ifferent requi rements in successive years. The fields th us were
taken under cult ivation in an orderly short- term cycle. T hey were usually
clean-tilled with only one crop per year. The crops varied largely with local
climatic conditions, more favorable areas be ing devoted to wheat, mo re
adverse areas to hardier ryes an d bar leys. This division was especially
characterist ic of W estern and Eastern Europe. A line corresponding to the
January isoth erm of zero centigrade ma rks the d ivide between eastern area s
having at least one month of th e year frozen and those to the west whe re
January is normally green . In the cast wheat was rare. while cold weat her
crops or crops with shorter growing seasons predominated. Here rye and
ba rley were the main grains, supplemen ted since the great worldwide
diffusion of th e American Indian crops by pota toes and maize. Until the
adven t of the Second Agricultural Revolution in the eighteenth cent ury,
moreover, the system relied largely a ll rainfall for its water supply, and
fertilizer was spread on the fields casually or in term ittently rather than
systematically. Although the use of manure developed in Ita ly as early as
the fourteen th cen tury, transalpine Europe appears to have lagged beh ind
in its employment. Th us, th is ccot ypc contrasts with hydraulic systems of
the East not only in its relian ce on rainfall and on animal trac tion, rat her
than on artificially supplied water and hand labo r, but also in its ability
to sup plement the natu ral potential of the soil with h uman and an imal
fert ilizer.
Again, th is system spread beyond the bou ndaries of its original environmental setti ng, especially OIICe it was rendered more efficient and ada ptable
through the add ition of new de vices and skills. It spread overseas, but also
within the continen tal lan d mass into t he Asian steppe, where. however, it long suffered th e competition of pastora l nomadism . In the grasslan ds and steppes of the East, the pasturi ng of large herd s of domestic
animals freq uen tly proved mo re efficient than the cult ivation of soil. M oreOVCT, the pastoral nom ads th emselves long constit uted a threat to sett led
cult ivators. and permanent expa nsion of cult ivation in to the area came only
with military cont rol of th e pastoralists. ' n tis expans ion was the work of
the R ussians whose eastward movement into Asia has sometimes been
compared to the westward movement in America. Yet it took a great
deal longer. Th e Russians req uired some 600 years to reach the Ural M ou ntains wh ich divide Eu rope from Asia, and another 100 years to gain the
sho res of the Pacific. However, the expansion was spurred by fur trad ers
and are prospectors rather t han by cultivators proper. and it has only been
in this century, under Communist leade rship, th at an effort has been made
to conquer Siberia for agricult ure. this time under conditions of postpeasant technology.

":n .ll!Qmic

Atpccts of Pe4StJntry


Ncoteclinic Ecotypcs
'111e ncotechn ic ecotypcs arc in large measure offspring of the
Second Agricultural Revelution wh ich had its origins in Europe , and closely
paralleled the devclcp mcnt of th e Industrial Revolution, especially during
the eighteent h ccnturv. T h is is not to sav that some mod em feat urcsthe a ppl icat ion of special bod ies of knowledge, the develop men t of specialized crops-did not occur earlier or elsewhere. Mediterran ean hort iculture, for example, is an old pattern wh ich foreshadowe d some of the
patt ern s which became gene ral in the last 300 years. But it was the Industrial Revolut ion, with its new sources of energy and its new bodies of
knowledge, which gave t he new agricult ure its essen tial impe tus.
Among th e chid achievements of t his S(.'C{)Ild agricultural revolution
1. '111e year-round cultivation of arable lan d, aided by the developmen t
of crop rotation an d the use of fert ilizer. C rop rotation was pract iced in
Flanders hy the C'.I r1y fifteen th ccnturv, hil t it received a great im pet us
from the int rod uct ion of t he so -called Norfolk svstcm, the svstematic
rota t ion in successive seasons of wheat, turnips, barley, and e1ov~r on the
same field. Similarly, fert ilizer was regularly used in Southern Europe by
l-fOO, but the systema t ic applicat ion of chemistry to agricultural problems
was introduced by the pu blicat ion of the first independ ent tract of agricultural chem istry ( the AgriclIltllrae [undomenta chemica by Johann ' Vallcrius in Sweden in 1761) . Allied with these efforts were others aimed
principally at imp roving land or crops, th rough new systems of drain ing
wate rlogged lands and of conscientious eradication of weeds.
2. Plant and animal breed ing. Although war ho rses and sheep had lon g
been bred with special care, systemat ic breed ing was now exte nded to
many old and new varieties of grains and animals. Vet erinarian st ud ies
were placed on a more scientific ba sis.
3. 11.e introd uct ion of ent irely new crops from ot her world areas and
the growing tendency towards regiona l specialization on certa in crops.
4. T he introd uct ion of new mach ine ry. such as the cast-iron swing
plow drawn by two horses, t hc horse-propelled t hreshing machine, the
horse-drawn reaper. a machine drill for planting. These steps were revolut ionized still fur ther with th e in trod uct ion of the steam en gine int o agricult ure.
The new instrumental tccluuqucs also gave an impet us to critic isms of
traditional systems of land tenure and produced new ideas about the ceo-

Econo mic AsfWcts of PecJStlntry


nomic organizati on of agricult ure, incl udi ng the optimal size of holdin gs.
Under the influence of indu st rialism, agriculture was ratio nalized an d t ransformed in to an econo mic en terprise wh ich aimed primarily at maximal
outpu ts and on ly secondarily took account of the subsistence, replaceme nt,
and ceremonial needs of the peasan try. Hence, the in trod uction of neotechnic met hods of cultivation also relegat ed the pea san try to th e background. The peasantry adopted man y of the innovat ions, bu t no longer
pro du ced the majority of ren ts and profits on wh ich the social order was
founded. As a result of th ese changes, the peasant now is frequ ently required to supply crops or products t hat he may not consu me h imself, like
sisal to make rope or chili peppers to make vitami ns, and similarly comes
to rely on specialists prod ucing food in other areas. Hence, he tends increasingly to become a specialist am ong other specialists, with each group
of spec ialists producing goods and services to be cons umed by another.
The earmark of such an ecotype, then, is the tenden cy to produce crops
which arc not necessarily consumed by the cultivator himself. The products
go into the ma rket for sale, with the proceeds t hen underwriting the
peasant' s several trad itional fund s.
The ma jor ncotech nic forms of peasant ccotypes arc :
1. Specialized horticulture, which is cha racterized by the produ cti on
of garden crops, tree crops, or vineyard crops, in per manently main tained
plots. 111is ecotype ap peared first in the M editerranean area , foster ed by
the tenden cy towards regional specializa tion along th e shores of a sea
linked by marit ime traffic, and has historic con tinu ity there from 1000 B.C.
on. In terestingly enough, it also produced in Roman and medi eval tim es
some of th e earliest quasi-scien tific literat ure all crop management, especially with regard to vine-cultivatio n and olive-production . At the present
time, however, this ccotypc can be found manned by peasant s, far beyond
the Med iterranean hearth . It may be enco untered in regions prod ucing
special products, such as the Rhineland or the Rhone Valley. And it occurs
in the vicin ity of towns and cities whose inha bitants the peasan ts feed
with their horticultu ral prod uce : t he Va lley of Mexico where peasant cultivators supply the city at the center with horticult ural produ ce an d flowers
or Yuts'u n in Yun nan, where villagers supply a nearby town with from
30 to 40 differen t kind s of vegctables.w
2. Dairy fanning, <I specialized offshoot from the plow and short-cycle
fallowing syste m of con tinental E urope. Dairy farms supply larger nearby
cen te rs of populat ion with milk, butter or cheese. F resh milk will only
last overn ight , but th ere are peasant areas wh ich have made a success of
longer shipments of dairy prod uce since the eighteen t h ccntury.-Dcnmark,

I'd und Ch;lllg. Ea rtlllJO lmd China, p. 207 .



of Peas.tnl ry


for exam pic, sup plies butter and cheese to Englan d and now occasionally
to the United States.
3. The ccotype known as "mixed fann ing," in wh ich both livestock and
crops are raised for commercial purposes. This type is closely allied to th e
precedi ng, and similarly an offs pring of the transalpine continenta l E uropean ccotype. Balanced livestock and crop raising would be a better designation, in that livestock is raised and fatt en ed for th e market, da iry products
are ocasioaa lly sold, and crops arc raised bo th for consumption and sale.
\ \Theat is grown in more favored areas; rye and oat s, or potatoes an d sugar
beets, in less clemen t climes. T h is ccotypc rema ins closest in fon n to th e
t raditiona l palcot cchnic pattern which gave it birth , but it functions as a
more specialized enterp rise with in the la rge econo my, a large portion of
the total output be ing sold in the market.
-I. A fou rth set of ecc types producing some of th e crops of tile tropics.
such as coffee or sugar cane or cacao. These commod ities are also or mainly
raised on planta tions. In such areas, peasant life is domina ted by the crop
tha t has become established in the market of the area, and often suffers
from the vicissitudes of ma rket dem ands witho nt suffic ien t capacity to
balan ce income deficits with its own subsistence product ion.

Th e Provision
of Complementary Goods and Services
TI le peasant is not engaged in agriculture alone. Cultivat ion may
prod uce the calories a man needs, b ut he also has to d ress him self, build
houses, make containe rs, and manufacture the tools utilized in cultivation. M oreover, agricult ural prod uce and livestock products must be processed, grain turned in to bread, olives in to oil, m ilk into butter, hides into
leather. In looking at any peasant po pulat ion, therefore, we must first ask
quest ions regarding either th e degree to wh ich each peasant household
carries 0 11 the necessary craft specialt ies or--correspondingly-the degree to
which th ese specialt ies are in the hands of others whom he must pay in
food for th eir specific services. Secondly, we mu st inquire into the degree
to which t he peasant processes h is produce or-altern at ively- passes h is
product 0 11 for processing to specialists. \ Ve shall be int erested in the
ways in which need ed goods and services not prod uced by peasantry, b ut
compleme ntary to peasan t prod uction, arc obtained by them . These patterns are obviously a function of the division of labor within th e larger
society, and the pa rticular mechan isms which assure the pooling of th e
fruits of cultivation with those of othe r skills are conseq uen tly tied closely
to the scale and scope of the societal division of labor.
The simplest sit uation- 3 limitin g case because of its very simplicity-

Economic Aspecu of PUStInrry


is that in which a peasan t household produ ces most of the agricultural and
craft services for itself, with only m inimal ties to t he ou tside. An illustration
of t his state of affairs is furn ished by the South Slav Uldruga before th e
second pa rt of the n ineteen th cen tury . A Uldruga comprised a number of
nucl ear families- husba nd and wife teams, with th eir respect ive offsp ring;
its tota l memb ership was on the average between 20 and 40. The mem bers
of a zadruga were usually related , but often included adopt ed or unrelated
members as well. Such a unit claimed com mon rights to fields, orchards,
garde ns, vineyards, livestock, and past ure, and flax- an d hem p-working
sho ps. Food, medi cines, shelter, clothing, and furniture were prod uced
wit hin the zadruga. O nly a minimal amou nt of produce, usually catt le and
hogs, was sold to obtain salt and iron for Implements. T he zadruga owned
and ma naged its inven tory of possessions as a un it; members maintain ed
ani)' share rights. Alon gside of this common Uldruga prope rty, individuals
also maintained th eir own sepa rately owned plots which could be fanned
only after th ey had do ne th eir share of th e common weal. Durin g the n inetccnt h century, en forcem en t of taxati on together with the growth of the
market cha nged th is picture. Growing demands by the tax collector for
money required that the zadrugas begin to sell th eir prod ucts for cash,
reinforcing a tendency towards specialization in certain produets wh ich
had high market values. At th e same t ime, as specialization proceed ed,
members increasingly bo ught other goods and services such as clothing and
pa rt of th e food they had previously produ ced for them selves."
T he second type of excha nge relationship associated with peasan try
tak es place within the commun ity. Examples of this intracommun ity
division of labor arc furni shed by Ind ia and medieva l Europe. Indian
villages freq uently form corporations in which tillable land is held by a
group of cultivators. There are, however, many other peopl e who live and
work in the villages. Thus, in the village of Ram pur, locate.xl fiftccn m iles
west of Delhi, with a pop ulation of Il OO d istribu ted among 150 households, 78 households belonging to the ' at caste group own all the lan d
of the village, includ ing the house sites on which the houses of the ot her
castes are bu ilt. Th e other ho useholds follow a va riety of callings.' Some
arc priests, others are leat her workers, still othe rs sweepers, potters, water
carriers, washe rmcn, carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, or merchant s. T hese
specialists are attached to particular cult ivator households for whom they
render specific services. Thus, for examp le, a carpen ter makes and repa irs
plows, and makes plow yokes and other fann ing toots as well as certa in
u Th e ~adruga has produced a large literature. See. among others. Din ko Tomasi~,
Personality and Culture in Ea.~tern European Politics ( New Yorl:: George \ V . Stewart,
1948), pp. 149-166 , 189- 20; .
re Oscar Le wis and Victor Bamouw , "Cas te and the [ajmani System in a No rth
Indian Village: ' T he Scientific M onthly. LXXXIII , No.2 (19;6), pp. 66-8 1.





(>en ter prep.tring 4 simple

h47TOw. (Photo courtesy
of lh e Agency for l nltr
114tional Development.)

~-"'.specified kinds of furniture. Th e wood is supplied by the cultivator. For

these services the year round, the carpenter receives a stipulated amount of
grain each year. In addit ion to this guaranteed annual income the carpenter
might receive extra payment for additional noncustomary services, such as
the making of wheels, planks, or handles of milling stones. In, tum , each
carpenter entertains exchange relations with a barber, washerman, and
potter, and pays a leather worker and a sweeper on a customary basis
much in the same man ner as he has been paid by the dominant cultivator.
Therefore, in this village, as in many others, certa in families pcrfonn
stated hereditary services for others, for which they arc paid in kind on
a customary basis. 111e system of stipulated rights and services between
dominant cultivators and dependent specialists is called the ia;mani system;
the dominant cultivator is the ;a;man, or patron, of the kamin, or worker,
who performed services in return for grain.
A situation akin to that obtaining in the Indian village characterized
the medieval peasant community in Europe. The community contained
not only peasants, but also full-time or part-time specialists-a miller, a
smith, a herdsman, somet imes a priest. In contrast to India, these were
often part-time cultivators, and not distlngished from the remainder of
the population by differen t degrees of ritual pollution or cleanliness.
Looked at from the way in which peasants obtain the services of other
specialists, however, the Indian and the medieval European peasant community are similar in maintaining some specialists withi n their own
We have seen, moreover, that some-but not all-relations between
participants in the system are fixed. There is in India, and was in medieval
Europe, an area in which cultivator and craft specialist maintain the right
to make free and independent decisions. Th e Ind ian craftsman has standard obligations to particular persons but he also performs voluntary services
for these and others. The medieval villein had rights and duties with regard

Ecollomi c Aspects o f Peasantry


to an overlord, but also areas of decision in which these rights and d uties
d id not intervene.
Let us look at another system of peasant interchange, one that involves
periodic encounters in a market place. A market links a set of communities
which are scatte red around it in radial fashion, like the planets of the
solar system around the sun. Each of these communities may have its own
economic specialty. Usually the mainstay of the majority of communities
is some form of cultivation, and the economic specialty is carried on parttime by people who farm, and also make pots, weave cloth , produce tiles,
or work leather. A few communities may in fact specialize almost entirely
in the production of a particular fi nished craft product. Period ically,
people from the various communities meet in the market place and exchange the fruits of their labors. O utside the market , each of these communities lives its own life, maintaining its own body of custom; each
regards the others as strangers, as members of alit-groups in sharp contrast
to their own in-group. But the periodic market helps bring these separate
units together, with each to some extent dependent UpOIl the specialist
activities of the other. Altho ugh the communities form independent bod ies
outside the market, in the network of exchanges each comm unity is a
section, and the act of exchange relates each section to every other. l lcncc
such markets might be called sectional markets.
T hey occur, for example, ill the highlands of Middle America (Mexico
and Gu atemala ), in the high Andes, in W est Africa, and in areas of
Indonesia, like Java. If we compare these markets to the Indian village
d iscussed before, we would say that in India exchange relations arc carried
on between separate yet interdependent sections, operating within the same
commu nity, but that in the sectional markets the segments arc geographically d ispersed, each organized into a separate comm unity. W here the
relations between peasant and craft specialist in India arc built up from
Illany strands of relations between two people, patron and client, iaiman
and kamin, ill the sectional markets relations arc built upon a single interest. T he relat ion is confi ned to the particular act of exchange between
two partners who otherwise remain relative strangers to one another, For
a brief moment, the life spheres of two individuals touch, hut the relation
is tangent . This tangency is aided by the usc of money, and each partne r
to the exchange is an aut onomous agent with regard to the other. A weaver
comes to market and sells cloth; he then wishes to buy pots. l ie goes to
the row where the potters, from one pottery-making village, exhibit their
wares. Ill' has a choice of buying his po t from Juan or Jose or Pedro,
depending on q uality and price of the goods offered. 111e prices arc neithe r
completely free n OT completely set: A range exists for each product; within
that range there may he some price fl uctuation.
' Fl us freedom of choice within a delimited range ret ails the Indian

Economic Aspects of Pe<lSdlltry


village with its set obligations for each section ill the Indian village. There
arc sim ilar customary "obligations" for each participating section in th e
sectional markets. Since the various sections depend upon one another for
craft produce, they cannot switch at will from production of one produ ct
to another to maximize possible profi ts. Interdependence forces them to
persist in th eir specialt ies over a prolonged period of time. But just as the
craft specialist in the In dian village had a measure of freedom outside his
set of obligations, so th e participants in the sectional market- once they
have met their obligations by offering a certa in specialty and not anot her
- arc free to act on their own, to make decisions about how much to offer
and how much to b uy, and to vary the prices and qualities within a range
tolerable to th e over-all system of exchange.
But th ere is ano ther kind of peasant market that does not depend upon
the trad itional interactio n of customary monopolies in a dosed regional
system. T o contrast th is type with the sectiona l market we have just discussed, we shall call this kind of market th e network market. \ Ve borrow
the concept of the network from John A. Barnes, who has applied it to the
social relations found in a Norwegian fish ing community.t" In Norway
there exist no end uring social groups of kinsmen built around descen t from
a common ancestor. Each ind ividual , of course, has kinsmen , but-as in
our society-each ind ividual has a d ifferent set of kin. Each individual
also has a d ifferent set of friends and a differen t set of neighbors. Barnes
speaks of each person as being joined to other persons in a network. The
network " is a set of points some of which arc joined by Jines. T he point s
of the image are people, or sometimes groups, and the lines indicate which
people interact with each other.. .. A network of this kind has no external boundary, nor has it any clear-cut internal divisions, for each person
sees h imself at the center of a collection of friends." \Ve arc in this case
concerned not so much with kin, friend s, and neighbors, but with producers and consumers linked in ties of economic exchange . In our use of
the image, the point s in the network are economic agents, and the lines
which join thcm are ties of econo mic exchange . \V h ile the tics of kinship,
friendship, and neighborhood represent enduring ties- ties wh ich last at
least for a substan tial portion of an individual's lifetim e-the economic
ties we speak of may be purely temporary. A man may offer his pigs to B
for sale one week, but to D, F, or Z in successive weeks.
TIle economic ties represented by om image of the network market are
a great deal more shifting than those formed by a network of kinship or
friendship. In a kinship network ties arc between two particular persons
and arc relatively exclusive. Yom uncle is your uncle, your friend your
11 Joh n A. B ~ TI1cs. "Clas s and Co mmittees in 3 Norwegian Island Parish." Il uma n
Hd"tim,s. VI I. Nfl, 1 ( \<J5 4 ), pp. 39-58.



01 Pusantry

friend . But net work ma rket tics arc inherently subject to the en try of third
part ies- othcr producers, middlemen or consumers-sand the man who sells
in a market net work is everybody's friend (or everybody's cncmy) . Thus,
the relation is effectively quite neutra l. M oreover, it is sub ject to infinite
A simple networ k market may exist whe re one peasant sells pigs,
anot her woolen sweaters, a thi rd hob nails for walking boots. a fourth lime,
and where the pig-seller f inally buys lime. t he seller of woolen sweaters
purchases hobnails. But , as we have said, the relations are ever subject to
the entry of third part ies and arc the refore capable of ever-increasing
complicat ion. M ore and marc m iddlemen and converters, processing th is
or that produc t, may in tervene between the primary prod ucers. No r need
the circula tion of produ ct and money be con fined to the original hab itat
of the prim ary producers. Coffee raised in Colombia may furni sh the raw
material for the office break in Ann Arbor, Michigan: butter and cheese
produced on Danish farms may make the English breakfast; machetes
made in Connecticut may be sold in stores in Papa utl a on the M exican
C ulf CO:1St; Germa n aspirin may cure a headache in Indon esia. Potent ially,
therefore, these cha ins of excha nge not only involve ever larger numb ers of
middlemen, b ut they also add to t he "horizontal" movemen t of goods an d
services am ong mem bers of a peasant populati on increasingly complex
"vertical" ties in which goods pass from the countryside to to\.\11S, from
towns to inland cities. from cities to seapo rts, from seaports into overseas
markets, Put in another way, excha nges of locally produced goods in a local
market may form but a small range of exchang es in a regional market,
regional excha nges but a small sample of a nat ional network of excha nge,
natio nal networks of excha nge b ut a sma ll pa rt of iutema t iouul markets.
peasant may thus find himself not merely dealing with a large number
of middlemen and processors, but also becomi ng involved in a mar ket
system with many levels of ever widening scope. Moreover, the peasant
Involved in such far-flung systems may discover that prices are no longer
regulated by custom and by local exigencies, determined by the man~"
stranded relatio ns of his local world, but by ever stronger forces of demand
an d supply which he may not en tirely understand and which he certainly
does not control.
In the sectional market , wha t the various producers bring to the market
is determin ed by th e traditional mon opolies of the communit ies to wh ich
they belong. A man born int o a village of potters may have a keen sen se
of what h is product is wort h; but he makes pots beca use he was born among
potters and bu ys ch ili peppers from a man bo rn among th e raisers of chili
peppers. In the open-network ma rket, ho wever, there is no pred icting a
priori who will offer po ts for sale an d who ch ili peppers. The offering of
('hili peppers and pots, as against leather goods ami woolen blan kets, is

on e

f:collomic Mpect f of r eOSdlltry

no longer a matter of tradi tional monopolies and relations among these

monopolies; it is subject to individual decision. A man may sell pots one
season, chili peppers from h is garde n another, woolen sweaters afte r h is
womenfo lk have spen t the win ter kn itti ng them. W here th e peasant en ters
an open-network market system, he enters a system in wh ich decisions to
produce arc no t made in adva nce, but are subject to fluctua tions wh ich
may favor no w one, now ano ther product. T he aggregate of pots or woolen
sweate rs in the total economy is the out come of the aggregate of many
separate ind ividual decisions. In SIIch an open -network ma rket. what is
produced and how much, and wha t is bough t and at wha t price arc
determin ed ultimat ely by the relat ive prices of products. If demand for pot s
is high. more pe ts should he prod uced . If the dema nd for po ts outweighs
tha t for woolen sweaters, more pots will be made th an woolen sweaters.
H owever- an d th is is an impo rta nt can 'at-there arc const raints b uilt
int o the peasan t mode of existence that lim it the cap acity to participate
f lexibly in such a price-making market. If he ope rates withi n a palcotechn ic syste m ill which he him self cats part of wha t he produces, he will
prod uce his food crop, no matter what othe r kind s of dete rminants ma y
be presen t in th e mar ket. Suppose, th ough. th at he operates within a ncotechn ic system which has caused him to produce a commercial crop. If
he cannot readily switch from, say. coffee in order to plan t toba cco because
he cannot. except at considerable loss, cut down t he coffee trees which
represent a long-term invest ment, or beca use th ere arc mar ketin g arran gements for coffee but not for avocado pears, he will con tinue to prodnce
and suffcr with coffee. despite a decreasing price for coffee in the larger
market and an increasing price of avocad o pears or toba cco ill that market.
Alt hough t he larger open -net work mark et requi res con tin uous flexible
respon ses from its mem bers, the peasant ft:sponse is apt to be inelastic.
Moreover, the peasant's posit ion is determ ined not only by th is rclat ivc inflexibility to adjust his produ ct ion to price changes, but also by the
cha nging relations the prices of his prod uct hea r to th e shifting prices of
other products . This rule holds within his immedia te regional orbit and .
even more importantly in the long run , with in the wider mar ket in which
other regions and world area s compete with h is produce. These price relat ions will change over t ime, and oft en cause gaps between th e price of th e
agricultural pro duce wh ich th e peasant must sell and ot her products and
services which he must bu y. Such "price scissors" in timately affect the economic position of the peasa ntry. There are of course periods of prolonged
decline in agricultural prices, when a given amou nt of produce will fetch
less and less in industria l goods or agricultural labor. One such period of
steady fall in prod uce prices. for example, was the period from about 13;0
to 1500 A.D. in la te med ieval E urope. T his fall was accompan ied by a
decl ine in land prices and land rentals, lead ing to decreasing revenue for

Economic Aspects of Peasantry


the overlords. In some regions, expectably, th is development led to attempts

to increase th e burdens of the peasantry to maximize retu rns, while in other
regions the patrons of peasants sought to lighten the peasants' burden s, in
order to keep them on the land and to stem legal and illegal migra tion.
Such condition s change markedly over time. Th us, a Silesian peasant holding which in 1500 would have shown a clear deficit could, 300 years la ter,
show a clear surpl us."
As the peasan t sector becomes more firmly committed to marketing
through ne twork markets and grows increasingly dependent upon prices
set in those marke ts, it will also be affected by even quite small cha nges in
pricing. Th is may have astonishing implications for the entire econo my
of a country. For examp le, it has been estimated that in the mod em world

See Abel, Ceschicht e der deut schen Landwirtschait , pp. 133-134.

A weekly market place in Ecuador. Such markets connect th e peasant

households with the economic systems of the nation and the world.
(Photo courtesy of the United Nations.)

Economic Aspects of Peasdntry


a change of on ly five per cent in average expo rt prices for pr imary produ cts,
including agricultural produ cts from the so-called underdeveloped countries, would be roughly equivalent to the annual inflow into these coun tries
of pr ivate and pu blic capital and of government grants-in-aid lumped together. In recent decades price fluctuations ha ve frequen tly been muc h
larger t han five per cen t, thus causing serious econo mic dislocatio ns among
the peasantry, as well as in th e larger society so affected .
Similarly important are sho rt cycles of decl ining prices. Such cyeles may
characterize the agricultural year. Poor peasants may develop need s ill the
course of a year which force them to seU produc e at han d immediately.
T hey have no "withholding power." They frequently cannot, as wealthier
peasants can, wait for the time when prices may be mo st advan tageous.
Subsequen tly, these same individu als may have to b uy produce similar to
what they sold ill ord er to eke out their diminished supplies, ofte n at
h igh er prices. Hsiao-Tung Fei has given us an example from a village in
Eastern China during the 19 30s.19 V illagers who had to sell t heir rice early
would borro w rice from a rice merchant , against a promise to repay the
rice at int erest when th e rice harvest was completed. The market price of
rice was $2.3 per bushel. T he borrowed rice had to be repa id at a price of
$4 per bushel. Similarly, a person short of mon ey in O ctober could borrow
mon ey at a rate equating one do llar lent ,vith 162.9 po und s of mulberry
leaves (wh ich are used to feet! silk wonns ill the process of producing silk
thread ) . By harvest tim e, however, 162.9 pound s of mulberry leaves were
worth th ree dollars, and th e loan had to be repaid th reefold, a system
appropriately called "living money of mu lberry trees."
Such exigenc ies may compel the peasant, ill line with his consump tion
aspirations, to tum some special skills of his own into a part-time occupa tion capable of earning him mouey or to integrate some specialty with
his agricult ural cycle. Alt hou gh his capacity to produce some new, oth er
crop may be limited, his capacity to dispose of his surplus labor time offers
greater flexibility. 1 11l1s, the peasants of Kaihsienkung in Eastern C hina
no t onlv raised rice bu t also silk wol1115 in order to man ufact ure silk th read
for the market. Fei has described t he role of this supplem e ntary craft in
the life of the village. 11lC average hold ing of land was about 81h 1110W
(I acre equa ls approximately 7.9 1110w ). \ Vith each mow prod ucing six
bushel s of rice in a no rmal year, t he total produce of the average fann
would be 51 b ushel s. The avcrage household required -f2 b ushels for its
OW l! consumpt ion, leaving nine bushels to sell for money. W ith market
prices at the time of ha rvest ranging around $2.5 per bu shel, th is surplus
would yield abo ut $22. But the household req uired at least $200 to cover
II> Hsiau.Tung !"d . " ell,'am l Life in Chilla ( London: Kogan Panl , Trench , 'I'rubner
and ClI., 19 ; <) ) , I'p . 276-277.

its current expenses. .. It is thus evident th at life canno t be su ppo rted by

agricult ure alon e." 20
In seeking a solutio n, the cult ivato r himself Illay look af ter the cro ps,
while h is wife becom es a trader, travelling widely, engaged in buy ing and
selling small am oun ts of produce, as in Jam aica o r H aiti. Or th e peasant
househ old ma y begin to sell part of its labor powe r to ob tain wages. T h us,
the In dians of th e Gua temalan and And ean Highlan ds descend to the
coast in ann ual migrations, just as th e <1ncilipimen and aneilipiwomeFl
of thirteenth-cen tury England swept over En gland in search for labor at
ha rvest time." Or some male members of the peasa nt household ma y
rema in 0 11 the far m, whil e others-cable-bod ied sons and daughters- go
out to work for wages wh ieh arc then brought bac k a nd contrib uted to
the co mmo n poo l of resources at hom e, as was t he case in the seaso nal
migra tory labo r of prerevolut iona ry Russia, the otklsodnicheuvo. A recent
Soviet st ud y of V iriatino, a Great Ru ssian village loca ted 200 miles southeast of Moscow, de monstra tes that bot h the un divided great family a nd
the pattern of seasona l emi gration have pers isted un der Soviet rule." Thus,
the peasant ma y find him self no t only a participant in a prod uce market ,
but also in a mark et in whi ch the one com modity exchanged for money is
When t he peasa nt becom es involved in network m arket s, t herefo re, he
may be confronted with a proliferat ion of craf t spec ialists and specia list s
selling middleman or commercia l services with whom he must cope not
only econom ically hut also socially. 1 11e participants in th e sectiona l markets d iscussed abo ve con front th is problem by socia l exclusion , gro up ing
all spec ialists of a kind di fferen t from th em selves and their sect ion as
st range rs an d potential ene m ies. All ;ITC members of gro ups, and social relat io nsh ips m ay be regulated according to group mem be rship. In soc icl ogicul
term s some are membe rs of the in -group. ot hers arc me m bers of out-groups.
T he pea sant's own group is hi s pos itive reference gronp ; the out-group is
his nega tive referen ce gronp, wit h which he ma ~' entertain no mo re rela tionships than arc d icta ted by the market.
The pa rticipant in a m arket network, however, m ust cope with the fact
that every othe r part icipant in t he ma rket , peasan t or uonpeasan t, m ay
play potentially bot h a ben eficial and an exploita tive role . The peasant
sta nds, as it were, a t t he cen te r of a series of concen tric circles, each circle
marked by spec ialists with whom he sha res less and less experience, with
whom he entertains fewer and fewer co mmon un derstandings. This m ay

Fei, re<lS<17lt Life. p. 202.

21 George' C. ljcmans. f.ngli.'h \ 'ilfagcrs of ti,e Thirteeuth Celltll ')' (:":ew YOlk :

It ussell and Russell, 1960 ). p. 136.

~~ Stephen r . 1)11I111 and Et hel Dunn, "The G reat Ru ssian Peasant : C ult urc C lta llt,'C
"r C lIltll ml llt'\'{""p mclIl?" E t/I1I"luh'Y, II . ;\;0. 1 ( 19(,\ ). 1'1'. \2 0- H S.

Econo mic Aspects of Peasantry


be put in another way. There arc those close to him, peasants like himself,
whose motives and interests he shares and understands, even when his
relat ions with them are wholly tangential. T hey are "we others," as the
Italians say, or, in Mexican parlance, nosotros los pobres, "we, the poor."
Th ese do not form a group characterized by enduring social relationships,
but a category of people with whom interaction and understandings are
possible on the basis of common premises. T his is the positive reference
category of the peasan t. \ Vith persons falling within this category evenhanded relationships arc possible. Each may and will seck his particular
advantage, but each wiII be aware of the narrow limits beyond which the
seeking of advantage thr eatens to rupt ure actual or potent ial relationships.
It is this equivalence of interests within the reference category, for example, which makes possible the personalized and sympathetic relations
of pratik (favored seller and buyer) among market women in Haiti. There
prati k relationships tie together producer and middleman, or middleman
and middleman, or middleman and consumer. Th ey smooth the transactions of buying and selling, of lend ing and borrowing; they influe nce price
discount s and the concession of a "little extra" in a transactionw Such a
reference category may also include artisans who, like the peasant, make
their living in small commodity production. Th e village smith, the town
shoemaker, the scribe are not yet so removed from the life experience of
the peasant that they appear as outsiders or strangers.
Chara cteristically, however, there is a shift of attitudes when the peasant
confronts the person who has a lien on his surplus of rent or on his
surplus of profit: the merchan t, the tax-collector, the manager of a putt ingout system who farms out craft production to the villages and collects the
goods produced, the labor contractor who combs the countryside for ablebodied men . Not only do these people represent an actual or potential
threat to him in his endeavor to balance the various funds that make his
existence possible, but they are also connected to him by tics which arc
based on a single economic or social interest, usually motivated by the
wish for gain. Economic interests are directly opposed, and arc not counterbalanced by more personal involvement s. Th us, social distance is reinforced
by an absence of shared experience. Hence, where we find peasants involved
in network markets, we also find that the merchant or storekeeper-coven
when he resides in the village- continu es to he regarded as a stranger and
outsider. He belongs to the peasant's negative reference category.
By the very fact that a peasantry for ms an integral part of a larger society,
however, the forms of peasant exchange are rarely autonomous. T hey may
Mintz, " Pralik : l laitian Personal Economic Relationships," in Sym Paper.~ , Proceediu gs of tile / 96 1 Anullal
Spriug " fecling of Ille Amcrirall Etlm ologirul Sodet y, cd. Yin!;r E . G arfield (Seatt le :
Americun Et hllol" r;i{;ll Sud ety, 19(1 ) , pp. 54-6 3.
23 Sidney \V .
po.~jum ; Patterns

lJf Laud Utilization and O ther

Economic N!'t. of PClWntry


coexist with other form s of exchan ge. The ;a;maJ1i system of the In dian
peasant commu n ity th us coexisted with lon g-distance t rade sponsored by
the rulers, while the humble interchanges of the Ind ian villages in Middle
America today coexist wit h t ransact ions wh ich link their sectional markets
to the larger national and int erna tional markets. When we visit an Ind ian
market in M exico, for examp le, we see- in addition to villagers sitt in g in
rows according to the character of th eir offering, patiently waiting for th eir
purchasers-travelling merc ha nt s who bid for In dian produce or who have
for sale industrial products that are manufact ured outside the sectional
market . In such sit uations, however, the commun ity remai ns well-defined
and int egral, and we can represent th e marketing system as a series of
layers, one superimposed on th e othe r. l lcre th e wide r market netwo rk
affects local exchange arrangements, but docs no t succeed in dissolving
them completel y.

The Disposition
of Peasant Surp luses
\Vherc th e market system came to domi nate the society as a
whole, however, it also d issolved the group monopolies which existed on
the local level, whet her embodied in pat ron-client relations or in the
arrangements sustain ed within the sectional market. Here we find the
market ing system penetrat ing into th e community, and transform ing all
relat ions into single-interest relations of individuals with goods for sale.
Under such circumstances, peasant market ing still docs not resemble, in
scale and scope, the commercial tran saction s fam iliar to us from the ind ustrial coun tries of the world . T he reasons for th is lie, as we have seen ab ove,
in the limited productive capa city of the peasan t, in h is limited with holding power, in his limited pu rchasing power, in his att empt to keep th e
influen ces of the market at bay. Yet such peasant meeting places for commercial exchan ge effect ively tic the peasant to the activities of the larger
order, at once facilitating his requirements for exchange and threaten ing
his social and economic balan ce. \ Ve note th at when th e peasan t arran gement s for the exchange of commodities become part of a market system,
the market affects no t merely th e peasan t' s prod uce, and the goods an d
services he can command with it, but h is very factors of production as
well. It may attach prices not merely to pots and plowshares and potatoes
but also to land and labo r, the two factors wh ich grant him a measure of
autonom y in a con text of asymmetrical relationships. 1 11at is, the ma rket
may com e to affect not on ly the peasant's fund of profits, but also his fund
of ren t, and through hath h is precarious balance of subsistence, replacemcn t, and ceremon ial fund s. T o und erstand t his more d ea rly we mu st

Economic As/Jcts of Pc<Uantry


t um to a discussion of the several ways in which peasant surpluses arc

transferred to other segments of the population which hold liens on
th em .
Fo r example, if we had looked at villages in eighteent h-cent ury Ou dh ,
in India.v' we would have seen how in each village t he land was held
by a group of cult ivator-landlords. Each such group in tum fanned part
of th e jurisdiction of a political overlord, a raid. T he system of assessing
the returns of a village for dues and taxes, for tappin g the cult ivators'
fund s of ren t, varied in different part s of India. In some areas, each cultivator paid ind ividual d ues to the overlord; in other areas, the whol e
village set apart a percen tage of th e harvest to be piled up in the "ra ja's
heap ." Whatever th e met hod used to assess d ues, each piece of land
cultivated thu s supported through a given year an entire pyramid of claims
and coun terclaims, from the lord who con trolled th e politi cal en tity of
wh ich th e village fann ed a pa rt right down to the ou tcast sweeper.
A similar sit uation obtained in t he relationships between the lord of
the manor an d the villein in medi eval E urop e. The manor was not so
mu ch one large unified farm as a collection of claims to goods and services
held by a particular person, the manorial lord . The lord granted land to his
dependent cultivators. In return for gran ts of land, huntin g righ ts, right s
to pasture or woodland fuel, a dependen t cult ivator had to pay the lord
produ ce or fum ish labor services upon the lord's lan d. Each cultivator
might have a quite different relationship with h is man orial lord, drawing
all different resources in the lord's hands, and owing different services in
ret urn . lienee, th ere were many d ifferent grades an d kinds of dependent
cultivators giving services to lords and receiving prerequ isites from the lord' s
estat e. TIl e cult ivators, mo reover, might in t urn fum ish hou se sites to landless laborers in retur n for their labo r or even lend a lit the land placed at
t heir d isposal to third parti es witho ut land, until each piece of land suppo rted a complicated pyram id of claims and counterclaims. As in the
Indian villages, th ere was a tendency to make the system hereditary, to
pass from the fat her on to the son both th e righ ts an d dut ies connected
with holdin g directl y from a lord .
What these examples have in common is that some person or group of
pe rsons claims a right to the land used by th e peasantry. Such a person
exercises domain over the land, domain meanin g ult imate ownership or
control over th e use of a given area. Private prop erty in land, giving th e
right to sell or otherwise dispose freely of a given stretch of lan d, a right
found in our society, is only one fon n of domain . A person may not be
2 4 W alter C . Neale, " Reciprocity and Redistribution in T he Indian Village: Sequel
to SOllie Notable Discussions,' in T rade and Ma rket in tile Ellr1r Empires, eds. Karl
Polauyi, Co nrad :\1. Arl'llShl'rg, and Harry Pearson [Glencoe : The Free Press, 1 9 ~ 7 ) , pp .
216-23 6.

allowed to sell land over which he has right s, or clear it of its peasant
occupants, yet continue to exercise rights of domain over it, expressed in
the right to exact tribute in retu rn for the permission to lI SC it.

Types of Domain
Three types of domain have trad itionally affected peasan try:
patrimonial, preben dal, and mercantile doma in , Patrimonial domain has
often been called " feudal," a term fraught with so man y implications t hat
it had better be avoided, Patrimon ial domain over land is exercised where
control of occupants of land is placed in t he hands of lords who inherit
the right to the domai n as members of kinship group s or lineages, an d
where this control implies the right to receive t ribut e from the inhab itants
in return for th eir occupance, The domain becomes th e inheritance of a
line of lord s. th eir patrimony. Such rights can be pyramided , with lord s
of a h igher orde r exercising inherited right s over lords of a lower order,
and lords of the lower order exercising do main over the peasan ts who
work the land . The peasant is alwavs at t he base of such an organ izational

P~<Urmt p.tying dun to landlord . (Rodrricus Zamor~nJis, Spiegel des

me nschlichen Lebens ( M irror of Hum an I.i fe ) . Augsburg edition , Peter
RC"rl;C"r, 2J AI/gust H RR.)

Econo mic Aspects of Pe.rsantry


pyramid, sustaining it with his surplus funds, which arc delivered in the
form of labor, or in kind, or in money.
Prebendal domain over land differs from patrimonial domain in that
it is not heritable, but granted to officials who draw tribute from the
peasantry in their capacity as servants of the state. Such domains are
not lineage domains, then, rather they represent grants of income-prebends
-in return for the exercise of a particular office. Th e term prebend, used
in this way by Max W eber, originally referred to stipends, or "livings,"
granted the European clergy." T his form of remuneration is characteristically associated with strongly centralized bureaucratic states-such as the
Sassanid empire of Persia, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul empire in
India, and traditional China. Th e political organization of these empires
attempted to curtail heritable claims to land and tribute, and asserted
instead the eminent domain of a sovereign, a despot, whose claims overrode all inferior claims to domain. Any inferior domain was granted to
officials in their capacities as servants of the sovereign.
Another form of prebendal domain, equally important, docs not involve
land, but income, which the state- in form of the sovereign-derives
from the peasantry. In th is form of prebendal domain, th e state offi cial
is given the right to attach a certain portion of the tribute due to the
state and usc it for his own purposes. This can be done in two ways: either
by granting the rights to collect tribute in the form of taxes from certain
areas to so-called tax farmers, who carrv out the work of tax coUcction for
the state and are entitled to keep a portion of the revenue for themselves:
or by fi rst centralizing the revenue of the state and then paying the officials
a salary for their services. T ax fanning was the dominant form of prebendal
domain in the Middle East and Mogul India. Salary payment was customary in the more highly centralized state of China. Both tax farmers
and salaried officialdom, of course, had many opportunities to collect
funds which they never passed on to the higher authorities. Max W eber
has estimated that even under the best of circumstances no more than
40 per cent of all revenue in China ever reached the central authority. TIle
amounts varied from period to period, a variation which marks the growth
or decline of government strength relative to that of its offi cialdom. Nevertheless, preben dal domain obviously implies a much greater degree of
centralizing, a much wider scope of central authority, than patrimonial
domain, which exhibits a greater autonomy on the part of the various
domain holders.
A common feature of both patrimonial and prebendal domain was the
degree to which their exercise was surrounded by what we have called
~ ~ Max W eber, T he T heory 0/ Soci<J1 and Ecollomic O rgalli;::ation (New York:
Oxford Univw ily l' r('S$, 19 i7 ), pp. 378-381.

Economic &f>tct,

01 Pe(lSdntry


ceremonia l. This was especially marked in t he case of pat rimonia l dom ain,
where the lord often stood in an immediate personal-or at least personalized- relation to his depende nt peasants. Many services rendered such a
lord had ceremon ial aspects, an d on occasion the lord reciprocated in kind.
It must be remembered that often the very relation bet ween lord an d
peasan t was form ulated as a kind of contract in ,vhich th e lord exchanged
protection and access to land for the right to rccci....e peasant dues. In
thirteenth-cent ury E ngland, this con tract ual relation was stated, in symbolic terms, as a kin d of compact. In th e fourteenth-century lay Piers
Plowman, Piers promises to "sweat and sow for us both," while th e lord is
to "keep hal)' church and myself from wasters and wicked men ." The
services brought by a peasant to his lord were frequen tly connected with
major event s in the ceremo nial cycle, as when the peasant brou ght ale or
hens at C hristmas, eggs at Easter. In tum , the lord would offer h is tenants
a feast to celebrate Easter or C hr istmas, or to com memo rate his wedd ing
day. Similarly, the men who came to do the lord's b iddi ng in plowing or
othe r duti es were sometimes fed b), him in ret urn . Such a cha in of gifts
between th e lord and h is depe ndents served , in George Homan s' word s,
"to soften the sentiment s of the two parti es towa rd one another and to
sym bol ize th e reciprocity which was conceived as th e foundation of their
relationship." 2tl
Where prebendal domain prevailed, sim ilarly, an att empt was made to
cloak in cerem on ial the relation of the peasan t to th e sovereign, as the
ultimate lord and protector of t he lan d. The ruler was usually regarded as
a son of heaven or steward of the supernat ural forces on earth, upholdi ng
the order of the cosmos by upholdin g the order of the state over which he
ruled . T his ceremonial glory of th e mon arch, in turn, reflected upo n all
those who labored in h is service and carried ou t h is orders. Thus, unt il
recently, a Chinese state official was regarded by the peasant ry not merely
as a techn ical ad ministrator, but also as a ritual figure. l l siao-T ung Fei
tells us how in case of flood , drought , and locust plagues
. .. the people go to the district government and appeal for magical
help. By ancient tradition the district magistrate was the magician of
the people. In case of fl ood, he would go to the river or lake to demand
the receding of the w atcr by throwing his official belongings into the
watcr. In case of drought he w ould issue an order to stop killing pigs
and would organize a!arade with all the paraphernalia suggesting rain,
such as umbrellas an long boots. In case of locust plagues he would
parade .....ith the idol of fuil4'Q n.2T
26 Homans, ~nglish Villagers, p. 269.
n Fei, Earth bound China, p. 167. Luiwan is the supernatural protector against the
locust menace.

Economic Aspects o f PedSantry


Such ceremonial might serve several fun ction s It would, as I lomans

suggests, serve to balance the asymmetrical relation between peasant and
power-holder by compensating the peasant ritually. It would, at the same
time, surround the figure of the power-holder with ritual value, thus underwriting the legitimacy of his domain as against the latent counterclaims of
those upon whom such domain was exercised.
TIle third major form of domain over land is mercantile domain. lIere
land is viewed as private property of the landowner, an enti ty to be bought
and sold and used to obtain profit for its owner. As an enti ty to be bought
and sold it is, according to the defi nitions of thc economists, a commodity.
Karl Polanyi has pointed out that this is a legal fi ction, since land is a
part of natu re; it just is and is 1I0t produced to be sold." Mercant ile
domain, like any other domain, asserts an overright over land, and like the
preceding domains discussed above, the right to collect tribute in return
for its use. Th is tribut e is commonly called rent. Mercant ile domain
differs from the preceding forms of domain, however, in treating the land
and the potentia l income that can he derived from it as an imaginary sum
of money. Since land is treated as a commodit y to be bought and sold,
it has a price like any other commodity. Moreover, land- once bought-,
can be used to produce other commod ities for sale, and its purchasing
price can be reckoned as capital investment . If the owner lets the land
to anot her, he can convert the tribute which he would receive under the
older forms of domain into money rent, the amount of which would
depend on the demand and supply for the commodity land in the given
area. Here rent takes on the fonn of interest payment for invested capital
- as capitalized rent, or as Sir Henry Ma ine called it, as competition
rent." Moreover, under such a fonn of domain, a landowner can borrow
money, using his land as a security. lie can mortgage his land, and in case
of nonpayment the money lender can take over the right of domain to the
land, attach the property, and sell it to the highest bidder to recover his
These three forms of domain over land - pat rimonial, prebendal and
mercantile-need not be mut ually exclusive: in most actua l eases they
exist together. It is rather their combination, their "mix," and the relative
importan ce of the different forms which determines the organiza tional pro
fi le of a particular social order. T hus, patrimonial domain domina ted the
organizational profile of medieval Europe north of the Alps. But it coexisted
with prebendal domains granted to hath secular and ecclesiastical lords
by the sovereign, with frequent sales of patrimonial right s by one petriKad Polanyi, T he C reat T rallsformatiOIl (Boston : Beacon Press, 19 ; 7 ) , p. n .
Sir Henry Main e, Village-Communities in the East and \Ve st (Ne w York: Henry
Holt and Compan y, 1876 ) . p. 182-1 84.

Economic Aspect8 of Peasantry


menial lord to anot her, with tra nsfers of use righ ts to land (includ ing
th e corresponding duties of paying t ribute to the lord who held dom ain )
on the part of peasants, and even with leases and charges of competi tive
rcnts.w Nevertheless, the pat rimonial struct ure prevailed until th e marketing system came to dominate society as a whole and increasingly tran sformed patrimonial int o mercanti le domain after the thirteenth cen tury.
In the East, 0 11 the oth er hand, where prebendal domain was long dominant, th ere were always periods and places where prebendal lords were
able, either legally or illegally, to render their official domains heritable
and/or marketable.
Moreover, the d ifferent ways of organ izing social relations might occur
at different levels. 11lUS, a lord could maintain patrimonia l controls within
the boundaries of h is domain, but run h is domain as a capi talist en terprise, a pattern which was followed in East Oe rmany, in Russia, and in
Lat in Amer ica from th e sixteen th to the nineteen th eentnry. Or a lord
might con trol some domains pat rimonially, while h olding ot hers as prebends. Similarly, there are inte rstices of the present-day capitalist o rder
in which patrimonial domains cont inue to exist, though patrimonial
lords may have to treat t heir patrimonies in market terms in order to
survive withi n a competitive sit uation. Moreover, where the lord was
willing to trans form his rights to labor and payment in to monetary forms,
he often sped the development of patrimonial into mercanti le domain.
The mere fact that various forms of domain can coexist in th e same
social order, though in various mixes from society to society, should make
us cautious in trying to rank these forms of domain on an evolutionary
scale. This caution is reinforced when we realize the different forms of
domain may coexist with any of th e three arrangements for marketing
which we have discussed above. \V e must realize that the forms of domain
are but forms; it is th e lise to which they are put that is of t he major
social conseq uence. Thus, mercanti le domain has been used differently
by land own ers truly bent on improving the very process of produ ction
and by those merely concerned to maximize their monetary return s without changing the bases of production. In North west Europe, th e first
alternative was taken , and inefficient and ineffective produ cers were eliminated in favor of efficient and effective ones. Recalcitrant palcotecb nic
peasants were either coerced to adopt new methods of production or were
replaced forcibly by new groups of coopera tive ncotcchnic prod ucers. This
change could be accomplished only in a set ting of ever-widening markets,
which provided an ever-growing fund of capital, and transformed all claims
to dom ain into negotiable mercantile domains.
30 Sylvia L. Thru pp, "Economy and Society in Medieval England," T he Journal of
British Studies, II, No. I (1962), pp. 5-8 .

Economic Aspect s of Pe<tSantTy


A different course was followed in those areas of the world in which

either patrimonial or prebendal domains retained their strength, and in
which mercantile domains were few, or in which the goods produced on
patrimonia l or prebendal domains entered the network market only partially or occasionally. Such areas were the Orient and Latin America.
W hereas in expanding Northwestern Europe the claimants to mercantile
domain invested the ir capital in transforming the paleotechnic ecotypes,
and thus began to share in the risks of production, in these other, more
traditio nal, areas, they acted to maintain the palcctechnic base of the
system . They thus passed on the risks of production to the present, and
merely rendered their means of collecting payments more efficient. This
system has been called rent capitalism. Under it the rents atta ched to the
various factors of production which the peasant manages can be accumulated, but they can also be sold in whole or in part to other interested
parties. Under this system
the peasant productive cconomy became conceptually split into a system of production factors, for each of which a special and usually
uniformly val ued part in the gross proceeds was calculated. The following were, and as a rule still are today, held to be important factors
of production: water (which usually remains combined with land in
areas of sufficient rainfall or ample water supplied from rivers), seed,
work animals (and other inventory, which is scanty enough }, and
fi nally human labor."
The nadir of this system is atta ined, as in part of the Ncar East, "when
the sharecropping fann er docs not touch more than a meager share of the
work of his hands." But it is even possible to split up farm work itself
(as in plowing, harvesting, sometimes care of trees, and so forth ) and to
pay for it with appropriate shares of the product. The concept of the operating unit begins to dissolve into a series of individual tasks, and corresponding claims on income. Such a process of splitting into several tasks
to which independent monetary values arc assigned brings the peasant into
debt for each of the various factors of prod uction which he requires to
make a crop. lie may have to pay to get water, and if he docs not have
the money, he may have to borrow it and pay interest a ll it; or he may
borrow money and pay interest to get tools or borrow work animals and
pay a charge for their usc.
Such a system quickly leads to atte mpts to tum the various titles to
income into debt titles. Interest rates of 100 or 200 per cent are not uncommall. T he reasons for such high interest rates are several, partly economic,
31 Hans Bobek, "T he Main Stages in Socioeconomic Evolution from a Geographic
Point of View," in Reddillgs in Cu ltu ral Geography, cds. Philip L. Wag ner and Marvin
\V. Mikesell (C h i(~lbo : University of Chicago Press, 19(2), p. 235.

Economic Aspects of Peasantry


partly political. One economic factor is a product of high pop ulation densities and relative scarcity of land, especially in zones of permanent farming with hyd raulic agriculture: TIle demand for land drives up its price,
and henee both the rents charged for its usc and the rates of interest on
loans incurred in the course of such lise. Another economic factor is that
the poverty of the population itself compels cultivators to use the income
derived from production to feed themselves. Poverty implies that subsistence takes priority over investment, and renders many cultivators unable
" to make ends meet ." lI ence they must seek to get money through loans,
and often must use such money to cover their subsistence. TIle moneylender, however, does not get his benefits from the consumption of his
creditors, but from their production . Both the aggregate demand of many
cultivators for loans and tbc desire of the moneylender to maximize his
returns from their production tend to drive up interest rates. Lending
to such a population with only a minimal capacity for repayment, moreover, freezes capital; that is, the moneylender cannot always or easily
recover his money whenever he needs it. T his situation again acts to d rive
lip inte rest rates.
But there are also political reasons for this phenomenon. \ Vhere there
is political instability, there is also a steady t urnover in those who hold
claims to land and money. Landlords and moneylenders must thus attempt
to gain as much from their claims during their lifetime or their time
in office as they can. Thi s is also true of systems in which tax farmers hold
prebendal claims to taxation of peasantry, and where they can increase
their share by increasing the total of the surplus extracted. An additional
factor may be the existence of a class of landlords and moneylenders whose
real interests lie in living in urban areas and in assuming political office,
and who see the exploitation of the countryside as a quick way of accumulating wealth to usc in thei r political and social ascendan cy. Such a
system is self-limiting in that it reduces incentives by reducing the cultivating population's consumption to the biological minimum. T hereupon
the cities benefit from the surpluses drained off from the countryside by
urban rent-collectors, without generating expanded rural productivity.
T he decisive contrast between the wholesale transformation of agriculture under the aegis of mercantile domain in Northwestern Europe,
when compared with the relative stagnation of cultivation in areas domina ted by rent capitalism, such as the Near East and India, lends strength
to our assertion that although the form of doma in as such is relevant to
the way a peasant ecosystem is organized, providing the pattern for social
relations, it is the way the patt ern is utili::ed by tile power-holders which is
decisive in shaping the profile of the total system . Mercantile domain may
be used to keep cultivation technically stagnant, to maintain pnlcct ccbu ic


Aspect' of Pe<tSantry


peasant ecotypes, while drawing off whatever funds of rent and profit the
peasant is capable of generating under these cond itions. O r it may be
empl oyed to assail not only th e surpluses gene rated in production, but
the very character of th at prod uction itself. Th us, mercantile do ma in may
exist in social orders in which the peasant forms th e basis of all prod uction. There it may order the social relations govern ing ownership an d disposition of surpluses withou t, ho wever, touching the produ ctive base itself.
On th e other hand, it may, in a period of growing industria lism, become
the ma in instrumen t of coercion in sh ifting usc of the land from prod ucers
to neotech nlc prod ucers, affect ing the very basis of production.
In th e twentieth cen tury a fourt h type of do main has made its appearance, especially in the Soviet Union and Soviet C hina, b ut also in othe r
coun tries wh ich have und ergone a majo r agra rian revolution, like modern
Mexico or Egypt. We sha ll call thi s administrative domain. It shares
certain feat ures with prebendal domain , in that it is the state wh ich claims
ultimate sovereignty over the land, and th e prod uce of th e land is taxed by
the state throu gh a hierarch y of officials. Yet where prebendal domain has
left agricultural production largely untouch ed, con ten ting itself with drawing upon the fund s of rent produced by the peasant ry, admi nistrative
do main affects agricultural product ion as well as the disposal of its prod uce. Again, this is not an altogether novel principle in the organizat ion
of rights over land and labor. Experiments with outright state ownership
and managem ent of land have been carried on in several cen tralized
bureaucratic societies, bu t th is has always been a minor pattern, domin ated
by the spread of prebendal domain granted over a peasantry which made its
own dec isions in the process of prod uction . In the twentieth cen tury, however, we have witnessed t he rap id spread of state-owned farms which are
also ma naged by a group of techn icians furn ished by th e state, leaving little
discretion to the individu al farm ing un it.
In the Soviet Un ion the domi nant fonn of such ad ministrative doma in
has been t he kolkhoz, in which the ma jor prod ucts, usually cereals, arc
fanned collectively, while each kolkhoz worker still retai ns a small "private"
plot on which he grows subsistence crops or perishab le foods that can be
sold in local markets. Recent st udies have shown that the kolkhozcs are
not an unqualified success. T he privat e plots allotted to cultivators have
proved vastly more produ ct ive tha n th e collective farms. Alt hou gh constit uting on ly 3 per cent of th e total sown area of the Soviet Union , th ese
private holdings produce al most 16 per cent of the tota l crop output and
nearly half of all livestock prod ucts. At the same time, the Soviet cultivators
invest about tv..o-th irds of their labor on the collective farms, one-third on
their priva te plot s. Th us, 30 m illion tiny plot s continue to prod uce a ma jor
fraction of total output and absorb a considerable share of ava ilable labo r

A &nUt gcwTnmen t agricultu ral o(fici!ll talks to

memben o f tJ kolk hoz,
T he kolkhOl combines
collectiw and private faTm
allocation; the sovkho z
provides for no connection of the laborer to the
land. (Sovfoto.)

power." In con trast, on the sovkhoz, the other form of the administrati ve
do ma in in th e Soviet Uni on, farm s arc worked by squads of agricult ural
laborers who have no ot her connection with the land . Similar experim en ts
wit h admi nistra tive domain have been carried out in C hina, of which the
most recent has been the creation of com m unes, which similarly tr ied to
group togeth er large num be rs of cultivators into production and consu mption brigades under sta te auspices. In M exico, most of the land exp ropriated after the Revolution was granted to comm unities of cult ivators,
constituted as corporate un its, or eiidce. Each eiido in tum was to consist
of inaliena ble plot s gran ted to particular fami lies. In a few areas, however,
especially in the highly prod uctive cotton-growing region of the North,
th e govern ment has experimented with out righ t admin istra tive domain over
th e lands allocated to cult ivators, who arc theoretica l sha re-holders in a
publicly administered corporation.
Such wholesale reorganization of th e paleo tcch n ic peasant order, however, is possible only in special circumstances. T o accomp lish thi s, two
facto rs ap pear to be essen tial. Fi rst, there mu st be some kind of frontier
which can serve as a safety-valve for popu lat ions displaced from the lan d
th rough the int roduction of met hod s which feed more peop le with less
labor. Such a fron tier can be geograph ic, as when surplus popul at ion can
be displaced to new lan ds, or it may be occupational , as when a growing
industrial complex prm"cs capable of absorbing men without land . But t he
existence of a fron tier is 1I0t sufficie nt. '111e cont rolling group that initiates
change in the ecotype towa rds neotechnic norm s mu st possess, secondly,
:12 D. C ale Johnson, "Soviet Agriculture: " Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist " XX,
:-':0. I ( 1964 ), pp. 8-12.


Econom ic Aspects of Peasantry


a base of po wer independent of peasant agriculture. Such a base of powcr

may be military; or it may be comme rcial, as when a majo r source of income is derived from overseas trad e; or it may be ind ustrial, so that peasant
surpluses are no t the only ma jor source of revenues. Put in an other way,
the capacity for expe rimentation of a pulcotechnic system is limited, all
the social and economic eggs are in one palcotcchnic basket . O nly in a
sit uation whe re effective alt ernative options exist can a sh ift to a new
order be mad e. In such a shift the fonn of domain is important in pat terning the kinds of social relat ions which govern the transitional period and
determine the struct ure of t he emergent society. In and of them selves,
they are, ho wever, mere organiza tional patt ern s. The way in wh ich these
organiza tiona l pattern s are employed is a matter of social organization
and the organiza tion of power, topics to which we sha n tum in t he next


In dealing with the economic aspects of peasantry, we began with the

peasant household in its capacity as a productive unit, and moved on to
trace its various ties of economic involvement horizontally to other households like it, and vertically to superordinate power holders. In this chapter
on the social organization of peasantry, we shall repeat our procedure.
We shall start first with the narrowest, most intimate unit within which
the peasant lives, the family. 111en we shall move on to a consideration of units larger than the family that affect peasant existence. And we
shall end with a discussion of the larger social order within which peasant
families and groupings must move.



Asfwct. of



Ti le Domestic Group
ill Peasantry
In trying to understand the peasant family-or families anywhere
-wc must remind ourselves that there are several kinds of families. TIley
d ivide basically into nuc lear, or con jugal, families, which consist of a married man and woman with their offspring, and extended families, which
group together, in one organ izational framework, a number of nuclear
families. There are variant s of the extended family. It may consist of one
man with several wives and child ren bv the several wives: several nuclear
teams then have in commo n the male head of the household. It may consist of nuclear families belonging to sever al generations, as when a household contains the peasant and his wife, one nuclear team; his aged parents ,
another nuclear team. ant! perhaps the peasant's eldest son who has brought
a wife home to live under his father's roof, still a third nuclear team. Such
an organizat ional framework characterized traditional Europe, China, and
Ind ia, though probably only among wealthier households that possessed
the wherewithal to feed a number of nuclear teams. Or, still a third variant,
;11l extended family lIIay cunsist of nuclear teams belonging to the same
generation, as when an older brother und a youuger brother, both married,
maintain a cerumen pool of resources and labor.
\Ve have seen that the nuclear family consists of a man and woman and
the ir offspring. ~ I ost people regard the n uclear family as "na tural't-.a
social phenomenon to be found everywhere, in all societies at all timesand thus also as primary, as underlying the more complex phenomena of
kinship. In this view they arc also joined by somc anthropologists. I lowever, om analysis will gain considerably if we look to sec whether this
unit cannot be subd ivided conceptually still further, and whether such
subdivisions do not also occur "ua turallv."
Thus, on examination. the nuclear ' family is seen to comprise really
several sets of dyadic-or two-pcrsou-crelation ships. There is, first. the
relation based on coitus between a man and a woman . W e may call this
the sexual dyad. It becomes socially binding only when sanctifi ed or
"licensed" by the society, in which case we speak of it as the conjugal dyad.
W e fi nd, further, the dvadic relati on between mother and child, the
maternal dyad. T hird, there are dyadic relations among siblings, among
brothers and sisters. Finally. there is the dyadic relation between father
and child, the paternal dyad. The firs t three dyads arc based 0 11 biological
activities. The paternal dyad, however, is not so founded; it is therefore,
"a dyadic relationship of a different order; it exists not by virtue of a

CenerCltio ns of

<1n extended

Indian family. (Photo by Frank HOTVClt.)

biological correlate, but by virtue of other dyads." I A society may assign

ma jor economic and other funct ions to this dyad; but it may not. It rna)'
delegate these fun ction s to othe r dyads or oth er st ructures of th e society.
Thus, in one kind of limiting case, a temporary alliance between a man
and a woman results in children , bu t the man is economically or otherwise
unable to contrib ute to their maint ena nce. 1 11e maternal and sexual dyads
are established, but the paterna l dyad rema ins weak or non existent. W e
are famil iar enough with such situa tions as a secondary and t ransient event
in our own cultu re, but we find it also as a major and regular situation in
some societ ies. Thus, Raymond Smith reported it among the Negroes of
Guiana, where, he argued, th e pat ernal dyad is weak because fathers are
economically unab le to contribute eit her income or prestige to the bousehold and hence the ch ildren have nothi ng to gain from t he maintenan ce of
a tie with them," C onversely, the weakness of the paternal dyad leads to
a major emphasis instead on the maternal dyad, a group of women-often
grandmo the r, mother, and daught er-forming a "m atrifocal" unit. Such
matrifocal units have also been discovered among many economically
depressed urban groups, as among the lower-class inhabitants of M exico
City or amo ng the inhabitants of Ea st London or among poor Negro
families in the United States."
But econo mic support is not th e only factor involved in stressing the
matemal dyad and de-emphasizing the pat ern al dyad . As Richard Adam s
has noted, in Gu atemala, Indian an d non -India n (ladino) peasants may
live roughly at similar econo mic levels, yet the Ind ians have nu clear families with st rong patern al dyad s, whe reas t he tadinos ha ve many families
headed by women} Similarl y, the East Ind ian resident s of British G uiana ,
though living in genera l circumsta nces simila r to th ose of th e AfroCuianesc, have reta ined a st rong father-husba nd role.' In both th e Coate1 Richard N. Adams, "An Inquiry into the Nat ure of the Family," in ESS<I)'s in the
Science of Culture: In Horlar of Leslie A. White, eds. Gertrude E . Dole and Robert L.
Carneiro (New York : Thomas Y. C rowell Company, 1960 ), p. 40.
2 Raymond T . Smith. T he Negro Fdmily in British C uidlla: Family Structure and
Social St<ltus in the Villages (London : Routledge and Kegan Paul, 19; 6 ).
a See Oscar Lew-is, l 'he Children of i nchn: AutobiogrClphy of <1 M exic<l11 F <tmily
( New York: Random Bouse. 1961 ); :\.lichael Young and PetCT Willmott, F<tmily and
Kiruhip in E<Ut London [ Harmonds.....o rth : Penguin Books, 1962 ). p. 182; K Franklin
Fra zier, T he Negro F<tmily in the United States ( Chicago: UniVCTSity of C hicago Press,
19 39 ).
4 Adams, op. cit., pp. 4>- 44.
' C hand ra [ayawardena, "Family Or ganizatio n in Plantation s in Ari tidl Guiana ,"
Intem atiollCll ' ourn<Jl of Comf'<U<1tire Sociology, III, No. I ( 1962 ), PI'. 62-64.

Social Aspeets of Peasantry


malan Indian and Cuianese Hindu groups, the male role has prestige in
the larger society; men play significant roles in social and ceremonial life.
Hence the husband-father role is reinforced within the household by supports generated outside the household. \ Ve may similarly interpret the
position of males in South Italian households. Although economic uncertainty and instability is if anything greater there than in Latin America,
the male role is supported by strong sanctions in the social, political, jural,
and ritual world outside the household; hen ce the paternal dyad is also
strong." Thus, in some cases paternal dyads may receive additional reinforcement from outside the household unit. 111is reinforcement is of the
kind which, in our initial chap ter, we called ceremonial. It is exemplified
mainly in the publ ic ritual demonstrations which we call marriage, and in
later ritual activities of all kinds which underline the male role, and give
it an importance that it might not possess on purely utilitarian grounds.
W e not only find variants of the peasant family where onc of the nuclear
family relations is weak or absent, but ant hropologists arc also familiar
with many cases where the nucleus is embedded in other relations, to the
point where it sometimes becomes obscured and unrecognizable, Such
cases led Ralph Linton to the view that the n uclear family plays "an
insignificant role in the lives of many societies." 7 Where, for example, a
number of husband-wife-children teams reside together in one household,
it is the larger household and not the individual nuclear family which
works and eats together. The same is true in social units which arc held
together by a descent rule; here the core of the household may consist of
man y relatives related in the patern al or maternal line, and rights are
handed down predominantly either in the father's or the mother's line,
Such units will emphasize th e tic that binds togethe r successive generations rather than the tie of husband and wife. The spouse who comes into
such a family line at marriage will find that he or she has married not
only a husband or wife, but also a group of relatives. Moreover, that group
of relatives shows a cohesion which binds more strongly than the conj ugal
Such groupings-comprising several conj ugal dyads-may also contain
membe rs of broken dyads (as when a grandmother continues to live with
the household after her h usband has died ) or single individuals who have
not yet entered a conjugal dyad, such as unmarried uncles or aunts, or
brothe rs and sisters, or sons and daught ers. ' I'hcrc may also be servants
who share in the domestic economy of the group but arc not actual members of the dominant kinship unit. Thus, an Alpine peasant household in
the Austrian T yrol might cont ain married members of the family line,
6 Leonard \ V. 110ss and \Valter H. Th omson, "T he South Italian Family : Literature
and Observation," l l uman Organization, XVIII , No. 1 ( 19; 9), pp. 3;- 41.
1 Ralph Linton, The Study of M all (:\'ew York: Appleton-Century, 1936), P. 153.

Soci<tl Aspects of Peasttntry


who have primary rights to the holding, together with their spouses, some
unmarried members of the family line, an older widowed member, as well
as servants who are not kin but are paid in kind or money for their labor.
Or, we may think of the classic Roman domestic unit which included
members of a patnlineage, members through marriage (wives and relatives
of these wives ), adopted kin, and slaves. This domestic unit, in fact, was
originally called the familia, long before the term fam ily became restricted
to the narrower nucleus linked by ties of reproduction and support.
Th us, one household may consist of only one maternal dyad or of several maternal dyads. It may consist of a nuclear family, with or without a
fringe of unmarried kin or nonrelat ives. Or it may be composed of an
extended family, again with a fringe of kin and help. Important as these
arrangements are in peasant life, they are often glossed over by census
takers who do not take adequate account of the realities of peasant life,
but impose ready-made categories of kin organization upon the data which
they collect. Ou r information on peasant social organization is thus often
false or misleading.

Peasant Family Types

Let us now tum to ask under what conditions we may expect to
find either a predominance of extended over nuclear families, or the reverse
situation. W hat arc the factors which underlie the differential distribution
of family types among peasants?
T he first is the nature of the food supply itself. Obviously, where the
food supply is scarce, as it is among many primitive peoples, units larger
than the nuclear family will have difficulty in keeping together at any one
time, and may build up only during seasons of temporary surpluses or
for some specifi c purpose, as for the collective hunting of game. Expectably,
therefore, extended families and domestic groups larger than the nuclear
family occur more frequently among cultivators where the tasks of cultivation and the pursuit of part-time specialties both permit and - require
a larger labor force. Th is association of the extended family with larger
food supplies and increasingly diversified specialties has received sta tistical
confirmation." Not that the surrounding cult ural context is irrelevant,
however. On the contrary, it is relevant in two ways. First, the techniques
of production, including those of cultivation and craft production, must
be such as to benefit from the presence of additional permanen t workers.
Second, conditions must be favorable to the accumulation of such a permanent labor force in-one domestic unit. T he stress in these two sentences
SM. F. Nimkoff and Russell Middleton, "Types of Family and T ypcs of Economy,"
Tile Amerirmr Journal of Sociology, LXV I, No.3 ( 1%0), pp. 21 ,-2 2, .

Social A3pec:tt of Pe4$<lJltry


is on the word permanent. M any kinds of cult ivation can ben efit through
the addition of more workers-for instan ce, when crops have to be bro ught
in during a short harvesting season. But the harvest can sometimes be
brought in by hiring seasonal workers who collect their wages and move
on, or by pa tt erns of cooperative labo r in wh ich neighbors help each
other on stipulated critical occasions but do not part icipate in one domestic
unit. In both these cases, which are frequent eno ugh , additiona l workers
are not perma nen t membe rs of the domestic group.
Permanent members have to be fed, housed, clothed, and provided
with other satisfactions over a prolonged period of t ime. Hence, the technical req uirem ents of the domestic economy must both require th eir pres
ence and be sufficien tly prod uct ive to permit it. This condition is most
likely where a domestic group con trols most or all of the natural resources
an d skills req uired to maintain itself, and where all or most of these resources are extracted and processed within th e unit. Such a complex
domestic unit may in fact show considerable division of labor with in it.
\ Vhile some workers engage in prod uction, others carry on processing.
\ Vhile some work in the fields, ot hers may take care of livestock. Some
draw water, ot hers hew wood . At the same time, mallYhands can be massed
for repet itive tasks t hat require large bod ies of workers, such as forest
clearan ce or a harvest. \ Ve have already spoken of the South Slav zadruga,
when we discussed the d istribution of complementary skills in peasan t
societies. In such zadrugas. t he men plowed, mowed , cut wood , ma de
furnitur e, and worked in vineyards and orcha rds. The women gardened,
cooked, cleaned, embroidered, and worked lace. M en aided the women
in weaving; the women aided the men in hoeing and reaping. C hildren
and un married girls were cha rged with livestock tend ing, and old people
performed mino r tasks around the home or in the fields. A specialist supe rvised care and herd ing of dra ft an imals and other livestock; another managed weaving opera tions.
In another variant situation, t he exten ded group no lon ger controls
most of th e technologically relevant resou rces and skills, bu t needs money
to acqu ire th em . N evertheless, the group still controls land and houses,
and land and ho uses along with money fonn the strategic springboa rd for
its operati ons. Such a group can pool land and mon ey to its advan tage in
ways which a fragment ed n uclear un it could not du plicate. T hu s, we get
some extended families, even where nuclear or ma tern al arran gements are
in th e ma jority. In C hina , for example, where the extended famil y was
suppo rted not only by the Instrumen tal factors discussed above, but received strong ceremonial emp hasis, extended families were largely found
am ong so-called middle peasan ts, well-to-do peasant s, and landlords, b ut
lacking among fan n laborers and poo r peasan ts. Unde r such con ditions, th e

Social Aspects of Peasantry


permanent massing of labor in a family is bo th a prerequ isite and a consequence of econom ic well-being.
In China, furthermore, the exten ded family acted both as an organization for the concen tration of resources and labor, and as a defen se
against the inevitable process of decl ine that attends fragmentation. Due
to the rule of inh eritance prevailin g in C hin a before 1947, land units were
divided equally among sons upon the death of the father. T he rule of
inheritan ce may have been promulgated origina lly by the state in order
to maximize the nu mber of tax-paying units. The interest s of the peasant
family, however, may best be served by keeping as much land toget her
as long as possible. The exten ded famil y may thu s be seen as a mean s for
avoiding the consequences of parti tion. Ioreover, the Chinese proverb
says it clearly, "land breeds no land." It was onl y when a landed famil y
established a beachhead in trade or in officia ldom that it could embark
on the accumul ation of nonagricultural resources, such as trade goods or
mon ey. It could also send a son to school, to become an official and to
connect the fami ly with the governmental structure and its sources of revenue. It was thu s not only a bul wark against decline, but also a springboa rd
to mobili ty.
Additional wealth may also be gained by sending able-bodied sons or
daughters to seek wages outs ide th e peasant holding. While some members
reta in their hold on land , and keep the propert y together under one administration, othe rs leave- seasonally or periodically- to add to its liquid capi tal
holdings thro ugh the injection of outside funds. Such a unit also has great
resistive capacit y in periods of decline or economic difficulty. In times of
economic depression or war, outside members may return to the fold to
be tided over during the time of troubles. The extended fam ily can thus
function as a device for social security far more flexibly than the smaller
con jugal or nuclear family, which is weak becau se its viabilit y depends upon
the productive ab ilities of one member of each sex. If wife or hu sban d falls
ill, or if the husband is a bad cultivator or unabl e to gain supplementary
income, the economic balance of the un it is more directly threatened,
unless effective mechanisms for social security arc set up by some external
organi zatio n, such as the stat e, to supplement falling or deficient income
or unless mea ns for storing releasable capi tal are institut ionalized. Surprising as it may sound, there fore, extended fam ilies-partly living off the
land, partl y send ing offspring to industrial emp loyment outside-have
persisted even in the socialist Soviet Union, as shown by a recent study
of the village of Vir iat ino on the bord er of th e so-called black earth belt,"
Although the extended family th us has advantages which the nuclear
o Dunn and Dunn , "T he Great Russian Peasant ," pp. 329-333 .

Social Aspects

of Peasantry


family does not share, it must also pay for its gains. The extended fam ily
creates tensions which are not as evident in the nuclear family. First, there
are the inevitable tensions between successive generations, involving the
problem of succession to the decision-making roles in the household. 'In c
aging fat her who has hitherto managed the resources of the group m ust
yield to one of his children. TIle aging mother \vho has managed house
and kitchen mu st yield eventually to a replacement, usually the wife of
the son who has stepped into his father's shoes. A second set of tensions
surrounds the relations among siblings. If the property is to be maintained
intact. one of the sons must make the decisions while the others must
yield to them. Yet there arc always some areas of activity in which the subord inate siblings may challenge the brother's authority. Thirdly, there arc
tensions between the men and women in such a unit. '111e women are
often outsiders, coming to the family unit from other families located on
other farms. In a male-centered authority system, such as prevails among
most peasant s, the women must learn to ad just their claims to the prior
claims of their husbands.
Because of such tensions, in the Chinese extended family, for instance,
there was often a silent struggle of sons against their father, a struggle
especially sharp and bitter where the father clung to tradit ional ways, while
the sons looked towards the introduction of new techniques and customs.
Pearl Buck, in her novel Th e Good Earth, has given a fi ne literary account
of such tensions. Sim ilarly. we sce that the Chinese family suffered from
the bitter antagonism between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. The
daughter-in-law entered the group as a total stranger. who was entirely
subservient to her mother-in-law. un til her h usband succeeded to the managerial role in the family and she assumed the managerial role in house
and kitchen ." Again, we see in the Chinese extended family the way in
which in-marrying women must yield to the demands of familial cohesion
and mute their claims on their husbands, who were schooled in tum to
yield to the father. 1 11e tensions implicit in this subordination of the
conjugal tics to the lineal tic emerged when the father died and a set of
b rothe rs was left to dispute the inheritance. Frequently. it was the demand
of the wives which led to the division of the ho usehold. \Vi th each woman
attem pting to gain advantages for her own conj ugal unit. the cohesion of
the group was subjected to strain until it ruptured.
A similar illustration comes from India. In Khalapur, a Ra jput village
located in the No rth Ind ian plain, tensions and quarrels among women arc
the most frequent source of d ivision in the domestic group. 111e process
of division may take place by stages. First, each nuclear family sets up its
0 \\'11 hearth. though the father continues to run the farm and the older

Fei, " e<JliCmt Life, pp. i ;- ;0 .

Social Aspects of PellSantry


women remain in charge of allocating to each person his daily food ration.
Later, however, the courtyard may he d ivided by a wall, or a rebellious
nuclear family may move to a new ho use. Such a move implies division
of movable property: of milk cattle, furniture, and food. For a while,
the land is still farmed as a unit, but each daughter-in-law takes over the
charge of distribu ting food rations to her own family. Moreover, she can
sell small stores of grain and spend the money for, say, jewelry without
asking permission of the mother-in-law. Finally, the land is divided, usually
when the father dies and the remaining brothers cut the one remaining
T o these intrafamily squabbles we may add also the tensions arising
from the relat ions of core members of the domestic group to peripheral
kin, such as the unmarried aun ts and uncles of father and mother, and the
notorious difficulties attendin g relation s between a step-mother and stepchildren, as well as the problems of relations with servants or slaves.
Taking these tensions into account we may expect that a society containing such family units will have to provide strong reinforcement s to keep
the unit from flying apart . W e can expect to find such reinforcement s
especially in the ceremonial sphere, providing bot h rewards for proper conduct and sanctions against disruptive behavior.
On the other hand, such units protect themselves against d isruption
also by inculcating appropriate behavior patterns in the young. Recent cross.
cultural studies of socialization techniq ues 1:1 lend statistical support to the
hypot hesis that societies rating comparatively high in their ability to accum ulate food resources- such as peasant societies-arc more likely to favor socialization techniques which render their members dependent on the socializing group, because dependen ce training will favor the routine execution
of routine tasks. In contrast, societies with low abilit ies to accumulate food
rcsourccs-csuch as h unting and gathering societies-are more likely to favor
socialization techniques productive of self-reliance and drives towards individual achievement, which presumably would favor the control of an impermanent and erratic food supply. More precisely still, there appears to be
a tendency 011 the part of extended families to empha size the dependence
of members on the domestic group by indulging their children with oral
gratifica tions for prolonged periods of time. T his practice rewards the continued seeking of economic support from the family unit, and makes the
family unit the main agent in meeting such needs. At the same time, however, such families show a strong tendency in their socialization techniques

Leigh Min turn and John T . Hitchcock, "The Rajputs of Khalapur, India." in

Si x CultuTes: Stu dies of Child Re<l1'ing, ed. Beatrice B. Whiting ( Ncw York: John

W iley and Sons, 1963 ), p. 23Z.

12 John \ V. \Vhiting, "Socialization Process and Personality.' in Psyclwlogicdl
Anthrop ology, cd. Francis Hsu [ Homewood: l 11C Dorsey Press, 1( 61 ) , PIl. 3'i; - 380.

to curb the show of aggression and sexuality, thus attempting to instill in

children the control of impulse required for group coordination. Such
socialization not only prepares the growing child to become a pcnnanen t
member of a group already in existence. It also sets the stage for marriages
in which the new couple must make its home with such an endur ing group.
In contrast, nuclear families tend to de-emphasize oral dependence, and to
punish aggression and sexuality less stringently, th us allowing the individual
more free play in his relationships with others. Where extended families
socialize for group conti nuity, nuclear families socialize for affin ity, for
the establishment of new and independent nuclear dyads.
' Vith ceremonial support and socialization techniques which "program"
members for the coordinated life of the extended family, such units therefore can remain operative as long as the massing of resources and labor
proves functional. Yet extended domestic groups arc also fragile in the
sense tha t they must always contain complex tensions which, if the sanctions against disruption do not suffice, can easily get out of hand and
threaten disintegration.
Where the tensions cross-cutting the extended family derive in the
main from fi liation-from the linkage of persons to the family line-cor
from Sib ling conflicts, the tensions in the nuclear family surround the conjugal bond. '111e children of the nuclear couple will experience stress and
strain in breaking frce of their parents, but they must seek their 0"vn wa)',
sett ing up separate families and domestic groups of their own. This requirement makes for independence, but at the same time places a considerable
burden on the new family. Its continuity is all too quickly called into question if one of the conjugal partners, for whatever reason, is unable or
unwilling to perform his duties with regard to the other. rn what circumstances, then. may we expect to fi nd nuclear families dominant in
peasant societies?
' Ve mar find them, first, as a temporal)' phenomenon under frontier
conditions, where land is plentiful in relation to population and offers
opportunities for young couples wishing to break off from their families.
Th ese conjugal families may prove temporary, however, because they rna)'
tum into extended families if conditions are favorable.
\Ve may find them, secondly, in situations where land has grown so
scarce that a family can no longer lise landed property as the base for
furth er consolidation and must tum to other sources of income to make
up its deficits. This can occur where family property has been subdivided
several times in the process of inheritance. so that each plot of land has
become too small to feed even a family nucleus. Frequently. where such
subdivisions into tiny holdings occurs. larger units can only be created
through buying or rentin g additional land, but few families will have
sufficient resources to afford to 1"ly curre nt prices for land or rents. In such



o f J'e<l$<lntry


a sit uation, th erefore, we may find wealt hy famil ies growing both wealthier
and larger, wh ile th e poor grow poorer and th eir hou sehold smaller. Similarly, larger hou seholds have more potential for craft specialization in
addition to cultivation .
Yet, at the same ti me, growing scarcity of landed resources will put
a growing strain upon the solidarity of extended families, accentuating all
the cen tri fugal tend encies th at arc usually restra ined as long as the re is
a sufficiency of land and other resources. Moreover, as the members of
such fami lies begin to seek various alter na tives to the tasks they have
hitherto shared in COUlman or carried out in conjunction, they begin to
pursue a variety of in terests. Some of these will disengage them from the
larger group, somet imes at cons iderable psychic cost. T hese pressures arc
added to the exacerbated tensions within t he organi zation itself, oft en
until it breaks down and its constit uen t members arc reconstit uted into
a series of nucl ear famili es.
T hc prevalence of wage-labor is a th ird condit ion for the emergence
of the n uclear family. As soon as peasant s turn into wage-labore rs th e
likelihood th at nuclear fam ilies will prevail increases va stly, especially
where th e labor con tract involves a single-interest exchange of wages for
lahar performed, witho ut any add itional relations betwe en employer and
worker. Under such circumstances, the worker is hired only for his labor
and released when tha t labor is com ple ted . People are emplo yed fur their
individual labo r-power, not for tha t of their entire families. The process
of breakdown into nuclear famil ies can, however, be slowed or stemmed
where the employer accepts responsibility for ma intaining man y-stran ded
relations with his employee who in turn accepts a lifelong commitment to
th e employer, as ill some Japanese factories." Such relat ions do not merely
involve th e individual worker, bu t his entire domestic group .
There is, however, still a fourth set of conditions which favor the nuclear
family over th e extended type. These arc conditions of greatly intensified
cult ivation wherein a nuclear family, properly equipped, can produce a
sufficiency of crops on a limited amoun t of land. The land yields enough
and more, and the nuclear family may well furnish any additional labor
to cover temporal)' needs by hiring full-time or part-time hel p. Such conditions arc characteristic of neotechnic farms in many parts of the world,
whether they produce grain or high-cost crops like grapes grown in concentrated, highly capitalized vineyards, as in the Rhin e coun try of Cerman y
or in th e valleys south of the Bren ner p.ass in the South T yrol.
Leaving out the fi rst- temporary-set of cond itions, we can see that
the last three cases all have someth ing ill common. They involve a steppedu: J:lImC5 G , Abcg.l;k-n, Th e ldfkmere FtlCtory:
(G kncoe: The Free Press, 19 >8) .


of it. Soci<1l O rgmri: at ion

Social Nf>edS of Pe<lSt1ntry


up di vision of labo r in society. as compared to peasant societ ies dominated

by extended families. Extended famil ies canyon man y more conjoint
productive processes on their own land. and p roduce many more items
wh ich they consume than do the nuclear families. 'In c nuclear families
may lack sufficient land to rely mainly on cultivatio n. '1111:y increase the
social division of la bor by taki ng up part-time or full-time spec ialt ies in
order to b uy food; or they specialize in selling thei r labo r powcr-thu s becoming wage-workers. In intensified cult ivation, on the ot her hand , agricultu ral ou tput is raised to th e point whe re only a few produ cts are grown ill
large q uan tities, but t he nuclear family must rely on the successful sale
of its products to b ur the ma jor pa rt of its food supply as well as ha ndicraft
or industria l prod ucts. A whea t farmer. raising wheat intensively, canno t
eat only wheat, even if he t urns all of it int o bread . A wine prod ucer
cannot live on wine alone ; he m ust sell wine to obtain food and other
commod ities. I lence we mav sal' th at we are likelv to find nu clear fami lies
where th e division of labor is ac'cent uatcd in society. but not in the fami ly.
while extended fam ilies are consi stent with an accentuated division of labor
with in the fam ily. bu t not in society.
Di vision of labor is. of course. hea vily stepped up with the growth of
indust rialism. Industrialism has an almo st immedia te effect all the number
of people in agriculture. As jobs in ind ust ry become available, those underemp loyed or only seasonally employed in agricult ure em igrate to seck
fact ory jobs. 111is migration deplete s the po pulation on the land, leaving
an increased amou n t of lan d and ca pital per capita in the rural area. 111e
effect is to raise the product ivity of labor, even where 110 ma jor techno logical innovations occur. W here capital is used to improve the techno logy
of agricultu re, the effect is of course increased. As mach ines replace man.
or as work is so organized that fewer men can do th e work. th e need for
labor in agricult ure dec reases. The surpluses produced by th e smaller number remaining go to fewer heads of households; thus. there is a rise in
income . Rising inco me. in tu m , enables the peasant to buy more indus t rial
commod ities. Indeed , they may now ha ve to buy them, since emigra tio n
decreases the nu mber of part-time specialists who previo usly furnished the
peasant ho usehold with goods.
At the same ti me, th e sh ift of demand from agricult ural produ ce to
ind ust rial products has impo rtant implicat ions for the continued existence
of the peasantry. \Vhcre econom ic, social. and political cond it ions permi t,
the investm en t of massive amo unt s of capital in agriculture will lead to
the establishment of " factories in the field," as long as the rate of profit
to be derived fro m such enterprises equals th at of industry>This cha nge of
productive organ ization is of course accompa nied by a simultaneous displacement of the peasantry. Where the rate of profit on investment s ill
agriculture is markedly lower than III industry. however, th c scale of farms

Social Aspects of Peasantry


remains small; thus, th e nuclear fam ily will be the dominant social group
in peasant farm ing.

Patterns of I nheritance
T he peasan t domestic group is not only exposed to the st resses of
making ends meet at any given t ime, while sim ultaneously maintaining its
in te rna l solidarit y; it must also persist over time. It experiences stress not
merely at any on e tim e b ut also over time . This is most evident at the
point where th e head of the do mestic grou p mu st be replaced by his successor, and his offspring lay claim to the resources he has controlled
du ring his active life-t ime. Each replacement of the older genera t ion by
a mem ber of the new calls into que stion the existence of the peasant
household as previously const ituted . lIenee we find success ion regulated
through special rules. Of special impo rtance are the rules govern ing inheritance, regulat ing the passage of resources and their control from the
old to the young.
There are basically two systems of inh eritance. F irst, there arc th ose
which involve passage of resources to a single heir, or impart ible inheritance.
1 11is system takes variant forms. 'I11e homestead may pass to the firstborn in primogenit ure; it may pass to the last-born in ulti mogeniture; or
it may pass to some single descendant, designat ed by the head of the
ho usehold, ot her than the first- or last-born. Second, we enco unter systems
of inheritance involving more than one heir, systems of partible inheritance.
The former type has the ad van tage of maintain ing intact the family holding. One hei r receives the working homestead; all others m ust either accept
subordinate positions on the homestead or consent to leave it, with or withan t compensat ion. Systems based on par tible inh eritan ce grant some part
of the ancestral homestead, or some claim to its yield, to every member
of the new generation . Yet by so doing they subdivide the established unit
so that each successor receives a combinat ion of resources weaker than the
aile mana ged by the departing head . Part ible and impartib le inheritance
systems may be q ualified st ill fur ther by whet he r or no t they grant successor rights to all ch ildren or only to males. Succession restr icted to males
only is vastly ma rc common than general inh eritan ce, daughters often
receiving compensat ion in the form of dowries or outright monetary payments.
In spite of a great many detailed investigat ions con cerning inh eritance
patterns in part icular period s and places, the causes underlying these pat terns are still poorly un derstood . \ Ve shall attempt a preliminary func tiona l
explana tion with the kno wledge that furt her work Illay heavily qualify
om p ro pos it ions . T o begin, the fun ct ional concomi ta n ts of these systems

Social Aspects of Pe<lS<11l try


may be arranged in two ma jor contexts: th e ecological context, involving

the relation between technology and en vironment, and the hierarchical
social context, involving the relation of the domestic group to other, supcrordinate polit ical and economic institu tions and mechanisms.
It is probable th at the ready availability of land , as 0 11 a fronti er, will
favor partible inheritance, since each potent ial successor will have sufficient
land at his d isposal. However, ill such circumstances it Illay not be land that
is the critical factor, bu t the availability of other resourccsc-labor or draft
ani mals-with which to farm it. Hence we may find that und er such frontier conditions, the domestic group retains its integrity, partible inheritance
in land and other goods remaining potential rather than actual.
As new members arc added to the domestic group through birth or
adoption, t he group will merely take up new land, until an optimum is
reached which is defined by th e size of the required labor force and the
diffic ulty of in ternal govemance of th e unit. As long as the unit retains
this intemal cohesion, moreover, it can persist even if some of the members go off to seek other forms of employmen t, seasonal or periodic, outside
th e cultivatin g homestead . Thus, it is possible to maint ain a domestic
group with potential partib ility as long as the centrifugal tendencies represented by the tempora ry m igrants do not exceed the centripetal pull of the
social ties constit utive of the domestic group .
O nce t he cohesion is lost, however, partible inh eritance is quickly actualized. T his will occur as SOOIl as the migrants become fully independent.
Th e conditions for this change-over arc ripe when the land fronti er disappears, and increasing numbe rs thr eaten to pile up within the domestic
group, th us diminishing the share of each heir. But it may also happen
when the land is highly productive of some money-yielding cash crops, as
for instance in Eu ropean vineyard lands where each p iece of valuable land
can underwrite the independen t existence of a new nuclear family.
But partible inheritance may be influenced also by the int erests among
power-holders who tap the surplus funds of the peasantry. Thus, for example, it has been argued that th e Ch inese state favored partibility in
order to maximize the n umber of tax-paying units in th e realm. Even more
decisive, however, may have been th e interest of the state in preventing
the b uild-up of large landed monopolies by offi cials. It would seem that
st rongly centralized, so-called "despotic" states-claiming eminent domain
for the sovereign- also favor prebendal domai n rather than patn monialism,
because officials, being paid in prebends from state coffers, are th us tied
to the state, and prevented from building lip rival domains of their own.
Such sub jugation of individual rights of domain to the stat e therefore
results in "weak property," as Karl \V itt fogel has pointed out. In China,
the rule of partible inheritance in inheritance served to b reak down any

Social Aspects

of Peasantry


cumulative complex of holdings in the course of a few generations. M artin

Yan g has well described the process involved in a North C hinese village :
A farm family's rise is largely accomplished by the buying of land, its
fall occasioned by the emergencies that force the 5.11e of land. It is
interesting to note that 110 family in our village has been able to hold
the same amount of land for as long as three of four generations. Usually a family works hard and lives frugally until they begin to buy land.
Members of the second generation merely enjoy themselves, spending
much but earning little. No new laud is bought and gradually it becomes necessary to sell. In the fourth generation more land is sold
until ultimately the family sinks into poverty. Th is cycle takes even
less than a hundred years to run its course. '111e extravagant members
die out, and their children begin again to accumulate property. Having
suffered, and being fully acquainted with want, they realize the necessity of hard work and self-denial to repair the family fortune. By this
time the original family is gone and in its place there arc several small,
poor families. Some of these begin to buy land. Thus the same cycle is
started agaill.u
Patterns of part ible inheritance predomi nate in C hina , in India, in
the N car East, in Medi terranean Europe, and in Lati n America whence
they were carried by conquerors from the M editerranean .
In contrast, impartible single-heir inheritance has been favored in the
manor-dominated areas of E urope and in Japan- both being areas characterized by the strong development of patrimonial domain , as opposed
to preben dalism . In part, th is preference may he d ue to ecological factors,
in that single-heir inheritance acts to maintain the resource combination
b uilt up in the past. In some of the mountain areas of Eur ope- in the
Pyrenees, in Northern Spain, in the Alps, for example-a viable homestead
must include meadowland, pastur e, woodlan d, an d plowlaud . Th is optimal
ecological comb ina tion would therefore be threatened by subdivision. At th e
same time, such a un it cannot support more than a given num ber of people.
Hence, rules govern ing inheritance serve to eliminate from succession all
those whose potent ial competition would d iminish th e potential capacity
of th e farm. W e have seen such a cha nge-over from partible to impartible
inheritance, for example, in Ireland, where earlier patt erns of parti ble
inheritance gave way to single-heir inheritan ce in the m iddle of the nineteenth century under pressures of severe overpopulat ion. T ho se who did
not qualify for succession to t he farm-under th e rule of impartibility-had
to move off in to other employmen t within the area or go abroad, a fact
which underlies the emigration of the Irish after the great famines of th e
mid-nineteen th century.

Martin Yang, A Chinese V illage; T aitou, Shantung Province (New York: Cclum-

bia University Press, 19'1 , p. 132.

Social Aspects of Pe4Santry


Yet single-heir inheritance appears also to be the result of hierarchical

pressures upon the peasantry. It has been argued tha t pat rimonial lords
favored single-heir inheritance, often against the wishes of the peasantry.
Th is was perhaps an attempt to maintain intact both a structure of rent
paymen ts and economically viable rent-paying units. Othe rwise, with each
partition, d ues would have had to be reallocated. Not only would the
resulting unit have been unable to hear the burdens imposed on it from
the outside, but cost-accounting of the manorial organization would have
to respond to continuous changes.
On e of the consequences of single-heir inheritance is a division of
peasant society into two groupings, the heirs and the disinherited. Th is
division in tum, implies that the stage is set for the development of a
peasant aristocracy among whom the need to maintain holdings intact is
paramount. Strong pressures develop which inhibit the marriages of landless sons and daughters; at the same time differentia ted claims to land
will mean that only landed heirs can set up families, usually choosing their
marriage mates from other domestic groups, landed like their own. Such
marriage links forge strong alliances among the haves, often directed
against their have-not Siblings and collatcrals. Th e landless and disinherited form a reservoir of labor. If they stay in the peasant community,
they must usually work for their landed relatives. If they depart, however,
they must seek employment elsewhere. Some investigators have therefore
seen a relation between impartible inheritance and industrial development.
Since the peasantry continuously gives forth a stream of unemployed men
and women, the stage is set for the development of industry which can
give large-scale and cont inuous employment to a population otherwise
deprived of an economic and social base, and sufficiently numerous to
keep labor at low cost relative to other factors.
Partible inheritance, on the other hand , seems to encourage reverse
trends. It might not give anyone heir land enough to live on, but it
could give all members of the society some land. In so doing it also gave
to each member of the society a continued stake in the peasant adaptation.
Sale of any one piece of land might not yield great cash returns, but almost
anyone could look forwa rd to adding a small piece of land to his original
holding, either by small purchases of land now and then, or by marrying
a person who also might have inherited a bit of land. In contrast to situations governed by impart ible inhcritance-cwhich favored the growth of
large industry, making lise of large masses of surplus labor- snch a situation of continued subdivision favored the introd uction of small industry.
\Vi th parcels of land too restricted to absorb the full labor of their occupan ts, some additional part-time employment could furnish the economic
margin that made continued peasant existence feasible. It is therefore in
areas of partible inheritance today that we also fi nd the greatest amount

Social Aspects of Peasant ry


of rural poverty, espec ially because of th e growing inability of small, t radit ionally backward ind ustr ies to compete with large-scale ind ustry, th us
depri ving th e peasantry of its margin of econo m ic security. While areas
of impa rtible inh eritance have tended to move ill the direct ion of neotechnic organ izat ion, areas of pa rtible inheritance- hard-hit by the "deindu stral ization " of their fragment ed countryside-face th e future with a
paleotechn ic base, ma nned by a population grown beyond the carrying
ca pacity of th e land .

Selective Pressures
and Defensive Strategies
W e have seen that a peasant ry is thu s contin uously exposed to a
set of pressures wh ich impinge on it and cha llenge its existe nce.
First, th ere are the pressures which derive from the particular peasant
ecotype. These arc produ ced by the environment which men can control
only pa rtially or no t at all, as when drought parches the field s in areas
of insufficient rainfall, or floods rage in areas of overab undant rain fall,
or locusts invade the land, or birds consume th e plan ts. Sim ilarly, peasants
mus t conte nd with the conseq uences of overgrazing or overcropping or
erosion caused by their own actions.
Second , there are pressures which ema nate from th e social system of
a peasan try. Some of these pressures may derive from the nee d to maintain
a working ho usehol d in the face of individual dissat isfact ions and yearn ings
for ind epend ence. Others may be due to the pressure of population upon
the lan d, and upo n the conseq uent recurrent need to redistribute scarce
land among many claima nts or to deprive some poten t ial claiman ts of
access to land . Still other pressures may be due to the compet ition of rival
forms of ente rprise, as when neotcc hnic agricult ural un its-such as plantatio ns or collect ive farms-com pete for land, capital and other resources
with th e smaller and weaker palcoteclm ic enterprise.
Third, there are always pressures wh ich eman ate from the wider society
in which the peasant holding forms a par t. T hese may be economic and
take the forms of claims for tr ib ute, rent , or interest paymen ts. They may
be political, taking the fo rm of legislat ive in terference with the auto nomy
of th e peasantry. O r they may be mili tary, as when a sta te calls up the
able-bodied young men, thu s depriving the cult ivator of a st rategic part
of h is lab or sup ply, or when a hostile sta te encroaches on a peasant
area, killing its people, d riving off its livestock, an d burning its ha rvested
Such pressnres fall up on all members of a peasant ry, b ut always more
upon SOllie than upon others. T hus, a man who lives dose to a water

Soci<tl Aspects of Pe4S<tntry


course and his fellow who farms on the margins of a dry cultivated area
both stand in need of water, but the one closer to the supply can count
on obtaining water more regularly, with less expenditure of energy, than
the one further away. Similarly, locusts may consume the field of one man,
but not those of his neighbor. Some peasants will have fewer children and
more land than others, produce more seed com one year than others, lose
fewer sons to the army than others, have more womenfolk than others,
and so forth. In each generation, therefore, the pressures which fall upon
all do so in unequal measure. Over the course of time we may expect that
some households will be more hard-pressed than others. l ienee, such pressures are selective, favoring the contin ued survival of some households over
others and serving to differenti ate the peasant population.
1I0w can a given peasant household best survive in the face of such
differen tial and differentiating pressures? A peasantry as a whole may
att empt to solve this problem by moving in two contradictory directions.
For one it can reduce the strength of the selective pressure falling upon
any one household by developing mechanisms for sharing resources in
times of need. T hus, if one household runs short of flour, it may borrow
from another; or if it needs seed com, it may borrow next door; or if it
needs additional land, it may borrow or rent from a household with fewer
mouths to feed; or it may call on other households to help it resist the draft
or taxation or to share equally in the burdens of military and governmental
tribute. Tha t is, a peasantry may att empt to stem the differentiating
effect of the selective pressures that fall on it by leveling their impact. In
essence, such a system calls upon the households that are more successful
in meeting the impact of the pressures impinging on them to come to the
aid of the less successful. It is obvious that in such a situation the gain
of some is obtained at the loss of others.
This solution is represented in its most extreme form by various equalizing and leveling arrangements, such as the mir organization common in
pre-Soviet GrC'J t Russia and Siberia. In this arrangement, title to land
was vested in the peasant community, not in individual households. Yet
all members of the mir had a right to an allotment, on the same basis, of
a family holding. Th is was then cultivated separately. At the same time,
however, the community had the right to repartition its land periodically
among its constituent households. Doth the frcqueney of land rcallotments
and the principles governing these varied from region to region. Land could,
in some areas, be reallotted on the basis of the number of working adults
per household, or males per household, or total number of household
members. Or, a community might choose not to reallot for a given time,
always, however, retaining its ultimate right to do so. Such allotted land
could 110t be sold, mortgaged, or inherited; nor could a member of the
community refuse an allotment , as he might some time wish to do when


Aspect, 01 PNUm try


the capacity of the land to produce surplus funds was less than the d ues
demanded. Similar arrangements are known from other world areas, such
as muslva'a tenure in the Ncar East. Where they occur they impose a
socially sanctioned equality on community members not only directly, but
also indirectly. \Vhere a piece of land changes hands periodically, few
cultivators WIll make permanent improvement s on it. The system thus
reinforces the tradit ional and relatively extensive cultivation of annual
crops and discourages the introduction of intensively produced perennials.
Similar results arc obtained where the community docs not affect the
peasant system of production but instead taps the surpluses produced by
it. Th us, for example, among the Indian peasantry of Middle America and
of the Andes, it is customary for heads of households to contribute considerable sums of money, food, offerings, fireworks, and so forth to the cult of
the community saints. Since the work of supporting the saints is circulated

Procession in Sdntll Afllrill 1em s, neer Antigull. GUlltemll14 . (Photo by

Jo.<:eph Secke l/dorl, from Sons of t he Shaking Earth. published by T he
University 01 Chicago Press, J959.)

Social Aspects of Peasantry


periodically among those able to pay, the community at once obta ins a
ceremonial means of demonstrating and enhancing its solidarity through
ceremonial and a means for leveling wealth distinctions within its membership.
Th e opposite solution to this problem is to let the selective pressures
fall where they may, to maximize the success of the successful, and to
eliminate those who cannot make the grade. T his has been the solution
adopted in continental Europe where, under mercantile domain, paleo.
technic peasantry has been replaced by neotechn ic peasantry in a process of forced selection over the past 200 years. In both these cases the
adoption of the extreme solution was brought about by intense external
Most peasantrics, however, fall somewhere in between these two extremes, perhaps for obvious reasons, and must seek a compromise solution
to their problem. This willingness to compromise is perhaps due to th e
simple fact tha t by and large the problems of one peasant household arc
those of another; furth er, the temporarily successful household realizes in
looking at its less successful neighbor that often no more than chance"the grace of God"- has made for its own success, and for the difficulties
of its neighbor; a different dealing of the cards of fate could in a year
reverse the situation. 111is insight is based much less on accessions of
Christian charity than on the hard-headed realization that some aid to
one's neighbor may simply be a form of insurance against the rainy day.
At the same time there must be a limit to the degree to which one's own
resources can become committed to those of a neighbor, lest one be dragged
down by his potent ial failure. Peasants everywhere arc therefore likely to
enter alliances, but alliances which remain sufficiently loosely structured
to exempt the participants in a period of severe trial. Although peasant
households tend to increase their security by widening their resources in
goods and people, they must also retain sufficie nt functional auto nomy to
guard their own survival. Th erefore, I shall call such alliances coalitions, in
the sense of "a combination or alliance, especially a temporary one between
persons, factions, states."
But peasants not only enter coalitions with their fellows in order to
counteract the selective pressures which fall upon all peasants, they also
strive to counteract the selective pressures which fall upon them individually, especially if these emanate from, from persons with more
economic or political or military power than themselves. Th ey must seek
aid ill marketing their product, in coping with government officials, in
dealing with the moneylender. Coalitions involving peasants may thus
involve not only relations between peasant and peasant , but also between
peasants and ncn pcasant superiors.

Peasant Coalitions
Our criteria for distinguishing among various kinds of peasant
coalitions are three:
l. T he degree to which coalitions arc formed between persons who share
many interests or between persons tied together by a single interest. The
first kind of coalition we shall call manyuranded, the second singlestranded.
Th e image underlying this terminology is that of a cord. consisting either
of man}' strands of fi ber twisted together or of one single strand. A many
stranded coalition is built up through the interweaving of many ties, all
of which imply aile another: Economic exchanges imply kinship or friendship or neighborliness; relations of kinship, friendship, or neighborliness
imply the existence of social sanctions to govern them; social sanctions
imply the existence of symbols which reinforce and represent the other
relations. The various relations support one another. A coalition built
up in terms of such a variety of relations gives men security in many
different contexts. In this lies their special strength and also their weakness. Each tie is supported by others that are linked with it, the way
many strands arc twined around each other to produce a stronger cord.
At the same time such a coalition is also rclativelv inflexible. It can exist
only as long as the strands are kept together; the s~btraction of one strand
weakens the others. Hence such coalitions will strongly resist forces which
strive to unravel the several strands. Singlcstranded coalitions are correspondingly more flexible. since they can be activated in contexts where
the pertinent single interest predominates, without at the same time
committing the participants to become involved with one another in many
other life situations.
2. 111e number of people involved in the coalition. Th e coalition may
be dyadic- in\'Oh'ing two persons or two groups of persolls-or pol)'adicinvolving many persons or groups of persons.
3. The degree to which coalitions are fann ed either by persons with the
same life chances, occupying the same positions in the social order. or by
persons occupying different positions in the social order. As we have seen,
coalitions may involve peasants with peasants-we shall eall such coalitions
horizontal. Or the)' rna)' involve peasants with superior outsiders-we shall
call such coalitions vertical.

W e can expect to find singlestranded coalitions mainly in situations

in which the peasant household is "individualized" in its relationship to

Social Aspects of PIIlJS<lfltry


ou tside demand s. By th is we mean tha t the various factors of production

and the activities carried on with in the peasan t ho usehold are st ripped of
an y encumbra nces and considerations which would impede maxim ization
of response to external forces. \Ve have already seen that th is can happen
un der three condi tions. F irst, it is likely to happen when the old order
weakens, and indi vidual peasant fami lies increase their control of goods
and services by sho uldering aside their ne ighbors and entering int o new
ties with the outer world on th eir OWII beha lf. Second, it can happen whe re
a mark ed increase in the social division of lab or enables new nuclear fam ilies to set up households on their own, and to en ter into au ton omo us
relati onships with middlemen or employers. T hird, it can happen when
net work markets pene t rate int o a peasant commun ity an d transfo rm all
relat ions into single-interest relations of ind ividua ls with goods for sale.
This conver ts the members of a community into competitors for ob ject s
which are evaluated primaril y in economic terms, witho ut consideration
for noneconomic values.
U nder each of these conditions, or under all of these con ditions toget her ,
peasants are likely to find th emselves in different social con texts, dealing
with different indiv iduals, engaged in differen t activi ties di rected towards
different ends. T h e result will be that mally relat ion s win be short-lived ,
with participan ts en counte ring each ot he r only for brief moments. W he re,
however, the opposite is true- where peasants follow th e st rategy of underconsumption rath er th an the st rategy of increas ed prod uction; whe re th e
d ivision of lab or is marked within th e domestic gronp , bu t wea k outside it;
and where the market system is socially peripheral rather than centralth e peasan try will rema in enmeshed in n umerous mauystrandcd relati on ships. Under such circumstances, we may find st rong an d enduring domest ic
grollps, stable coalitions bet ween do mestic groups, an d manystranded ties
with economic or polit ical middlemen and overlords.
Sinllu tranded Cu litions

Let us now look mo re closely at th e types of singlestranded rclations ope n to the peasant ry. T he permutation of ou r th ree criter ia yields
four such singlest randed types of relat ionship . They are :
1. D yadic and horizon tal.

2. D yadic and vertical.

3. Polyadic and vertical.
4. Polyadic and horizon tal .
Look ing at each of these possible relat ionsh ips in tum, we may note
t hat the first three types-im portan t as they arc to pea sant life, as lived

Soci4l Aspects of Peasuntry

in the appro priate context, can yield only very evanescen t coalitions.
Singlestrandcd horizontal dyads are best exemplified by the exchange relation between ind ivid ual peasant s in the market place. W e have discussed
these above. In th is relationship, two pcrsons of equivalent status meet
in a momentary encounter which involves as a single in terest the excha nge
of goods. No further consideration keeps the two participants in touch
with each other. At best the relation between buyer and seller-as in
the Haitian favored-buyer-and-seller ties, the pratik-comes to involve
long-term mutual economic advantages. To the extent, however, that the
relation does not acq uire other, secondary, interests- in addition to the
single-interest that gave it birth-it does not yield a coalition, but remains
simply a single-interest relation. T he same is true also of t he second type
of dyad based on the operation of a single in terest, the one between
peasan t and power-holde r. This type is exemplified by relation s bet ween
a peasan t and a moneylender or a peasan t and the tax-collector, as long
as only the execut ion of a parti cular task is at stake. No dyad ic coalitions
arc possible until th e single-interest transaction is supplemen ted with considerations of "goodwill," or adjustm ents arc ma de in the rate of in terest
or in the tax rate in return for services or favors extraneous to the dom inan t t ransaction itself. W hen that happens, the relation begins to become
encumbered with ties that approa ch the manyst ran ded.
TIl e sallie process holds t rue of vertical polyadic relations, based on
a single-interest. Such relation s arc illustrat ed by the h ierarchical relations
of empl oyers and employees or relation s between supervisors and supervised
in an office. Peasants are likely to encounter thi s kind of tic main ly when
they enter employment in a plantation or a factory . Yet even here th ere
will be a tendency to convert the single-in terest tics prescribed by the
fon n al table of organ ization in to man ystrandcd relations in wh ich goodwill
and favors are exchan ged informally in order to make the work process
run more smoothly. T his tends to dissolve the polyadic staff line into a
series of mut ually supportive dyads, to the despai r of any manager who
wishes to app ly formal rules "fairly" and without a show of favoritism.
Relations of the fourth type, however, the pcl yadic an d horizont alwhich bind togeth er a number of people in equivalent relation ships and
are organized around a single interest-do yield enduring coalitions. Th e
best example of such a coalition is the sodality, or association. Associations
occur in many societ ies, incl uding peasant societies of all types. T hus, we
find mut ual-aid clubs, parent-burial associations, sugar-making groups,
irrigatio n societies, crop-watch ing societies in C hinese villages, and mutualaid, credit insuran ce association s in medieval E urope. However, the associational fonn as the dominant form of coalition among peasantry gained
momentum in transalpine E urope largely in the wake of the Industrial
Revolution and its linked Second Agricultural Revolution . Robert T . mel

Sodal Aspects o f Peasantry


Gallat in Anderson in investigating social changes in Wissous (Seine-etOise ] , a village near Paris, have remarked upon the rapid growth and
proliferation of associations in this setting." \ Vhat has happened in this
village is typical of many ot her peasant communities. \V ith each household
exercising mercantile domain over its own resources. within a rapidly growing market, the village is d ifferentiated into many interest groups, each concerned to stabilize and further its position by creating its own single-interest
The organizational structure of an association is efficient. It provides
for orderly decision-making by the reg ularized convoca tion of a disciplined membership, or of a body of officials representing them. It
has a well-defined power base ill terms of countable number of members and a treasury nourished. in part at least, by the regular assessment
of dues. It h:1S an authoritative leadership, usually under the unifying
command of a president, with specialized tasks delegated to secondary
leaders. Furthermore. these virtues on the community level are duplicated on the regional and national level by incorporation in larger
parental associations. similarly constituted.
Associations th us do 1I0t merely group member s of a community differentially, but serve also to link these groups differentially to the wider
structure of power and interest. Such a grouping may therefore not only
contain polyadic horizontal singlcstrandcd relation s. but may also come
to embra ce polyadic vertical singlestrandcd ties.
At the same time. we know that even single-interest associat ions, once
established. have a tendency to acquire secondary purposes. TIIC memb ers
of a successful vine-growing cooperative may exhibit and solidify thei r
prestige by sponsoring dances. and an association of livestock b reeders may
contrib ute to charitable and ecclesiastical fund s. N evertheless, as long as
the dominant in terest gives struct ure to the strategic relationships which
mainta in the association, the overlay of other relations remains peripheral
and secondary.
Mu ystranded Cntitlnns

We have disinguishcd four kinds of singlcstrandcd inter est relations which playa part in the formation of peasant coalitions. We may now
distinguish four kinds of manystranded relation s upon which more end uring social compacts can be built. These arc:
1. Dyadic and horizontal.
2. Polyadic and horizontal.
lri Robert T . Anderson and Gallatin Anderson , "T he Replicate Social Structure,'
South western Tal/m al 0/ Anthropology. XV II I, No. of ( 1962). pp. 365- 370.

Social Aspects of Peasantry


3. Dyad ic and vertical.

4. Polyadic and vertical.
Manystranded. dyadic, and horizontal relations are exemplified by ties
of friendship or neighborliness in which households enter into many repeated ties of varying kinds, ranging from mutual aid in production to
exchanges of favors. In Latin America, for example, such friendship ties
may be formalized in the so-called co-parental, or compadre, relat ion between status equals. Such a relation is created whcn two adults agree to
sponsor the child of one of them. Such sponsorship is usually connected
with some life-crisis ceremonial, primarily baptism, but also communion
or ma rriage, harvesting, ear-piercing, ch urch-building, and so on. Sponsorship builds a godparent-godchild relation betw ee n sponsor and sponsored;
but it also builds an enduri ng relation between the sponsor and the parents
of the sponsored, who are thereafter linked as ceremonial co-parents. Usually the people who become co-parents are friends, or seek the advantages of
friendship, and the ceremonial tic guarantees the exchange of goods and
services between them.
Manys trandcd relations may also produce polyadic and horizontal coalitions. W e have already encountered such coalitions in our brief d iscussion
of equalizing or leveling communities. T o such comm unities the name

Example of a manystranded, dyadiC, hori~on

tal relationship. Here
villagers exchange food
and conversation in Sai,lt
Vera71, Fran ce. (Photo by
Robert K. Rums.)

Social Aspeets of Pe<lSalitry


closed corporate commu nities has been given . These communities restrict
membe rsh ip to people born and raised within the ir confines. T hey may
reinfo rce th is restr icti on by forcing members to marry within the bou ndaries
of the comm unity. T he com munity, rather than the ind ividual, has ultimate
domain to lan d, and th e indi vidu al may no t sell, mortgage, or oth erwise
alienate his share of community land to outsiders. Such corpo rate communities also present mechan isms whereby they level differences between
members, either th rough period ic rcallo tmcnts of land - as in the Russian
mir or Near Eastern musha.'a-or they sanction the use of surplus funds in
communa l ceremo nial, as in M iddle America, the Andes and C en tral Java.
The commun ity guards its interna l order- by both informal and formal
sanctions, such as gossip, or accusations of witchcraft, or direct puni sh ment
- but act s also as a unitary group with regard to outside claims for ren t.
Rent in labor, kind, or money is distrib uted eq ually amo ng the members,
just as access to resources is equalized within the bou ndaries of the un it.
TIIC community thus acqu ires th e form of a corporation , an end uring
organization of rights and d uties held by a stable membersh ip; and it will
tend to fight off changes and innovations as pot ent ial threats to th e internal
order t hat it st rives to main tain .
Such polyadic horizontal rnanystrandcd coalitions have tended to develop
in social systems wh ich left the peasan t base of production inta ct, b ut
levied clai ms against the fund of rent of the peasant ry, with the impo rtant
proviso, however, that it be the commu n ity itself which distributes its
b urden of dues, collects it and t ransmits it to the rightf ul claimant . In
other words, we arc likely to find such communities in social orders dom ina ted by a puleoteclmic adaptati on 011 the part of the peasan try, cou pled
with indirect or prebenda l form s of domain.t"
T ypes I and 2 of the man ystranded coalitions were both ho rizon tal, involving int raelass relations of peasants to peasan ts. T ypes 3 and 4 are
interclass, involving relat ions of peasants to nonpeasant supe riors, in a
set of vertical ties.
T ype 3 is represented by the coalition tha t is man ystranded, dyadic,
and vertical. It s characteristic Form is the coalition between a pat ron
and client. Such a relation involves a socially or politically or economically
superior pe rson in a vertical relation with his social. political, or econ omic
in ferior. The tic is asymmet rical; it has been described as a kind of "lopsided friendship." 1'/ At the same time it is munystrandcd . T he two partners
must be able to t rust each oth er; and in the absence of formal sanct ions
a relati on of tru st involves a mu t ual understanding of each other's
16 Eric R. \ Volf, "C losed Corporate Peasant Commnnities 'in Mesoamerica and
Ccntral Java," Sou thw estern Journal o f An thropology, XIII, No. 1 ( 1957 ) , pp. 7- 12.
1'/ [ulian Pitt -Rivers, T he People Qf the S ierra (Ncw York : Criterion Book, 1951).
p . 110 .

SOOal Nptl of Pt tfl(f1ltTy


motives and behavior which cannot be built up in a moment, but

must grow over time and be tested in a number of contexts. Th is is especially true where there are no legal sanctions to enforce the contract.
lIenee ien t relations involve multiple facets of the actors involved,
not merely the segmental single-interest of the moment. In such a relation
the patron offers economic aid and protection against legal and illegal
exactions of aut hority. Th e client in tum pays back in intan gible assets.
He may support the patron with his vote, an expectation underlying the
many variants of political boss-rule (caciquismo ) in the Spanish-speaking
world. IIe may keep his pa tron informed of the plots and machinations of
others. He will praise his pat ron, thus helping to raise his status in the
community. "By doing so," sa)'s M ichael Kenny, "he constantly stimulates
the channels of loyalty, creates good will, adds to the name and fame of his
patron and ensures him a species of immortality: ' I II But it is also part of
the contract that he entertain no other patron than the one from whom
he reechoes goods and credit. He must offer not merely protestat ions of
loyalty. He must also demonstrate that loyalty when the chips are down.
In times of political crisis, he must rally to the pat ron to whom he is
bound by the informal contract and from whom he has received favors.
At the same time, crises also constitute a challenge to establish contracts,
for they test bot h men's souls and their pocketbooks. A patron who has
less to offer may be deserted for a patron who offers more; a patron whose
sta r is in the decline will lose his clients to a man whose star is in the
ascendancy. Th us, patrons compete with each other, purchasing support
through the granting of favors in many such dyadic coalitions.
Manystranded coalitions built up of vertical, polyadic ties among peasants arc best exemplifi ed by the kin organization called the descent group.
Descent groups arc of two kinds, local descent groups and mnltilocal, or
political. descent groups. The local descent group is in essence the peasant
household maintai ned over time. W e have alrcadv discussed its specific
problems of maintenan ce. " b e multilocal. or political, descent group, however, is a coalition in the fonn of a kin group act ing to concentrate. maintain, and defend power against possible competitors, whether other groups
like itself, or organs of the state which wish to curtail its spread. Such a
group is polyadic because it includes many people bound by actual or
fi ctive kinship tics. It is manystrandcd because kinship implies the existence of diverse interests unified in a common set of relat ions. It is vertical
because such a kinship unit resembles an association in having an executive committee : It is unlike an association, however, in that the executives
are usuallv recruited onlv
- from a major subhne of the kinship group, eithe r

u tl- liehael Kenny. A

Span i.~11 T apest ry:

Toun ,IUd Co utttry ill C .z."lile [ Bloouuug.

ton. Indiana University Press, 1( 61) , p. }36 .

Social Aspec ts of PeasantI)'


its most powerful or its wealthiest line, or a line senior in descent . Such
a descent line within the larger group controls special prerogatives, but is
charged also with special managerial responsibilities. For the peasant, membership in such a manystrand cd polyadic vertical coalition, may offer a
nu mber of rewards, in that peasants may mobilize the help of kin who
occupy or arc close to the seats of po'l'.'er, while power-holders in tum may
mobilize the support of kin in the struggle to maintain or exercise wealth
and power. Such a kinship unit thus has a built-in pat ron-client relation,
and represents the polyadic counterpart of the manystranded dyadic vertical
Such kin coalitions, embracing both peasants and nonpeasan t powerholders, operate most often in societies in which the significant surpluses
are collected and accumulated by the state, but th rough the hands of
prebendal officials. Such has been the case in China . \ Vhen we look at
the trad itional Ch inese village, we discover firs t of all a set of domestic
groups, ranging from nuclear to extended families. W e have already seen
that wealth 'I'.~JS a prerequisite for the maintenance of the extended family.
\Ve may now note that as families become wealth y in resources and extended in social composition, they also form a coalition called a tsu or
clan. This coalition was activated by invoking the principle of common
descent th rough a set of male ancestors. As families grew wealthy, they
also enlisted the help of specialists to draw up genealogies, to set up
clan books recounting the creditable deeds of departed members, to take
special care of their ancestral tablets. to hold common ceremonial gatherings, and perhaps to endow a clan temple. A family's standing relative to
other families might in part he read from its clan standing. "When a clan
is prosperous, the families in it are strong; when it is decadent , its families
are probably approaching poverty and disruption. A well-functioning clan
is really an ind ication that most of the basic families of that group are
developing, not declining." 1&
In some parts of China, especially in the South, where the potential
mobilizable wealth from rice cultivation was perhaps greater than in the
North and where foreign commerce brought in add itional sources of
wealth , some tsu grew into great translocal kin-based corporations. As this
happened, another feature of tsu organizat ion became apparent: its division
into family lines characterized by differential wealth and power. Some
members of the kin coalition were in fact very wealthy and powerful and
belonged to the gentry, from which the national or regional bureaucracy
was recruited. Such a great t SII might therefore have members at the apex
of its organization whose tics and spheres of influence extended right into
the area of national decision-making. It would then also contain families

Yang. Chinese V il/a!:e. p. I H.

Social Aspects of Peasantry


of good bu t not spectacular economic standing, as well as poo r domestic

groups whose role in t he kin coalition wo uld be dependent and subor dinate,
b ut who would neve rtheless cleave to the coalitio n through need for security and support. Th is need was of ten met by allowing such kin group
members to culti vate tsu lands in preference to outsiders, an impo rta nt
consideration in overpo pula ted areas. T he tsu also gained income beca use
rents would be paid into tsu coffers rat her than to an outside landlord .
Similarly, the poorer members could benefit hy associati on with a powe rful tsu in situations whe re they needed backing in legal or political disputes with ot her tsu. In t um , the tSlI gained manpower which could be
translated into economic and pol itical power, into a show of strengt h in
quarrels with ot her tsu over available SOurCL'S of wealt h or spo ils.
In t his instan ce, then, we have a kin-ba sed coalitio n tha t brought village
fam ilies togethe r horizontally into one association a t the same time tha t
it un ited peasant grou ps vertica lly into coalition with power-holde rs on
various levels of the social and economic hiera rchy.

Peasant Coalitions
and the Larger Social Order
Now that we have d iscussed t he characteristics of coalitio ns open
to the pea san try in a variety of situat ions, it is also im portant to recognize that these pri ncip les of coalitio n forma t ion do not stand in ab solute
opposit ion to aile anothe r, but in an y given sit ua t ion may in terpenetra te
an d com plement one anot her. W e will find sit uat ions in which one or the
other organizationa l principle exercises clea r dom inance . Thus, we find that
in C hin a, especially in the Sou th, the principle of kinship coalition overrode all others, wh ile in the area of the Mediterranean, the dyad ic pat ronclient t ie prevailed over its competitors. Nevert hel ess, there arc areas where
several principles are operative at on ce, th ough ill different aspects of life
or on di fferent levels of social struct ure. T hus, medieval Europe north of
the Alps combined the cor porate communa l organization among the
peasants with attach men t to a noble kinsh ip grou p whic h stood in a
pa tron-client relation to the peasa nt communit ies. Again, in parts of Ind ia,
pea sant comm un it ies a rc organized along a number of possible axes. The
local commun ity may have st rong corpo ra te features, becau se it is cente red
upon a dominant caste; yet caste membersh ip implies the presence of a kin
coalit ion with power-holde rs higher up the line , as when a [at-domina ted
village, such as Kishan Cui in the North Indian plain of U ttar Prades h ,
has kin-coalition tics with [at terr itorial officials an d rulers. At the sa me
t ime, individual upper -caste families with in the village maintain ;(/;"'(//1kamin, or patron-clien t, l ies with particular household s of specialists. 'I'hr cc

hund red years ago a group of [at chief tains seized control of the region.
Their descend ants collect revenue as headmen appointed by the state government. 'I1Jey are th e heads of leading fam ilies of th eir localized descent
groups, the principal prop rietors of village lands. At the same timc they
arc quasi-officials of the state.
If we fasten our att en tion on domi nant forms of relat ionships, we can
take a further step in t he ana lysis of the larger social orders of which
peasantry forms a component segmen t.
O ur first step in t his d irect ion is to review th e societies with which we
have deal t illustrat ively up to now, and arrangc them in a series accord ing to
the degree to which t hey favor one or another type of social relationship.
Let us take first t he relation ships which cha racte rize t ics between ho useholds on the locallevel (sec T able I ). W e note tha t in th is series manorial
E urope. Ind ia, post-Conquest Middle America and th e And ean area arc
largely dom inated by organ izational forms wh ich favor polyadic horizontal
manystrandcd coalitions. In the Ind ian case, the peasant commu n ity con sists of a series of such coalitio ns, the so-called castes, arranged hicrarchically, with the inferior castes serving the dom inant caste of the community.
T hese th ree societies all, in one way or another, favor the con tin uity of
corporate community st ructure over t ime. T hese are also societies ill which
the exch ange relati on s are mediated either through reciprocal service relat ions or th rough a sect ional ma rket system. Allhough network markets
occur, they are subo rdina te and tangentia l to the ma jor social scaffolding.
In contrast, we note the prevalence of dyadic horizontal ties in t he
case of the peasant Mediterran ean, the Ncar East, C h ina, and modem
E urope. 111c Nea r East, in th is series, stands half-way between the prcvious set and the present one, due to the occurrence of mu slw'a and ot her
corporate en tities in the area. O therwise, relat ions arc dyadic, and eithe r
sia glest randcd or manystrandcd depend ing upo n the degree to which given
households enter in to reciproca l arran geme n ts of mutual aid. It is no tab le
th at in each of these cases, moreover, excha nge relations tend toward s the
netwo rk market ing pattern. which reinforces the trend towards dyadic
singlestrandcd rela tions.
When we t um towa rds the vert ical arrangements which link the local
level with superior hierarch ies, our series d ivides somewhat differently
from the way it did above. One ma jor dist inction which emerges is the
presence or absen ce of polva dic vertica l manyst rand ed coalitions of the
kin-group type, linkin g people in the peasant com mun ity to powcrholders
ou tside. Such coalit ions occur in India, the Near East, and C hina. Th ey
do no t occu r in ma noria l Europe, post-Co nques t Middle America and the
And ean area, the M ed iterranean. and neotcchnic Europe. Again, the N ear
East is somewhat inter mediate, due to the chara ct erist ics already noted
abo ve. Th is distinction ap peus to divid e societ ies based on cent ralized ami
despot ic p OWCf, exercised l1rgd y th rongh lhe dclq ;al ioll of prdJl'udal

SocWI Aspects of Peasantry


Tallie 1

Dominan t M odes

of C oaliti on Formati on
in Pet1$ll'nt Societies


lIon ro nt'"


M anori:d Europe

Polya dic, manystranded

Dyadic, manys tra nd cd


Polyadsc, man ys trandcd

Polyadlc, man ystrand cd

Dyadic and polpdic manystran ded

Post -Co nquest

Andes and M iddle

Dyadic, singlestranded relatio ns off

set by dyadic, man ys tranded coalition s

M edite rranean

D yadic, singlcstralldcd

D ya dic , singk'Strandcd relati ons off

set by dyadic, manystra ndcd coalition s

Ncar East

D yadic, singlcstra ndcd

D yadic, smglcstrand ed relations offset by both dyadic and polyadic

man ystrand ed coalitio ns

C hina

D yadic, singlcstralldcd

D yadic, singlestn. nded relations offset by both dyad ic an d polyadic

manystranded coalitions

Dyadi c, singkstranded

Both d)".adic .and polyadic singlestranded coalitions

~ Iodem


domains, from those in which power is more decentralized. The decentralized systems, however, show two subpa ttems. Th e first, characteris tic
of the Mediterranean , is bu ilt up largely in dya dic terms th rough patronclient relationships. T he second, found in med ieval Europe and in M iddle
America and the Andes after the Span ish Co nquest, usually subord inated a
corporate peasant comm unity to a dominant domain owner in the vicinity.
111is figure then operated as a patron towards the communi ty as a whole.
A second major d istinction d ivides all the systems from neotcchnic
Europe, wh ich in its emp hasis on associationa l form s has been able to
cons truct vertical relationships on a singlestranded rather than a manystranded basis.
In our discussion of peasantry two characteristics of social organizatio n
stan d out : fi rst, th e strong tend ency towards autonomy on the part of
peasant households, second, t he equally strong tendency to fonn coalitions
on a more or less unstable basis for short-range ends. In entering a coalition, the household can not overcomm it itself. In operating within a coalition, it will show a tend ency to subordinate larger, long-term interests to
narrower, short-term ones. T his combination of feat ures has been understood d early by those modem political figures who real ize the po tent ial
powe r of a peasan try when aWl/li('d to ('(JlIIlIIOn act ion . h il i are equally
aware of ih inabil ity to remain ur~;I l1il(,"(1 borh in adinll und afterwards,

when the fruits of action are to be harvested . Thus, Karl Ma rx wrote of

the peasantry of F rance as follows:
The small peasants form a vast mass, the members of which live in
similar conditions. but without ent ering into man ifold relations with
one another. Th eir mode of production isolates them from one another . instead of bringing them into mutual int ercourse. . . . The
small holding. the peasa nt and his family; alongside th em another
sm all holdin g, anoth er peasant and another family. A few score of these
make lip a village, and a few score of villages make up a Department.
In th is way, the great mass of the French nation is formed by simp le
addition of homologous magnitudes, milch as po ta toes in a sack fon n
a sackful of potatoes. In so far as millions of families live under economic conditions of existence that di vide th eir mode of life. their
interests and their culture from those of other classes, and put them
into hostile opposition to the latter . they form a class. In so far as there
is merely a local in terconnec tion among these small peasan ts, and the
identit y of their interests bege ts no unity. no national union. and no
political organization. they do 1I0t form a class. 111ey arc consequently
incapable of enforcing their class int erest in th eir own name, whether
through a parliament or through a conven tion. They cannot represent
themselves: they must be representcd.w
The Ru ssian practit ioners of M arxisrn-c-Leui n, Trotsky, Stalin-realized
the potentialities of peasant suppo rt in an overt hrow of the social ord er;
but t hey also knew all too well tha t what the peasantry desired was land .
H ence th e peasa ntry m ight rise up to fight fo r land; b ut once it had occ upied la nd , it would cease to be a revolutionary force. " \ \'e support the
peasant m ovement." wrot e Lenin in September. 1905, " to th e exten t that
it is a revoluti onary de moc ratic m ovem ent. \ \'e are maki ng ready (doing
so now. at once ) to fight it whe n and to the extent t hat it beco mes reactionary and anti-proleta rian ." 21 And aga in : "Th e peasantry will he victor ious in the bo urgeois-democrati c revol ut ion ," hc wrote in March, 1906, "a nd
th en cease to be revol utiona ry as a peasantry." ~':!
H ence, m odem M arxism has treated the pea santry as a potential all}',
but a n ally that must be organized from witllOut. \ Vha t lite peasantry
lacked in organizing potential, the revolutionary pa rty wo uld supp ly through
its t ra ined cad re. In the word s of t he Fi rst C o ngress of the Peo ples of the
East, held in Baku in 1920-words wh ieh have proved propheti c-the
peasan try would be th e " infantry" of the revolutio n, with adequate di rection be ing furnished by the general staff of the revolution. th e specialized
cadre. Yet M arxism ha s also faced the other problem created by pea san t
2(l Karl Marx. Th e Eighteenth Brum<lire of Louu Bonaparte ( Xc", York: International Publishers. 19;7 ), p. 109.
21 Vladimir I. Lenin, Co llected \ V orh ( Londun: Lawrence and W ishurt, 196Z).
IX, pp. Z35-Z36,
22 111il1., X. p. 259, fn.

Social Aspects of Peasant ry







social organization, its tendency to revert to quiescence as soon as the

peasantry has reached its goal, the acquisition of land through land rcfonn
and redistribution. \ Ve have witnessed in both the Soviet Union and
Soviet China massive att empts to replace peasant holdings with collective
farms operated under centralized control from above. Kolkhozes and
sovkhozcs were introduced in the Soviet Union, "to prevent the liquidation
of the revolution" in the countryside by a peasant ry grown firmly atta ched
to its assigned pieces of land. \ Vith the slogan "individual fanning is
spontaneous capitalism," Chinese peasants were Similarly organized into
large-scale communes.
TIle same reasons, however, which have caused revolutionaries to ccntrol and subjugate the peasantry have caused traditionalists to favor the
continuation of family fann ing and the preservation of a conservative
peasant ry upon the land. Hence, land refonn and schemes for improving
the lot of the cultivator upon the land are often designed to achieve the
opposite effect from those desired by the revolutionaries. Land reform,
however, is no panacea. If there is suffi cient land for all in the current
generation, it takes only a few generations before there arc once again
too many claimants for too little land. It is precisely in the countries
most in need of land reform and improvement that population increases
have been inordinately large and will prove to be even larger in the future.
Land reform, therefore, must needs go hand in hand with schemes for
industrialization or for other means to siphon people off the land. Put in
another way, peasant farming on small holdings can be strengthened only
by reducing the role of the peasantry in the social order at large. \V hat is
gained in stability by giving land to the peasants is lost through the necessary industrial and urban transformation of society.
O ur discussion of peasant coalitions also challenges us to explore the
possibility that some types of peasant coalitions are highly compatible
with economic and social change towards a ueotcclmic order, while others
will tend to resist it. TIle prevalence of horizontally organized, singlestranded associations in Europe suggests that the inherent fl exibility of
this type of coalition has been both a result and a condition of the
changes which allowed Europe to shift so successfully from a palcotechnic
to a ncotcchnic base. O n the other hand, the manystranded polyadic and
vertical coalitions, the corporate community and the descent group, appear
especially inimical to change. T hey tend either to organize the peasantry
int o a multitude of small encysted groups, or to set up enduring coalitions
which exploit the resources of thc society for their own special interests.
From this point of view, the success of the Mexican Revolut ion, for instance, appc:lfS to lie less in its efforts at land refor m than ill its attempts
to break open the Indian corporate communities, to curtail their autonomy,
and to effect a hook up between the political machinery of the state and

.\ lemberJ of the Ilsi.:Jo.

yuan Production Brigade
of the Hochang Prt>ple',
Commu ne in Crn tTttl
ChinD threshing rice on
tile threshing ground. T he
of corn/fumes tends to shift loy.
dlty from the ftJtllily to
lt Dte.
(EtJSt foto,
photo by Uu Hsin.ning.)

pol itical organizers in the villages. Similarly, we may call attention to the
efforts of the C hin ese Comm unists to abolish the large C h inese descent
groups, with their ten dency to favor their memb ers at the expense of the
state and to blun t and scatt er the impact of the central government on
the organ ization of the cou n tryside. "The institutions which thc Co mmunists are attacking are not family institut ions in the narrow sense, but
th ose tha t have to do with extens ions of th e nuclear sphe re of the family," U
Similarly, a mod ernizing societ y which wishes to increase and diversify
its resource ba se on a neotcchni c mod el may have to tran scen d the manystranded coalit ions of the pa tron-clien t type . These are pred icat ed upo n
scarcity in that the power of the patro n depen ds in large part upo n h is
ability to distribute some share of th e all-too-limi ted supply of goods an d
services. Like descent groups of the C hinese type, moreover, such pa troncl ient sets tend to exploit the resources of the society for their 0 ....'11 special
and highly segmenta ry bene fit. Th e solu tion ado pted by many a modcrnizing society enm eshed in such a man ystranded net work of relati on s has been
21 Murton II . Fried, "The Fa mily in C hina: The People's Republic." in Th e Family:
III f tllletion. and lJestiny. cd . Rut h N . Anshen (New York: Harper and Brot hers,
19 59 ) , p. 166.

Socicl Aspects of Peil$tlntry


to replace the individual patrons with centralized pat ronage-dispensing

institutions of the state. By grant ing patronage rights to major bureaucratic
ent ities, such states have worked to substitute the tic between state and
citizen for the personalized alliance between particular patrons and their


Just as peasants form a part of a larger social order- and relate to it through
their coalitions-so they partake in an order of symbolic understandings,
an ideology, which concerns the nature of the human experience. Such
an ideology consists of acts and ideas. of ceremonial and beliefs; and
these sets of acts and ideas fulfill several functions. Some of these are expressive, as when men parade symbolic objects for all to see on the occasion
of a marriage, a funeral, a religious celebration, or a harvest feast. Such
sets of acts and ideas also have a coping function : TIley help men to deal
with the inevitable and irreducible crises of life, of failure, of sickness, of
death. Moreover, in helping to assuage the anxious and to dry the tears
of the bereaved, they link individual experience to public concern. Through
them, the selective pressures which impinge on a particular household
acquire general significance. Individual illness becomes an occasion for
public curing; ind ividual death the occasion of a public funeral. And an
ideology has moral significance. It upholds "right living," th us und erwriting the social ties which hold society together. It aids in the management


Peasantry and the Ideological Order


of tensions which arise in the course of transactions between men, and

reinforces the sentiments upon which social contin uity depends.

We have seen that in peasant societies relations between households must strike a balance between the interests of the participant units
and those of coalitions which tie the peasantry to the larger society. In this
respect ceremonial has a specific function in validating the social units and
the relations between them.
Everywhere in peasant societies, much ceremonial surrounds the formation of a new marriage, and, through it, the creation-of a new household.
Th is ceremonial docs not merely tie the con jugal bond between husband
and wife; it also invites the public to take note that a new minimal unit of
the community has been formed. Everywhere ill peasant societies, too,
ceremonial surrounds the domestic unit, aiding in the management of the
tensions which arise in its operation. \Ve have referred above to societies
in which a weak conjugal dyad between husband and wife is supported by
granting the husband adequate prestige in the ceremonial system, though
his economic contributions are low and sporadic. W e have spoken of the
tensions between husbands and wives, and of the stresses and strains which
obtain between older and younger generation and between sibling and
sibling in the extended family. W e shall find that ceremonial exists to
support and unite the sets of actors who might otherwise fall out with one
anothe r and seek separate social identities. \Ve find everywhere symbols
which underwrite the continui ty of the household, be these a ceremonial
comer within the house. as in Europe, or a set of ancestor tablets, worshipped through offerings of incense and goods made of paper, as in
W e also find everywhere ceremonial which upholds the integrity of the
wider social relations bv which men structure their lives. Social relations
create order, but sometimes in the very act of creating orderliness they
breed disorder. When one man succeeds in marrying a woman and in
receiving her dowry, a new household is formed; but the unsuccessful
suitors will hang their heads in despondency, or react with envy or shame.
When two households draw closer in friendship and support, th ere may
be others who feci disadvan taged by this alliance. A family grown wealthy
may be a source of advice and aid to its neighbors, but it also attracts the
gossip and ill will of some upon whom fortune has not smiled. Th ere arc
indeed many situations where men cooperate and coordinate their actions,
for their common or individ ual good, hut there arc others where they will
fail to live lip to expectat ions, err ill thcir .m eial judgment, violate good

Peasdf1try and the I deologiclJl Ordn

will, cheat, deceive, or transgress. Yet in a peasant community men must

often depend on each other if only for that sense of continuity which
renders life predictable, and hence meaningful. Thus, we shall find in
peasant commun ities ceremonial which involves men as members of a community, and which acts to uphold their common social order, to purge it
of disorder, to restore its integrity.
In many kinds of festivities, peasants in different parts of the world
celebrate their sense of interdependence and affi rm the rules gover ning it.
Such festivities range in fonn from prayers to a patron saint in Spain to
firework displays set off in honor of the tutelary god in parts of China. Yet
they may be derived from an incident involving an individ ual household, for instance, a death. Fred Gearing has described 1 how in the Greek
village of Kardamili men affi nn their commonality at a funeral. To a funeral
come not only the friends and relatives of the deceased, but also his enemies. The latter are received with courtesy. Their participation does not
end the hostilities between households, but rather affirms the existence of
that larger social and moral order within which the hostilities are both
contained and constrained. Or, more playfully, a community may enact
I F red Gearing. " Religious Ritual in a Greek Village: ' paper read at the 62nd An.
nual ~Iceti ng of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, Nov. 21,

Procession through the

fields of German-speaking
St . F elix, Italian Alps.
Com mon CeTemoniaI inl'Oln's m en as member. 01
a comm unity and eeetes
a .wnst' 01 m ut ual interde
Er ic n. \Volf.)

Peas.mtry and the JdeologiC<Jl Ordn


its dominant concerns in a common ritual occasion, as do the inhabitants

of Mitl a in Mexico when they gather at a stone cross near the outskirts of
their village on N ew Year's Eve, petition the cross for things they want
during the coming year, and then proceed to bu y and sell min iatu re replicas
of these things- fields, animals, houses- with pebbles which they call "the
money of Cod." 2
In these examples we have seen that peasant ceremonial focuses on
action, not on belief. It emphasizes the regulat ive character of norms, a
set of do's and don't' s. Embodied in rules, such moral imperatives render
action predictable. and provide a common framework for its evaluation.
No t th e examined life, but social order is the objective. Peasant religion is
both utilitarian and moralistic, but it is not ethical and q uestionin g."
Moreover, its rules arc en joined upon the interacting parties from above.
Rep resenting the interests of the wider community. such rules appea r to
stand above and beyond it, to have a reality of the ir own independent of
the rival claims of the contestant s. ThC)' arc said to be supernatural Guy
Swanson has argued that supernatural con trols over the moral relat ions of
ind ividuals will appear in societies where ( I) there exist important but
unstable relationships between individuals, and (2) where the nu mber of
persons having interests peculiar to themselves has become great enough to
create a large number of social relations in which people interact as particula r individ uals, rather than as members of some group.' If we substitu te
"household" for "ind ividual: ' we find that the hypotheses are applicable
to peasant societies as discussed in this volume. Peasan t societies are
based a ll important b ut shifting relations between individual units which
arc households; and the n umber of such relations between households
bulks large in the total num ber of all relations within the peasant sector
of society, lienee we would expect a strong emphasis 0 11 supernat ural sanenons for behavior in peasant communities in which structural tensions
between domestic groups are often strong yet must be muted in the interest
of coalition formation or neighborly coexistence. These communities are,
moreover, ver}" conservative in this regard.
2 Charles M . Leslie, Now \Ve Are Civilized: A Study of the World View of the
Zdpotec of Mitld, Odxdca (Detroit : Wayne Slate University Press, 1960 ) , pp .
a I follow here Fred Gearing's significant distinction between moral and ethic<Jl rules.

"foral rules arc directives which apply to particu lar social roles such as " fathers" Of
"policemen ." Ethical rules are drrecnves which apply to me mbers of a society irrespective
of th eir particula r social roles . See Fred Gearing. " Idioms of Human Interaction : Moral
and T ech nical Orden." in Symposium on Co m m unity Studin if! Anthropology, eds.
Viola E. Ga rfield and Ernestine Fried l, Proceed ings of the 1963 " nnwl Sprin g Meeting
of the American Ethnological Society (Sea tt le : American Ethnological Society, 196-1 ) .
p. 19 .
4 G uy F.. Swanson, T he Birth of the Gods: Th e Or igin of Primiti\'e Reliefs (" nn
Arbor : U~ i versity uf Michigan Press, 1960 ) , pp . 1 ~ 9_ 1 60 .

Peasantry and the Ideological Order



Religious Traditions

Yet peasant religion cannot be explained solely in its own terms. If

it function s to support and balan ce the peasant ecosystem and social organization, it also constitutes a component in a larger ideological order. Responsive to stimuli which derive both from th e peasant sector of society
and from the wider social order, religion forges one more link bindi ng the
peasantry to th at order.
This work of relating the peasant s' cognit ions of the sacred and his
techniqu es for han dling it to the beliefs and techniques of the total society
is usually in the han ds of religious specialists, much as the work of relat ing
the peasant economically and politically to the larger order becomes the
work of political and economi c specialists.

Ch urch and market in San Tom as, Chichicastenango, Gu atem ala. In

addition to being a part of the ideological framework of the peasant
community, religion lends support to peasant economic and social organization. (Photo by Joseph Seckendori, from Sons of the Shaking Earth,
published by T he U niversity of Chicago Press, 1959 .)

PeasantI)' and the Ideological Order


In a few religious traditions the religious specialist is a peasant like

any other. Thus, Islam relies on local imamas who differ from the general
run of peasantry only in their slightly greater knowledge of the sacred texts
and esoteric knowledge; indeed, in Islam, any pious man can officiate at a
religious ceremony. Elsewhere, there may be many specialists, as among
the Maya of Yucatan, where we find shamans (h-men) and reciters of
prayers, as well as regular Catholic clergy. In India, the work of weaving
new or more consistent patter ns of meaning and ritual is in the hands of
many specialist groups, of which the Brahmans, traditionally the group of
greatest ritual cleanliness and highest standi ng, arc only one, if perhaps
the most strategic. In short, the Roman Catholic patte rn of according true
specialist status only to an ordained priest is exceptional rathe r than general, and even among Ca tholics we find priests, especially on the local
level, who receive income from their ritual duties, but who live as parttime peasants within the agricultural cycle of village life.
Th e task of linking the peasant variant of religion to the total religious
structure of society is thus the work of many hands and minds, a manystranded network rather than a direct transmission. Still, we discern the
general direction of these processes. W here the peasant is apt to take ritual
as given and to accept explanat ions of ritual actions that arc consistent
with his own beliefs, the religions specialist seeks the meanings behind
meanings, engages in the labor of examining symbols and rituals, exploring
meanings behind mean ings, striving to render meanings and actions more
consistent. Th e religious referents of the peasant are the natural objects
and the human beings that surround him; we may call his explanations
first-order explanations, while the religious specialist-seeking explanations
of explanations-deals with second-order or third-order meanings.
The two sets of explanations and attendant ritual necessarily intersect
at points of common interest. Where peasant religion focuses on the individual and his passage through a series of crucial episodes such as birth,
circumcision, passage to adulthood, marriage, death, the higher-order interpretations fasten on these events of the life-cycle in abstract terms, regarding them as way sta tions on the human path through life and fate. W here
peasant religion concerns itself with the regenerative cycle of cultivation
and the protection of the crop against the random attacks of nature, the
higher-order interpretation speaks of regenerative cycles in general, of the
recurrence of life and death. Where the peasant religion must cope with
disorder and suffering among specified individuals belonging to a concrete
social group "on the ground," the higher-order interpretat ion reads these
misfortunes as revelations of evil in the world.
T he two levels of explanation and ritual action can exist side by side,
interpenetrating and complementi ng each other. Th us, ill peasant Buddhism ill Bu rma, we may dist inguish two levels of religious belief ami

Peas4ntry dnd the Ideologic<Jl Order


pract ice.' On the level of household and village, we find first of all a belief
in nat!. potentially hostile beings. There are household rwts and village
nets. There are also nais without specific social referents. These inimical
spirits. who are though t to bring illness and other evils. are kept at bay
through proper offerings and ritual. A yellow string may be worn on the
left wrist to avoid cholera: or the house may be sprinkled with holy wate r;
or food may be Icft at special shrines de....o ted to the nats. If illness occurs.
it is treated with rites of propitiation and expulsion. T o deal with these
and similar uncertainties. there are a large number of fi rst-order techniques,
ranging from astrology, fortune-telling. the wearing of charms and amulets.
to magical tat tooing. But it soon becomes apparent that many of these
techniques, employed on the first-order level, point away from it towards a
higher-order level. TIllis. the utilization of astrology has an individual
referent , the persoll whose horoscope is being set. but its usc implies belief
in magical dimensions of time and in notions of predestination which fit
the first-order beliefs and techniques into a larger, higher-order system of
significa tion.
Burmese peasants 1I0t only believe in nats; they also believe in kan. the
balance of merits and demerits that OIlC accum ulates in the course of one's
life. This balance influences one's standing not only in th is life, but in the
next, and thereafter, in an endless passing of the soul from one body to
anoth er. These merits and demerits. in tum, are defined for the peasant
in verses, tales, and sayings. and associated with the life of the Buddh a who
showed people The \V ay. These ideas are also embodied in ritual formulas
which are recited daily before the altar of the household, a pagoda, or an
image of the Buddha. Again, the peasant is familiar with the monk who is
honored because he is closer to the sacred teachings, and the peasant grants
this honor by gh-ing gifts to monks. Moreover, most peasant boys also
spend some time of their lives as novices or attenda nts in monasteries
which, in Burma. are open to all and where men may share in the monastic
life for short periods or forever, according to the ir d ispositions. Here, then,
we sec how religion may function d ifferently, accord ing to the referent of
the moment, and yet how it can bring these different levels of reference
into relationship. TIIC d istinction between religion. as exemplified in the
treatment of nats and religion as exemplified in the striving for kan is
analytically useful to the anthropologist. but in the life of the peasant
these two aspects of religion interact and interpenetrate.
Althou gh peasant religion and specialist religion intersect, they respond
to different needs and processcs. '111e peasant remains absorbed in thc
requisites of his narrow-gauge social system; the specialist responds to wider
' Manning Nash, "Burmese Buddhism in Everyda y Life," Americdn Anth ropologist.
LXV. No.2 (1963). pp. 285- 295.

PedMntry and the Ideological Order


prom ptings and en visions a wide r social network. It is not that the peasant
is ideologically uncrea tive; he is limited in his creat ivity by his concentration upo n the first order of business, whi ch is to come to term s wit h his
ecosystem and h is fellow-men .
Thus, religious innovation is rarely the work of th e peasantry, and th ere
is frequently a time-lag before peasants adopt the conce pts and ritu als of
an in novat ing religious el ite. H ence, peasant groups often retain traditional
form s of religion, while religious systems of wider scope a rc being built up
and carried outward by the elite. We therefore see tha t the activ ity of
missionaries abroad has a co unterpart in activities at ho me which synchronize th e traditional first-order forms of religion with new h igh er-order und erstandings and te chn iq ues.
Such a process frequently takes the fonn of sy nc retis m, the merg ing of
forms derived from two cult ural sphe res, in thi s case an older cult ural
tradi tion and a more recent one. This process may work unconsciously or
con sciously, as when Po pe Gregor y th e G rea t forwarded a me ssage to St.
Augusti ne in 601 A.D. th at th e pagan tem ples in Brita in
should all no account be destr oyed . lie is to destroy the idols, but the
temples themselves are to be aspersed with holy water, altars set up.
and relics enclosed in them. For if the se tem ples are well-built, they
are to be purified from devil-worship, and dedicated to the service of
the true Co d. In this way, we hope that the people, seeing that its
temples are not destroyed, mar abandon idolatr y and resort to these
places as before, and may come to know and adore the true God.
And since they have a custom of sacrificing many oxen to devils. let
some other solemnity be substitu ted in its place. such as a day of
Dedication or the Festivals of the holy martyrs whose relics are enshrined the re. On such occasions they might well construct shelters of
boughs for themselves around the churches tha t were once temples.
and celebrate the solemnity with devout feasting. The y are no longer
to sacrifice beasts to the Devil. but they may kill them for food to the
praise of Cod , and give thanks to the Giver of all gifts for H is bount y.
If the people are allowed some worldly pleasures in this way, th ey will
more readily come to desire the joys of the spirit. For it is certainly
impossible to eradicate all errors from obstinate minds at one stroke,
and whoever wishes to climb to a mountain top Climbs grad ually step
by step. and not in one leap."
T hus, the Medi terranea n Pers ephone became a Black V irgin Ma ry, the
Azt ec goddess Tonantzin in Mexico was t ransmuted into a C hri stian Vi rgin
of Guadalupe. Sim ilarl y, in Islam the sacred black stone of the ka'aba in
M ecca- center of pilgrimages in t he pattern of Near Eastern sto ne war6 Bede, A History o f the English Church and I'eople, trans. Leo Sherley.Price
[ Han uoudsworth: Penguin Books, 19, , ), pp. 8(,..87.

PelJStJntry lIJId the Ideologicdl O rder


ship-beca me und er Muhammad the cen tral sym bo l of th e Islamic Cod.

The processes involved operate in two directi ons: upward from t he peasantry int o the superordinate religious tradition , and downward from th e
superordina te tradition int o the local one .
M cKim Mariott has shown in a case study of th e Ind ian village of
Kishan C ari 1 tha t th e Sanskrit ic goddess Lakshmi is t he second- or th irdorder counterpa rt of a first -order local goddess, and how th e all-India festival
of C harm -Tying merged with a local fest ival which ma rked th e end of the
ann ual visit of young wives to th eir own fami lies. As the departin g wives
place the locally sacred young shoo ts of barley on the heads and ears of
thei r brothers, so the dom est ic priests t ie on the wrists of their pa tron s
charms in the form of a polych rome thread bea ring tasseled "fruit," TIle
customs have begun to merge, wit h some sisters now tying charm threads
to their brot hers' wrists. Similarly, the widesp read festival of the C owNourisher has acquired homely details which have no justificat ion ill th e
higher-order San skritic myth . T he sacred hill of Krishna in th e myth is
symbolized in each household yard by littl e piles of du ng, and th e ben efits
granted by Krishna to h is worshippe rs upon th e sacred hill are represent ed
by catt le and household ob jects modeled from the feces. l11CSC objects
are made to increase the supply of wealt h of the household , a th eme also
appa ren t in the Cowdung \ Vealth song chan ted the next morn ing before
the ob jects are broken up and used for fuel. But a portion of the cowdung
remaining from the celebration is reserved and reshaped int o a wafer, wh ich
is then contrib uted to a great an nual all-village celebrat ion around a bo nfire in wh ich differences bet ween households are set aside.
In a study of Javanese religion, C lifford C ccrtz 8 has also brought out
th is cont rast between peasant religion and the formulations of the specialist. In Java, the peasant pattern is called abangan. In op posit ion
to it appears prijaji, the religious comp lex of the tradi tional Javanese
warrior-gentry, aiming at spirit ual excellence and esthetic polish . A t hird
religious complex, eantri. the [ava nese form of Islam, is a later in trod uction,
associated primarily ,'
the merchant stratum of Javanese society, but
joined also by the wealth ier peasant ry. The obangan religion has incorporated ani m istic, Hinduist ic, an d Islamic elements, but has focused them
on the perfor ma nce of siametans, or ritual feasts. A slame tan can he given
on almo st any occasion which a ile wishes to improve or sancti fy. It s aim
is to neutralize spirits that threat en d isorder and to restore or create the
sta te of slamet, a state of nondist urban ce or balanc e. Th ey may be offered
1 McKim :o.lariott . "Li ttle Communities in an Ind igenous Civilization,' in V illttge
India: Studies in the Lit tle Com munity. ed . ~ l cKim :o.fariolt ( Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 19 )5 ). pp. 195- 200.
lIC liftmd C.n:rt1., T he Religion of 1<1\a (G k m:OI: : The Free Press, 1960) .

Pe4S4tltry and the Ideological Order


to neu tralize the difficulties of life crises, to cleanse a village of evil spirits,
to celebrate dat es in the Moslem calendar, to counter such irregular events
as illness, or changing residence, or going on a journey. The acts of neutralization arc performed by curers, sorcerers, or ceremonial specialists.
Priil1ji, the religious variant of the traditional town-dwelling gentry, contrasts at evel)' point. W here I1bcmgl11l is concrete, prijl1ji is mystical;
I1bangl1n involves fi rst-order representations, prijl1;i deals in higher-order
sym bolisms. Abangan curing techn iques are paralleled by pri;a;i mystical
practices. Abangan focuses upon the household, pri;a;i upon the ind ividual.
Abangl1n shadow plays feature the deeds of legendary heroes: in pri;l1;i
these plays have a deeper meaning, representing the confl ict between crude
passion and detached, effortless self-control. Abangall involves a concrete
polytheism, pri;aji an abstract and speculative pant heism. W hat is firstorder ritual and symbolism to the peasant seems kasar (crude) to thc aristocrat whose rule is sanctioned by spiritual excellence, as expressed in his
polished control of such art forms as the dance, the shadow play, music,
textile design, etiquette, and language. Yet, altho ugh they are polar opposites, the two religious variants also complement each other as symbolic
statements of a reciprocal social relationship. In contrast to the other two,
the third variant of Javanese religion, santri, emphasizes belief ever ritual,
envisioning participat ion in a still wider social structure, that of the panIslamic religious commu nity of believers, umml1 t.
In this opposition between peasant and sophisticated religion we d iscern
a set of social and ideological tensions running parallel to those which we
uncovered in the economic and social field. In the paleotechnic social
order the peasant is not seen as the religious person par excellence. Rather,
as Max W eber pointed out,' from the point of view of the religious specialist
the peasant tenden cy to apply his religion concretely to the problems of
life is replete with magical crudities, devoid of those ethical rationalizations
and higher-order meanings tov....ards which the ideological specialists strove.
In Hind uism, in Buddhism, in Judaism, in Islam, the coun try-dweller was
religiously suspect. So also in early Ch ristianity, where the mstic, li.. . ing
in the countryside, or pagus, was simply a paganus or pagan, "Even the
offi cial doctrine of medieval churches, as formulated by T homas Aquinas,"
says W eber, "treated the peasant essentially as a Christian of lower rank,
and at best accorded him vcry litt le esteem. The religious glorification
of the peasant and the belief in the special worth of his piety is the
result of a very modem development ." 111a t reversal occurred only with
the advent of the neoteclmic social order, in \....hich the peasant- relegated
to a secondary position and cleaving to his ancestral religion as one of his
Mal: W eber, T he Sociology of ReligioFi ( Boston: Beacon I'rCS$, 1961 ) , pp. 80-84.

re<l.~all ! ry

,md the Ideological Order


de fenses aga inst the ons laught of transformaticn-cwas seen as the t rue believer, in contra st to t he increasingly secularized masses of indu strial
T his very tension between t he religion of t he sophistica ted and the
religion of the peasantry produ ces at tim es a break be tween the two segments. Especially in times of crisis, when commun icat ion bet ween specialists and peasantry grows weak a nd the two groups come to face each ot her
in conflict, the peasant ry ma y prod uce from its concrete first-order ceremonial a simp lified faith in reaction to the overelaborate official version.
Thus, various kind s of " protestant" movemen ts- in the wide sense of " protest ' t-c-have often taken root a mong peaS.1 11tS. Examples a rc the various
millenaria n and protestant sects in Europe since the lat e M iddle Ages, the
pop ular Taoist reaction to Buddhism and Con fucianism in C h ina, the
purifying movements in Islam , t he em ergence of the O ld Believers in prerevolutionary Russia. Simi larl y, the peasantry is capa ble of crystallizing its
"own" religion when depri ved of a n ideological elite. '111is has been done
successfully in the Indian a reas of l\ l iddle Am erica and of the Andes when
the soph isticated religion was destroyed by t he Spania rds; and again in
O recce and Serbia where adherence to Greek Orthodox belief came to be
a sym bol ic bul wa rk against th e Turkish overlords who had destroyed or
dec imated the ind igenous elite. In such cases, we may find the religious
specia lists assimilated in the peasantry itself, eit her in the form of the ceremen ialleader ill Middle America n com m uni ties or, as with G reek O rthod ox
priests, as pea sant s among oth er peasan ts.

Peasant I\ fovcmcnts
Simplified movem ents of protes t amo ng a peasantry frequentl y
center upon a m yth of a social order more just and egalitarian than the
hiera rchical presen t. Such m yths ma)" look backwards, to the re-creation of
a golden age of justice and equa lity in the past, or forwa rd, to the esta blishment of a new order on ea rth, a com plete and revol ution ary cha nge from
exist ing condit ions. Such desires an imated the revolutionary chil iast ic
movemen ts of Europe after the eleventh cen tury, the uprisings of the
Span ish an archists in the ni ne teenth cen tury, th e T aiping rebellion in
C hina du ring the same century, and so fort h. O ften such expectat ions of
a radical reordering of society call mobilize a peasantry, for a t ime, and
lead to a typ ical ;dcquerie. a bloody uprising .
Th e bloodi ness and cruelty of these uprisings has often been remarked
Up O ll , and seems in curious cont radiction to the cvcrvdav life of the pea sant,
which to the outsid e r appc;m to he spent in such docile drudgery nlxlll
the land . Yd . \ l '('11 fro m another pe rspe ctive. such out breaks arc merely

Peasants coming to town

to participate in a politi.
cal rally, Puerto Rico,
1949. Peasant protest
m OH'l1l lin t s can form in
a milieu of organized
political activity, (Photo
by Eric R. W olf.)

occasional open manifestat ions of the latent opposition wh ich divides the
peasan t from those who siphon off his surplus funds. If the peasant will
most often economi cally and ceremonially render unto Caesar that which
is Caesar's, he will also on other occasions show his hostility toward
Caesar's agen ts. We m ust not forget that the peasan t often idolizes, in
song and story, figu res who stand in open defiance of the social order
which he supports with his labor. C haracteristically, these are band its or
qua si-bandit revolutionar y leaders who punish the rich and aid th e poor,
like Robin Ilood in En gland, Diego C orricntcs in Andalusia, Janosik in
Poland and Slovakia, Pancho V illa in M exico, Stcnka Razin in R ussia, or
the bandi ts glorified in Chinese peasan t lore. Such bandits arc champions
of their people; th ey exact revenge or redr ess wrongs; they claim land for
the landless. Yet, characteristically, these aspirations also show their limitetions. F or, as E. J. l lobsbawm has pointed out, such activity, with all of
its violen ce, docs no t aim at a realistic reconstruction of the social order.
It protests not against the fact that peasants arc poor and oppressed,
hu t against the fact that they arc someti mes excessively poor ami op
pressed. Bandit-heroes arc net expec ted to make a world of equality.
T hey call ouly right wrlmgs and prove th,l! souu-tnucs op plcssioll can


Peascmtry lind the Ideological Order


be turned upside down. Beyond that the bandit-hero is merely a dream

of how wonderful it would be if times were always good.w

No r is pea sant millen ialism an y more effective than the ba nd it-heroes.

The emergence of a com mon m yth of transcend ental justice often can and
docs move peasa nts into acti on as other fonns of organization ca nnot, but
it provides only a common vision, no t an organiza tio nal framework for
action . Such myths un ite peasa nts, t hey do not organize them . If sometimes
the peasant band sweeps across the coun t ryside like an avalanche, like an
avalanche, too, it spends itself against resistance and dissolves if adequate
leadersh ip is no t provided from without. Peasant movements, like peasant
coalitions, ale unstable and shift ing align me nts of anta gonistic and au tonomous un its, borne along onl y momenta rily by a m illennial dream.
W here th e power of th e state rem ains intact , there fore, peasant movements a re usually drowned in blood , a nd even if a millen nial dream of
justice persists among t he peasantry, the short-term interest of the indi vidual pea sant inevitably takes preced en ce over an r long-term ends. Halted
in their course and pushed back int o their everyda y conce rns, therefore,
pea sants will qu ickly relapse into qu iescence and pa ssivit y. The corollary
of this sta tement is, however, of great sign ificance for an und ersta nding
of th e present world scene, If the peasantry is not allowed to relapse into
its tra ditional narrow concerns, peasant discon tent can be mobilized to fuel
a revolu tionary insurrection. T his cond ition is met, under mod ern circumsta nces, in cou ntr ies so devasta ted by war tha t th ey experience a b reakdown
of traditional leadershi p and social order.
An example of such a major breakdown in the twentieth century was
th e Russian revolution . Pa rt icipation in \ Vorld \Var I weakened the tradi tional Russian state to the breaking poin t; the failure of the in herited
organ ization of resou rces and of tra diti on al lead ership ba sed on th is organ izatio n of resources ena bled the Co m m un ist party to seize powe r. Granted
power by th e insu rrect ion of the deci ma ted and defeated army, the Communists provided organiza tional alterna tives for a countryside rapidly
dec lining into chaos. A para llel situat ion expla ins the rise to power of
Co mmunist part ies in C hina and Yugoslavia.'! In China, Japa nese aggression worked havoc in th e rural areas, forcing t he peasan t ry to take lip arms
in self-protec tion . At the same time, tradi tiona l leadersh ip either ret reated
into the a rea held by the C hungking government or made its peace with
the Japa nese enem y, th us compromi sing the legitima cy of its rule. This departure or failure of lead ership created a po wer vacuum into whic h Com10 E, J. Hobsbawm, J'ri mitil'll R ebel$: StlJdre, in Archaic Fomlt of Social Mow ment
in tile 19th and 20th (An tllde. ( ~ bnc~tcr: Manchester University Press, 19:;9 ) .
pp. B-2).
II Chalmers .\, Johnson, Pe_ nt Nati onalism and Com mll' lm Power: Th e Emer C" leT of lln ollJtionary C ' liua [Stanfo rd: Stanford Uni\l:rsit)" Pless. 1962) .

Peasanb demQ1lding l<md during the Russian Rnoluti<m. A S4ilor from

the ,'ill<tge dppeah for rdpi d seizure of the landlord', properly. (Soy.
foto .)

rnuu ist leadership could move. \ Vha t this leadersh ip offered the peasantry
was, first, gu idance in resisting the invad ers. and second. patterns of
organization designed to stem the tide of anarchy in the rural areas, so hard
hit by the war. In Yugoslavia. too, a Communist party rose to power und er
similar cond itions of aggression by outs ide invaders-in this case the arm ies
of German)' and Italy-ccou pled wit h a failure of existing leadersh ip .
Returning to t he gu iding point of our discussion, we may put forward
t he hypoth esis th at Comm nnist party organization provid es th e staff of
professional revolutionaries whose entire function is to provide th e longrange strategy of which the peasantry itself is inca pable. O nly under COIlditions of majo r and prolonged social disturbance, however, especially
under conditions of warfare which shake the foundations of the tradit ion al
order beyond repair. is it likely tha t such a revolut ionary gene ral staff will
be ab le to lead a peasan try in th e making of a successful revolution . Th e
Russian and C hinese examp les, however, also indi cate that wh ile such
a revolut ion may be rnadc with the aid of a peasan try. it is not made for
t he sake of peasan try. Such revolutions aim, ultimatel y, at the sub jugation
and tr ansform ation of peasantry into a new kind of sod; 11 grouping.

Selected References
C hapte r On e
Th e best general introduction, in English, to the topic of peasant
studies is Robert Redfield 's Ped&mt Soc:iet}' and Culture (Ch icago:
University of Chicago Press, 19 56 ) . Also of interest is Redfield 's Th e
Litt le Communit,.: V Iewpoints for the Stud)' of a H uman \ V hole
(C hicago: University of C hicago Press. 1955). a technical and philosophical introduction to the problems of community studies.
Four ot her publ ications also provide useful introduct ions:
I. Chua , R ural Communities: Problems, M ethods, and T)'pes o f
R esearch, Reports and Papers in the Social Sciences No. 10 ( Paris:
UNESCO. 1958 ) . an annotated bibliograph y.
Ernestine Friedl, "Studies in Peasant Life: ' in Bienn ial R eview of
Anthropology 1963, cd. Bernard J. Siegel (Stanford: Stanford Universify Press, 1963) .
Clifford Cecr tz., "Studies in Peasant Life: Community and Society,' in Bienn ial Review of Anthropology 1961, 00. Bernard I. Siegel
(Stanford: Stanford Uni versity Press, 1962).
Verne F. Ray, cd., Intermediate Societies, Social M obility, and
Co mmunication. Proceedings of the 19 59 Annual Spring Meeting
of the American Et hnological Society (Seatt le: American Ethnological
Society, 1959 ).
The discussion of surpluses continues to be a long-stand ing argu110

Sd<'ctcrl lt efcre r""tI ~


mcut alllong social scientists on whether it is possible to arrive at

absolute criter ia for the definition of surpluses . Relevant to this discussion arc the papers bv Harry \ V. Pearson, " T he Economy Has
No Surplu s: Critique of A T h eory of Development," in Trade arid
Market in the Early E mpires. cds. Karl Pclanvi, Co nrad M . Arensberg, and Harry \V. Pearson (Glencoe: 111c Free Press, 19 57 ) and
Marvin Harris, "T he Economy l las No Surp lus?" A merican A nthropologist, LXI, No. 2 ( 19 59) .
Th e idea of calori c minimum is well discussed in Fred C ottr ell,
En ergy and Societ}': T ile Relation between Energy, Social Change,
and Economic Develop ment (Ne w York: McGraw-Hill, 19 55) . The
concept of a replacement fund appears ill a yet unpublished pap er
by Mar vin H arris Oil " A T axon omy of Significant Food Surpluses."
111e idea of ceremon ial surpluses is ultimately derived from T horstein
Veblen . It is implicit in h is T he T heory of Business En terprise (New
York: Scribn er's. 1904 ) . It has become a key concept in recen t studies
of cult ural ecology, as ill Marshall D. Sahlins' " C ult ure and Environment : The Study of Cu lt ural Eco logy," in Horizons of A nthropology,
ed. Sol T ax (C hicago: Aldinc Publish ing Co mpa ny, 1964 ) , pp.
141- 142.

C llapter T wo
Anthropologi sts app roach peasant economics, like othe r economic
systems, from two divergen t poin ts of view. 111C first pom t of view,
curren tly associate d with the nam e of Karl Polanyi, denies that the
categories of utility economics can be applied to th e study of non w estern economic systems. In peasant studies, th is p oint of view is
exemplifi ed by Alexander Chaianov (in German, Tschajanofi ] , Di e
Lehre VOII der Baueriicben W irtse/w ft ( Berlin: Patey, 1923) . The
second point of view has bee n expressed by Raymond Firth in h is
M ala}' Fishermen: Th eir Peasant Economy ( London : Kegan Paul,
Tr ench, T rub ner and Co ., 1946 ) and dominates the recen t volume
on Capital, Saving and C redit ill Peasant Societies, eds. Raymond
F irth and Basil S. Yamcv (C hicago: Ald ine Publishing Company,
1964 ) .
Peasant ecotyp cs have received in tensive but scatter ed treat men t.
11lC b ibliograph y on swidde n cultivation is covered by Harold C .
Conkl in in his recent T ile St udy of Slriftillg Cultiva tion, Stu dies and
M onograph s V I, Departmen t of Social Affairs (\ Vashington, D .C .:
Pan American Union , 196 3) . In terest in hydraulic cultivatio n is
associated with the name of Karl A. \Vittfogel. Sec his " The Hydraulic
C ivilizations," in M all's Hole ill Cha nging the Face of the Earth,
cd . \ Villiam L. Thomas, JI. (C hicago: University of C hicago Press,
1956 ) , and h is massive Oriental D espotism (New Haven : Yale Un iversity Press, 19 ; 6 ) . Clifford Geerlz, in Agricultu ral Involution: T he
Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia ( Berkeley' and Los Angeles: Uni versity of California Press, 196 3) , has recentl y compared
the effects of swiddcn cult ivation with h ydraulic agricult ure in Ind onesia. G illes Sautter, "A propos de quelq ues tcrroirs d'A friquc
Occiden tale : Essai comparat if," tudes Humll's, No. 4 ( 1962 ) . l];I s
interesting observatio ns on various rotafioun l syste ms ill E lHo]lc ;HIII
Africa. '111C most easily ;1I';lib h\c hook on :lgricllHl1ml illll)1t'l IJ('n ls
and i':Hr;lsi:l1l grain fanuiug is K C ecil C I1I \\,('II, "lllllgl,
1',, ~t Il Tl '


(Londo n: Cobbett Press, 1946 ) and now available in paperback form

as E. C. Curwcn and G. lIatt , Plough and Pasture!: T he Early History
of Farming (New York: Collier Books AS 96). Doreen Warriner ,
Economics of Peasant Farming ( London: Oxford University Press,
1939 ) and Folke Dovnng, Land and Labor in Europe. 1900- 1950
(The Hague: M . \V. Xijhoff, 1956) arc important cont ributions to
the study of European peasantry.
On the sub ject of d istribution and marketing, see Sydcl F. Silverman, "Some Cult ural Correlates of the Cyclical Market" in Intermediate Societies. Social "'[obility, and Communication, ed. Vern e
F. Ray, Proceed ings of the 1959 Ann ual Spring Meet ing of the Amencan Et hnological Society (Seattle: American Ethnological Society,
19 59 ), and Sidney \V. Mintz, " Internal M arket Systems as Mochanisms of Social Articulation" in the same publicat ion. M intz has
also w-ntt en a paper on " Peasan t Markets," Scientific A merican,
cc m, No. 2 ( 1960 ). Pauline Mahar Kolenda has covered the literature and points of view all pat ron-clientage and occupat ional specialization in India in "Toward a M odel of the Hind u [ajman i
System," Hu man Organization, XXII, N o. 1 ( 1963).
No discussion of types of domain is possible with out reference to
the works of Karl Marx and Max W ebe r. Karl Marx is specifically
concerned with agricult ure and peasantry in Vol. III of his Capital.
Max W eber's T ile T heory of Social and Economic Organization
remains a similar source of inspiration. M arc Bloch's Feudal Societ y
(Chicago: University of Chi cago Press, 1961 ) grants insight int o
feud alism as a type of patron-clien t relations hip while S. N. Eisenstad t's T he Political Svsteme of Empir es (New York: 'DIe Free Press
of Glencoe, 1963) is useful in specifying d imensions of prebendal

Cha pter Th ree

TI1C d istinct ion between family and domestic group, often implicit
in d iscussions of peasantry, has bee n rendered explicit in M eyer Fortes,
" Introduction," in Th e Developmental C ycle in Domestic Group s,
ed. Jack G oody, Camb ridge Papers in Social Anthropology N o. 1
[Ca mbridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958 ) ,
8-9. For m y
discussion of in heritance patterns I have drawn on insights expressed
in II. J. Habakkuk, "Family Structure and Economic Change in Nin eteenth -Cent ury Europe; ' Journal of Economic History, XV, No. 1
( 19 55).
So far the sub ject of peasant social organization has been approached primarily by asking questions about the quality of interpersonal relations in peasant societies. Robert Red field took the position that peasants strive for harmony; George M . Foster and othe rs
argue the point in " Interpersonal Relat ions in Peasan t Society; '
H uman O rganizatioll, XIX, No. 4 ( 1960-61) and XX I, No. I
( 1962).
The following arc useful in thinking about peasant social orgauieation as forms of coalition :
1. On patron-client relatiolls; George M . Foster, " T he Dyadic Contract in Tzintzuntzan, II : Patron-Client Relationship; ' Americdll
Antllropologist, LXV I, No.6 (1963) ; M orton B . Fried, Fabric of
C hinese Society: A Study of tile Social Life of a C hinese Coun ry Seat


(New York : Frederick A. Praegcr. 1953) ; Michael Kenn y. " Patte rns
of Patronage in Spain," AntllTopological Quarterly, XXXII I, No. I
2. O il corporate communities: Eric R. \ Volf, "Typ es of Lat in
American Peasan try: A Prelim inary D iscussion," A merican Anthropologist, LV II. No. 3 (195) ) and " Closed Corporate Peasan t Commu nit ies in M esoam erica and C en tral Java," Sou thweste rn JOl/m al
of A nthropolog}'. XIII , No . 1 (1957). Sec also Lazar Volin, " TIlC
Peasant Household under th e M ir and the Kholkoz in M odern Russian History," in T he C ult ural Approach to H istory, cd. Caroline
W are (New York: Columbia Un iversity Press, 1940 ) , on such comm unities i ll Russia, and Andre Latron, La vie rurale e ll Syrie cr (Ill
Liban (Bcyrouth. Mcmoires de l' Inst itut Francais de Damas, 1936 )
for a discussion of 1II11sha' a.
3. 011 descent groups: the strategic paper has been M orton II.
Fried, "111e Classifi cati on of Corporate Unili ncal Descent Gro ups,"
Journal of the R oyal Ant hropological I nstitute, LXXXVII , Part I
(1957 ) . Of specific interest for China arc Hsiao-T ung Fci, " Peasantry
an d Gentry: An Interpretation of Ch inese Social Structure and Its
Changes," American TournaI of Sociology, LII, No . 1 (1946) and
Maurice Freed man, U lleage O rgallization ill Scutheastem C hina,
London School of Economics M onographs on Social Anthropology,
No. 18 ( London: Athlone Press, 19 58 ) .
4. T he study of associations is still in its infancy. Hit herto it has
consis ted largely of erecting logical classifications. Here " T he Replicate Social Structure" by Robert T . Anderson and Gallatin Anderson,
South western [ournai of A nth ropology, XV III , No . 4 (196 2). breaks
new ground by emp husiaing associations as adaptive mechanisms.
Chap ter Four
Anthropological studies of religion have not kept pace with studies
of other aspects of society. T his is true also of thc study of peasant
religions. An exception is the study of T he Religion of [ava by Clifford
C eertz (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1960) which draws theoretical inspiration largely from Max W eber. A recent issue of the TOllrJlal of
Asian Studies, XXIII (June 1964 ) , deals with " Aspects of Religion in
Sout heast Asia." 'I11e work of Fred Gearing on religion in CH'eec
promises to break new ground.
Various stud ies of millenarianism ha ve appeared in recen t }T;l I S,
not ably \ Vilhclm E. Muhlmann, cd., Ciuiiasmus und Nuiivismus
(Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1961) and Sylvia L. Thmpp . rd., I\1dh'w ti,"
Dreams in Action, Compa rat ive St udies in Society and Il istol/ ', Sill'
plcmcnt II (T he Hague: M ou ton and Co., 1962 ) . E. J. 1 10 ], ' >.1 \\ '111 ' .
Primi tive Rebels: Studies ill A rchaic Forms of Socia! I\11lI'l'ttw,,' 111
the 19th and 20th C enturies (M anchester: !\{;llIclle, !n Ull i \ l l ~il l'
Press, 19 59 ) is an outstand ing contribu tion to tile , l lll l~' of I" ,1_,11I 1
movement s. On the Russian peasant under Sovid l il l I' \1 '1' N II I" oI,1l
P. Vakar, T he T aproot of Soviet Societ y: TIll' 111I/1<11'1 tll Huu i,,'.
Peasant Cultu re Upon the Soviet Stelt<' ( New \' ,'Il l 11 ,111" I '1111 1
Broth ers, 1961 ) . For insight into the impact (I f ( ; l l i l ll '~" 1 " 111111111 111111
on the Chinese peasant, I am indebted to AII'x,ulIln 1':1 h l " IlI ' . ' "Ill,
coming I nternal T rade alld Economic l k w /"lm" 'uI ttl ( :"' H " IIH1 i ~'
C hi"a (New York: MeGrawllill, to he p ll hl i ~ l l l'l l ) .

Abegglen , James G ., 7l n
Abel, Wilhelm, 6n, 9n, 31n,
44", 7 1..

Adams, Richa rd N ., 62
Administr ative do main, S7-S 8
Agricult ural Revolutio n, 19-20,
Agriculture: anima l domesticatio n, 4 ; collec tive farming, 93 -94 ~ d raft plow, 2932; eco no mic aspects, 18- S9 ;
and industr ialization , 12, 36;
int roduct ion of ch emistry,
35; labor for ce, 6S-66 ;
" mixed" far ming, 37; neotechnic , 7 1; relation to
peasan try, 2, 3, 36, 4S-48
Ande rso n, Gallatin , 84
Anderson , Re bert T., 83-84
Association , 83-84
Barn es, John A., 4 1
Beals, Ralph , 7"
Bede, 103"

Bobek, Hans, SSII

Braid wood , Robert J ., 2911

Buck, Pearl, 68
Budd hism, 101-102, 106

City, develo pment of, 10-12

Clan, organization of, 88- 89
Closed co rpo rate com munities,

Caloric minima , 4-6

Ca rnei ro, Robert L., 6..
C aste system, 38-39, 90 (u r
also Coalitio ns)
Crremonial : in closed co rpo rate communities, 86:
facto rs in, 96-99; festivities,
98~99; function s, S3, 9799;
through , 98, 107 ~ rein forcement of, 64, 69
Ceremoni al f und , 7- 9
Chaia nov, A. V., 14
Chi na: adm inistrative dom ain,
S1, S8; coali tions, 88-t19,
90, 9 1; extended family , 61,
67, 68; hyd raulic c ultivation , 28, 29; inheritance,
74-7S: prebendal dom ain,
SI : rise of Communisl
part y, 93, 94, 108- 109

Co alitions, 81-9S , 99; man ystran ded, 81, 84- 89: singlestra nded , 8 1, 82-84; tensions
in, 99 ; types, 8 1, 9Q-9 1,
rab/r, 9 1
Ccc, Mich ael, IOn
Collective farms, S8, 93-94
Commu nist party, rise to
po wer, 108-1 09
Co mp lementa ry goods and
ser vices, 38-39, 40-4 S
Conjugal family, see Nu clear
fa mily
Co nklin, Harold c., 23n
ceueu. Fred , 28n
Cowgill, Ursula A. , 2311, 2S1I
Crist, Raymond E ., 26/1
Cro p rotat ion, 3S
Cul tivators:
peasant disti ngu ished from pri mitive, 10:
relation to craf t speci alist ,
8- 9; relation 10 nucl ear

86 , 89-90, 93


C ultivators (COf" . )
fa mily, 71- 12 ; relat ion 10
r uler s, 4, I I; replacem en t
fun d , 5-6: ru ra l, I , 2, 3;
size of labo r fo rce, 65-66
Dairy farm ing, 36-37
lXbt titles. 55
Descent groups , 87- 89, 90, 94
Division of labo r: bet ween
c uhiv arors and rulers, 4 ;
in domC'S tic gro up, 66 ; in
intensified eullivatton. 72;
intracomm unity, 38; j4 jma,,;
system, 39; in J at ceste,
38-39; a nd la nd scarci ty,
72 ; in med ieval time>, 39;
to meet cere monial cos ts, 8;
in nuclea r families, 7 1- 73 ;
in zad ruga, 38, 66
Do main. t ype$, 49-59, 74-7$
D r aft plow, 29-32
Du mont. Re~, 21'1
D unn, Stepbt'n P., 46n, 67"
Dy ad ic relatton s, 6 1 ~ 5 , 12411 ;
ce remon ial u suppo rt, 97
Ecolo lY, 74, 75
Eco no mic: structure, 13- 16,
70-73, 77; competition , 46;
fa mily as su pport. 61, 6970; influences on, 56, 62~ 3,
66 , 76, 82, 117; pea sa nt
hostility to ward . 107; pe as
ant's ro le, 12-1 6, 18- 59, 76,
107; primitive 3-4; relationships withi n, 16, 4 1-42.
100- 101; rise of wealt hy
pe asants, 16; surplu ses, 4-6.
24, 48-5 0
Ecot ype : defined, 19; kinds of.
19- 20 ; labo r requirements.
neol h nic,
3$- 37;
20 ;
pa lcotec h nic. 19- 34; pre ssu res resultin g from , 77
Eurasian gra in farm in g. 21.
Eur ope : assoc i. tto n, 83; coalitio ns. 19, 90. 9 1; inheritance, 75; med ieval (see
Medieval Eur ope ); mcr ca nl ile do main. $4, 55, $6;
"protestant "
mov emen ts,
E~ c h a nge networks , 9
Extended family: break down
into nuc lear falOll y, 70-7 1;
cere monial in, 66-67. 70;
circu mst ances fa vo rab le to,
65-67 ; defi" ed , 61 ; development of , 65- 73; dyad ic
relati ons in, 64, 65; 0no mic ad vantages , 61-68;

Extended fa mily ( em, '.)

food supp ly as facto r, 6566 ; as mean. of avo idi ng
partiuon, 67; rule of inbe ntance, 61; sod aliza lion
in, 69- 70; tensions. 6&--10
l' a lJo winl systems, 20-2 1. 36
f am ily types, 61- 73 ( see "lio
Exte nd ed family, N uclear
fa mily )
Fei, Hsiao- Tung, 211" . 3M . 4546, 52n, f>lj"
fnt ivities,98-99
Food, productio n, 3, 4, 13-14,
20; effect of ad minir.tra tive
do main, 57; factor s influend nll:. 15- 16 ; relatio nship to ag ricultura l inst ruments , 29-30; o f swidde n
systems. 24
Food su pply. 65
Fo rde . C. DaryU. 23"
Fo ur astif . Jean, 5"
frankf ort . Ifenri. IOn
fried, Mo rton H., 94'1
Fund of power , 10
Fund of profit, 48
Fun d o f rent, 10, 48. 86

India (eom .)
surpluses, 4'1;

t ~ lI, i "n ' .



Ind ust rial Re volution , 12. 35

I nd ust raliza tion ; etrect of mer
cantile domain, 57; influ
ence on agriculture. 36;
influence o n di vision of
labo r. 72; influo;: nce o n
pe asantry. 72- 73; relat ion
to inherita nce, 76--17: relanon to la nd ref orm. 93
In field-.outfield syste ms, 2 1
I nhe ritanc:e. 67. 7.J- 77
Inte res( rates , 55-56
Ja ;m"" i, syste m, 39, 40, 48, 89
J at (ca sle ). 38_39, 89- 90
J ayewa rdena. Chandra . 62..
Johnson. Ch al mers A. l08n
J ohnson. D. Gal e . 58"
Kelly, Isao..l, 23'1. 25"
Kenny. Michael, 87
Khalap ur , 68---{)9
Kinship co alitio ns. 87- 89
K olk llOl . 57, 113
I .. bor: eco type

Gea ring. Fr ed . 98
Gee rtz, a ilfor d . 29" . 104
Good Ear/h , T ht:, 6./1
G ou ro u, Pio;:rre , 23"
G rain farming. Em ;l, i,m , 2 1,
G ravd . Pierr e. IOn
Gualema la ; dyad ic relatio ns,
62. 64 ; migra tory wo rk ers.
46; pcaunt. in. 14; .wid_
de n system, 20, 23
Gu erra y SAnchez , Ramino . 12,r
G uiter as-Hotmes. C'ali ~ ta , 7"
lI obabawn. E. J. 107
Hom ans. George. 4611. 52. 53
Hor izuntal coalitio ns, 8 1-86.

Ho rticult ure, specialized. 36

Household. 9 1, 97- 9\1
H ydraulic cultivatio n, 21, 23,
25- 30, 56
Ideo logy . 96-109; defi....d . 96 :
functions 96; maral signi ficance. 96-97: rel igion as.
100. 105
Im part ib k inheritance, 73-77
India : cil io;:s. II ; co alitions, 89.
90, 9 1; di vision of labor ,
38-40; re li ~ i on . 10 1. 104;

20. 32-34 ; Eurasian grai n
b rmin. 30: in h yd ra ulic
cultivatio n. 28-29; inheritan ce system, 76
Land : availability of, 74, 86;
paue rns of in her itance , 76 ;
", pea."llnt &oal, 92; sca rcity
of, 30. 70-72
I.and refo rm, II)
La tin America ; fri end ship ties,
115; inheri tance, 75; p atrimo nial domain. 54; Sur_
pluses, 79-!IO
Le ach , Edm und , 24
Len in, Vladim ir I., 92
u . lie, Ch arl es M . 99"
te.... is. Osc ar. 23.. . 25n, 28'1,

linto n. Ralp h . 64
Lystad , Roben A., 25"
M aine. Sir Henry, 53
M alino wslr.i, Bronislaw. 3
Manystra nded coaliti<Hl' . 81.
Mariot! , McKim. l i n, 104
Mar kets. networ k, 4 1-411
M ark ets, sectional, 40-4 1, 4243.46, 411
Mar ket system, 44-411. H. ~ ~
M an isln. 92- II.1

M" rt if'''..n l " nit. to2

" Bln

Med ie va l Eu rope: division o f

labo r, 38-4 0; patrimoni al
do mai n, H-:l4; price f111Ctuation s, 43....45; su rpluses ,

Mediterr anean n:Olype. 32-33

Mercantile domain, H -H
Mu ican Revo lution, 93
Middle Americ a : coa lilio ns,
90-91; develo pmen t
civilil alion. 11; religion ,
106; rioe of wt'althy peasants , 16; sectional ma rkelS,

Miv atory worke rs, 46

Millio n, Ren~ , 2611
Minturn, Leigh, 69n
Mintz, Sidne y W., I2n.41n
M i, orlCani,ation, 18. 86
" Mh ed farming," 31
M usltl1'a tenur e, 19, 86, 90
Nash , J uno
Nas h, Mannin lO' 102"
Nal s, 102
Neale, Walt er C., 49n
Nea r East : coa litions , 86, 90,
9 1; inheritance , 75; religion,
103- 104; r"ot ca pitalism,
Nectechmc ecotype, 35-31;
definrd , 19; elleu o n peas.
anu )', 36; relatio n to Indust rial Revolutio n, 35;
rela tion to inheritance. 77;
as res ull o f Med iterr anean
ecorype. 32; type<; of. ~Il

NroI c<:hnic farm . 71
Network markC'l' , 41-48. 82.
Nimkoll. M. F., 65n
Norfolk sys!em, 3S
Nuc lear fa mily : dt!fi~d, 61:
development o f, 65- 13: and
divi<ion of labor, 72; dyads
in, 61-65: econom ic ad_
vantages, 67-68: efl'ecl o f
coa litio ns on , 82; emergence
from extended fa mily, 71;
'OCiali,al ion 70; lensioM,

P aleotech nic eccty pe. 19- 34,

77: cha racte ristics, 19- 20;
Eur asian grain farming, 3034: hyd raulic cu ltivation,
25-30; livestoc k and c rop
raising under, 31: relation
to co alitions , 86: rco rgani, at ion of. 58-59; since First

Paleoeechmc ecctype (co n t. )

Av icultural Revolulio n,1 920; swidde n system, 20-25
Pak rm, AJl&('I, 23n, 2Sn, 29n
Partible inheritance, 13, 74-11
Patrimoni al domain. 50-5 9, 75
Palronait' ripts, 94--95
Peasa nts: a&ricultural aspecl$,
2, 3, 36. 45-48, 92; coali(su
compari'lion with primitives,
1-4 , 10; economic aspects,
12- 16, Ii- 59, 76, 107; ideolollY of, 96--108; politic al
as pects, 24, 26, 56-H. 77,
8H 7, 92-93: rd iIPon of ,
16, 99, 100-1 06; revolu tio nary movements, 91-95,
106-109: social as pects, 2,
3, 13- 14, 17, 51-54, 65- 13,
Pfeiffer, neurnec. 30
Pill- Rivers, J ulian, 86'1
Plow, 29-3 4, 36
Po lanyi, Karl, 53
Political structu re : coalitions
in, 86-87; effect of Man ism, 92-93; and hyd raulic
cullintion, 26: of p atrimonial domain , 50; of
prebe ndal dom ain , 51; pressures on peasan tr)', 17; and
reru ca pitalism, 56-57; and
swidden Iystems, 24
Population : effect of hydr aulic
cultivation. 28-30; pressures resultinC fr om excess,
77; relation to agriculture,
30, 31; rel alion 10 land refo.m.91
P,ntik , 41, 83
Prebendal dom ain , SO-59; 74-


RUMia: ad ministralive dom ain,

51; coa litio ns, 86; eastward mo vemen t, 34; pos ilion in /'1120, 92; rise of
Co mmunoo, 93. 108-1 09
RUS&ian Revolution. 108
Sah lins, ~hrshall D . 1
Sectional ma, 40-46
Sin&leslranded coalitions, 8182,83-84
Smith, Raymond, 61
Social structure, 2-4, 12- 14.
16- 17, 51-5 4, 65-73; ceremonial, 16, 98, 99; coal itio ns, 82, 89-92; dom ain,
50-59; eco nomic aspects,
16,4 1; inheritance, 74: lan d
refo rm, 93- 95; lord-pea sant
relations, 51-53: peasant
hostilily, 107; pressures o n
peasant, 17; religion, 100101, 105
Sm'khnz , 58, 93
Stein , William W., 8'1
Surp luses, 4-6, 7- 10, 24, 30,
Swanson, G uy, 99
Swidden systems, 20-25
Syncre tism, 10)...104
T ex. Sol, 7n, 14
Tensions, 68-70. 96-99.105
Thoma, Har old B., 15n
Thru pp, Sylvia L . 54n
Thumwlld. Richard. 2611
Tom asK.'! . Din k.o. 38n
Tm Orllan iution, 8l-ll9

Prim itives, 2-4, 10
"PrOlCSla nt" mo"" ments, 106

\ 'an Bath, Bern. rd , 31n

Vertical coalitions. 81, 82-81.
von Heine-Gejdern, Roben. 14n

Reference croups, 46, 41

Religion , 16, 99, 100-106;
cha racte ristics of peasan t,
99; " prot estant" movements
in, 106: rol e of ceremonial ,
96-99; role of specialist ,
100-101: sync retism, 103106; tension as element,
105- 106
Rent , 9-10, 51, 76
Rent ca pilalism, 55-57
Replacement fund, 5-6
Revo lulion ary mo vemen ts, 9195. 106-110
Rice cuhlvetlc n, 26, 27-28, 88
Ritual. 98- 99. 101

Wanerius, Joh an n, 35
Weber , Max, 51, l OS
Whiting, l oh n W. 69"
Willey, Gordon R., I On
Wilson, l ohn A. , IOn
WiUfogel, Ka rl, 74
Wolf, Eric R., I2n, 86n
Women, 46, 68-69, 7J
Wood hu ry. Rich ard B., 26n
Ya nl!, Martin, 75, 88"
Yunn an, ho rticultu re in. 36