In the mid-1930s the Mexican government expropriated millions of acres of land from hundreds of U.S. property owners as part of President Lázaro Cárdenas’s land redistribution program. Because no compensation was provided to the Americans a serious crisis, which John J. Dwyer terms “the agrarian dispute,” ensued between the two countries. Dwyer’s nuanced analysis of this conflict at the local, regional, national, and international levels combines social, economic, political, and cultural history. He argues that the agrarian dispute inaugurated a new and improved era in bilateral relations because Mexican officials were able to negotiate a favorable settlement, and the United States, constrained economically and politically by the Great Depression, reacted to the crisis with unaccustomed restraint. Dwyer challenges prevailing arguments that Mexico’s nationalization of the oil industry in 1938 was the first test of Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy by showing that the earlier conflict over land was the watershed event.
Dwyer weaves together elite and subaltern history and highlights the intricate relationship between domestic and international affairs. Through detailed studies of land redistribution in Baja California and Sonora, he demonstrates that peasant agency influenced the local application of Cárdenas’s agrarian reform program, his regional state-building projects, and his relations with the United States. Dwyer draws on a broad array of official, popular, and corporate sources to illuminate the motives of those who contributed to the agrarian dispute, including landless fieldworkers, indigenous groups, small landowners, multinational corporations, labor leaders, state-level officials, federal policymakers, and diplomats. Taking all of them into account, Dwyer explores the circumstances that spurred agrarista mobilization, the rationale behind Cárdenas’s rural policies, the Roosevelt administration’s reaction to the loss of American-owned land, and the diplomatic tactics employed by Mexican officials to resolve the international conflict.
Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village deals with a Taráscan Indian village in southwestern Mexico which, between 1920 and 1926, played a precedent-setting role in agrarian reform. As he describes forty years in the history of this small pueblo, Paul Friedrich raises general questions about local politics and agrarian reform that are basic to our understanding of radical change in peasant societies around the world. Of particular interest is his detailed study of the colorful, violent, and psychologically complex leader, Primo Tapia, whose biography bears on the theoretical issues of the "political middleman" and the relation between individual motivation and socioeconomic change. Friedrich's evidence includes massive interviewing, personal letters, observations as an anthropological participant (e.g., in fiesta ritual), analysis of the politics and other village culture during 1955-56, comparison with other Taráscan villages, historical and prehistoric background materials, and research in legal and government agrarian archives.
A comprehensive, original, and innovative analysis of the social, economic, and political factors affecting contemporary Russian reform, the book is organized around the central question of the role of the state and its effect on the course of Russian agrarian reform. In the wake of the collapse of the USSR, contemporary conventional wisdom holds the the Russian state is “weak.” Stephen Wegren feels that the traditional approach to the weak/strong state suffers from measurement and circular logic problems, believing that the Russian state, thought weaker than in its Soviet past, is still relatively stronger than other actors. The state’s strength allows it to intervene in the rural sector in ways that other power contender cannot.
Specifically, as a measure of state intervention, Wegren analyzes how the state has influenced urban-rural relations, rural-rural relations, and the nonstate (private) agricultural sector. Several dilemmas arose that have complicated successful agrarian reform as a result of the nature of state interventions, how reform policies were defined, and the incentives rhar arose from state-sponsored policies. During contemporary Russian agrarian reform, urban-rural differences have widened, marked by a deterioration in rural standards of living and increased alienation of rural political groups from urban alliances. At the same time, within the rural sector, reform failed to reverse rural egalitarianism. In addition, the nature of state interventions has undermined attempts to create a vibrant, productive private rural sector based on private farming.
Wegren’s research is based upon extensive field work, interviews, archival documents, and published and unpublished source material conducted over a six-year period, and he demonstrates the link between agrarian reform and the success of overall reform in Russia. This learned and often controversial volume will interest political scientists, policy makers, and scholars and students of contemporary Russia.
The Arrernte people of Central Australia first encountered Europeans in the 1860s as groups of explorers, pastoralists, missionaries, and laborers invaded their land. During that time the Arrernte were the subject of intense curiosity, and the earliest accounts of their lives, beliefs, and traditions were a seminal influence on European notions of the primitive. The first study to address the Arrernte’s contemporary situation, Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past also documents the immense sociocultural changes they have experienced over the past hundred years.
Employing ethnographic and archival research, Diane Austin-Broos traces the history of the Arrernte as they have transitioned from a society of hunter-gatherers to members of the Hermannsburg Mission community to their present, marginalized position in the modern Australian economy. While she concludes that these wrenching structural shifts led to the violence that now marks Arrernte communities, she also brings to light the powerful acts of imagination that have sustained a continuing sense of Arrernte identity.
In Before the Flood Jacob Blanc traces the protest movements of rural Brazilians living in the shadow of the Itaipu dam—the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, local communities facing displacement took a stand against the military officials overseeing the dam's construction, and in the context of an emerging national fight for democracy, they elevated their struggle for land into a referendum on the dictatorship itself. Unlike the broader campaign against military rule, however, the conflict at Itaipu was premised on issues that long predated the official start of dictatorship: access to land, the defense of rural and indigenous livelihoods, and political rights in the countryside. In their efforts against Itaipu and through conflicts among themselves, title-owning farmers, landless peasants, and the Avá-Guarani Indians articulated a rural-based vision for democracy. Through interviews and archival research—including declassified military documents and the first-ever access to the Itaipu Binational Corporation—Before the Flood challenges the primacy of urban-focused narratives and unearths the rural experiences of dictatorship and democracy in Brazil.
Winner, James Deetz Book Award (Society for Historical Archaeology)
Biography of a Hacienda is a many-voiced reconstruction of events leading up to the Mexican Revolution and the legacy that remains to the present day. Drawing on ethnohistorical, archaeological, and ethnographic data, Elizabeth Terese Newman creates a fascinating model of the interplay between the great events of the Revolution and the lives of everyday people.
In 1910 the Mexican Revolution erupted out of a century of tension surrounding land ownership and control over labor. During the previous century, the elite ruling classes acquired ever-increasingly large tracts of land while peasants saw their subsistence and community independence vanish. Rural working conditions became so oppressive that many resorted to armed rebellion. After the war, new efforts were made to promote agrarian reform, and many of Mexico’s rural poor were awarded the land they had farmed for generations.
Weaving together fiction, memoir, and data from her fieldwork, Newman reconstructs life at the Hacienda San Miguel Acocotla, a site located near a remote village in the Valley of Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico. Exploring people’s daily lives and how they affected the buildup to the Revolution and subsequent agrarian reforms, the author draws on nearly a decade of interdisciplinary study of the Hacienda Acocotla and its descendant community. Newman’s archaeological research recovered information about the lives of indigenous people living and working there in the one hundred years leading up to the Mexican Revolution.
Newman shows how women were central to starting the revolt, and she adds their voices to the master narrative. Biography of a Hacienda concludes with a thoughtful discussion of the contribution of the agrarian revolution to Mexico’s history and whether it has succeeded or simply transformed rural Mexico into a new “global hacienda system.”
In Challenging Social Inequality, an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars and development workers explores the causes, consequences, and contemporary reactions to Brazil's sharply unequal agrarian structure. They focus on the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST)—Latin America's largest and most prominent social movement—and its ongoing efforts to confront historic patterns of inequality in the Brazilian countryside. Several essays provide essential historical background for understanding the MST. They examine Brazil's agrarian structure, state policies, and the formation of rural civil-society organizations. Other essays build on a frequently made distinction between the struggle for land and the struggle on the land. The first refers to the mobilization undertaken by landless peasants to demand government land redistribution. The struggle on the land takes place after the establishment of an official agricultural settlement. The main efforts during this phase are geared toward developing productive and meaningful rural communities. The last essays in the collection are wide-ranging analyses of the MST, which delve into the movement's relations with recent governments and its impact on other Brazilian social movements. In the conclusion, Miguel Carter appraises the future of agrarian reform in Brazil.
Contributors. José Batista Gonçalves Afonso, Sonia Maria P..P. Bergamasco, Sue Branford, Elena Calvo-González, Miguel Carter, Horacio Martins de Carvalho, Guilherme Costa Delgado, Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, Leonilde Sérvolo de Medeiros, George Mészáros, Luiz Antonio Norder, Gabriel Ondetti, Ivo Poletto, Marcelo Carvalho Rosa, Lygia Maria Sigaud, Emmanuel Wambergue, Wendy Wolford
In 1994 the Zapatista rebellion brought international attention to the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Neil Harvey combines ten years of field work in Chiapas with extensive historical and political research to provide a comprehensive history of conflict in this region and a nuanced analysis of this rural uprising against federal bureaucracy and landed elites. Beginning with an exploration of the history of ethnic and class conflict in Chiapas since the Conquest, Harvey moves specifically to trace the development of peasant and indigenous organizations in Chiapas since the early 1970s. He compares the struggles for agrarian rights of three grassroots movements facing hostility from both local elites and federal bureaucrats. His examination of the complexities of political change in Chiapas includes the impact of neoliberal economic policies, the origins of the Zapatista army of National Liberation (EZLN), and the political impact of the rebellion itself. Engaging with current theoretical debates on the role and significance of social movements in Mexico and Latin America, Harvey focuses on the primacy of political struggle and on the importance of these movements in the construction and meaning of citizenship. While suggesting that the Zapatista revolution has heightened awareness among the people of Chiapas of such democratic issues as ethnicity, gender, and land distribution, he concludes with an analysis of the obstacles to peace in the region today. This unprecedented study of the Zapatista rebellion will provoke discussion among students and scholars of contemporary Mexico, political science, Latin American studies, history, sociology, and anthropology.
This is an examination of the broader context for the re-emergence of land reform and resource conflicts in Africa. Efforts to change the race based systems of land ownership and land tenure in Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have pushed land issues to the forefront of social and economic discourses in Africa. This collection examines the broader context for the re-emergence of land reform and resource conflicts.
The case studies examine the links between identity maintenance, tenurial changes, state intervention, and forms and modes of conflict. The authors emphasize the need for a deeper understanding of local histories, cultures, and motivations if efforts to attain a more just distribution of resources are to succeed. The book contributes to a field that has been developing rapidly in the decade since the publication of Melissa Leach and Robin Mearns' collection The Lie of the Land and Mahmood Mamdani's Citizen and Subject. Those two books started a wide ranging discussion of the political reasons for failed development in Africa, as well as the environmental and natural resource dimensions of that failure.
Until now, very little about the recent history of the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group, has been available to English-language readers. Courage Tastes of Blood helps to rectify this situation. It tells the story of one Mapuche community—Nicolás Ailío, located in the south of the country—across the entire twentieth century, from its founding in the resettlement process that followed the military defeat of the Mapuche by the Chilean state at the end of the nineteenth century. Florencia E. Mallon places oral histories gathered from community members over an extended period of time in the 1990s in dialogue with one another and with her research in national and regional archives. Taking seriously the often quite divergent subjectivities and political visions of the community’s members, Mallon presents an innovative historical narrative, one that reflects a mutual collaboration between herself and the residents of Nicolás Ailío.
Mallon recounts the land usurpation Nicolás Ailío endured in the first decades of the twentieth century and the community’s ongoing struggle for restitution. Facing extreme poverty and inspired by the agrarian mobilizations of the 1960s, some community members participated in the agrarian reform under the government of socialist president Salvador Allende. With the military coup of 1973, they suffered repression and desperate impoverishment. Out of this turbulent period the Mapuche revitalization movement was born. What began as an effort to protest the privatization of community lands under the military dictatorship evolved into a broad movement for cultural and political recognition that continues to the present day. By providing the historical and local context for the emergence of the Mapuche revitalization movement, Courage Tastes of Blood offers a distinctive perspective on the evolution of Chilean democracy and its rupture with the military coup of 1973.
Cárdenas Compromised is a political and institutional history of Mexico’s urban and rural labor in the Yucatán region during the regime of Lázaro Cárdenas from 1934 to 1940. Drawing on archival materials, both official and popular, Fallaw combines narrative, individual case studies, and focused political analysis to reexamine and dispel long-cherished beliefs about the Cardenista era. For historical, geographical, and ethnic reasons, Yucatán was the center of large-scale land reform after the Mexican Revolution. A long-standing revolutionary tradition, combined with a harsh division between a powerful white minority and a poor, Maya-speaking majority, made the region the perfect site for Cárdenas to experiment by launching an ambitious top-down project to mobilize the rural poor along ethnic and class lines. The regime encouraged rural peasants to form collectives, hacienda workers to unionize, and urban laborers to strike. It also attempted to mobilize young people and women, to challenge Yucatán’s traditional, patriarchal social structure, to reach out to Mayan communities, and to democratize the political process. Although the project ultimately failed, political dialogue over Cárdenas’s efforts continues. Rejecting both revisionist (anti-Cárdenas) and neopopulist (pro-Cárdenas) interpretations, Fallaw overturns the notion that the state allowed no room for the agency of local actors. By focusing on historical connections across class, political, and regional lines, Fallaw transforms ideas on Cardenismo that have long been accepted not only in Yucatán but throughout Mexico. This book will appeal to scholars of Mexican history and of Latin American state formation, as well as to sociologists and political scientists interested in modern Mexico.
Fifty years of violence perpetrated by guerrillas, paramilitaries, and official armed forces in Colombia displaced more than six million people. In 2011, as part of a larger transitional justice process, the Colombian government approved a law that would restore land rights for those who lost their homes during the conflicts. However, this restitution process lacked appropriate provisions for rural women beyond granting them a formal property title.
Drawing on decades of research, Elusive Justice demonstrates how these women continue to face numerous adverse circumstances, including geographical isolation, encroaching capitalist enterprises, and a dearth of social and institutional support. Donny Meertens contends that women's advocacy organizations must have a prominent role in overseeing these transitional policies in order to create a more just society. By bringing together the underresearched topic of property repayment and the pursuit of gender justice in peacebuilding, these findings have broad significance elsewhere in the world.
The rural labor movement played a surprisingly active role in Brazil’s transition to democracy in the 1980s. While in most Latin American countries rural labor was conspicuously marginal, in Brazil, an expanded, secularized, and centralized movement organized strikes, staged demonstrations for land reform, demanded political liberalization, and criticized the government’s environmental policies.
In this ground-breaking book, Anthony W. Pereira explains this transition as the result of two intertwined processes - the modernization of agricultural production and the expansion of the welfare state into the countryside - and explores the political consequences of these processes, occurring not only in Latin America but in much of the Third World.
Winner, 2023 Susan Socolow-Lyman Johnson Book Prize
Fields of Revolution examines the second largest case of peasant land redistribution in Latin America and agrarian reform—arguably the most important policy to arise out of Bolivia’s 1952 revolution. Competing understandings of agrarian reform shaped ideas of property, productivity, welfare, and justice. Peasants embraced the nationalist slogan of “land for those who work it” and rehabilitated national union structures. Indigenous communities proclaimed instead “land to its original owners” and sought to link the ruling party discourse on nationalism with their own long-standing demands for restitution. Landowners, for their part, embraced the principle of “land for those who improve it” to protect at least portions of their former properties from expropriation. Carmen Soliz combines analysis of governmental policies and national discourse with everyday local actors’ struggles and interactions with the state to draw out the deep connections between land and people as a material reality and as the object of political contention in the period surrounding the revolution.
In The Geographies of Social Movements Ulrich Oslender proposes a critical place perspective to examine the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia's Pacific Coast region. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in and around the town of Guapi, Oslender examines how the work of local community councils, which have organized around newly granted ethnic and land rights since the early 1990s, is anchored to space and place. Exploring how residents' social relationships are entangled with the region's rivers, streams, swamps, rain, and tides, Oslender argues that this "aquatic space"—his conceptualization of the mutually constitutive relationships between people and their rain forest environment—provides a local epistemology that has shaped the political process. Oslender demonstrates that social mobilization among Colombia's Pacific Coast black communities is best understood as emerging out of their place-based identity and environmental imaginaries. He argues that the critical place perspective proposed accounts more fully for the multiple, multiscalar, rooted, and networked experiences within social movements.
Winner of the 2001 President’s Award of the Social Science History Association
In the Shadows of State and Capital tells the story of how Ecuadorian peasants gained, and then lost, control of the banana industry. Providing an ethnographic history of the emergence of subcontracting within Latin American agriculture and of the central role played by class conflict in this process, Steve Striffler looks at the quintessential form of twentieth-century U.S. imperialism in the region—the banana industry and, in particular, the United Fruit Company (Chiquita). He argues that, even within this highly stratified industry, popular struggle has contributed greatly to processes of capitalist transformation and historical change. Striffler traces the entrance of United Fruit into Ecuador during the 1930s, its worker-induced departure in the 1960s, the troubled process through which contract farming emerged during the last half of the twentieth century, and the continuing struggles of those involved. To explore the influence of both peasant activism and state power on the withdrawal of multinational corporations from banana production, Striffler draws on state and popular archives, United Fruit documents, and extensive oral testimony from workers, peasants, political activists, plantation owners, United Fruit administrators, and state bureaucrats. Through an innovative melding of history and anthropology, he demonstrates that, although peasant-workers helped dismantle the foreign-owned plantation, they were unable to determine the broad contours through which the subsequent system of production—contract farming—emerged and transformed agrarian landscapes throughout Latin America. By revealing the banana industry’s impact on processes of state formation in Latin America, In the Shadows of State and Capital will interest historians, anthropologists, and political scientists, as well as scholars of globalization and agrarian studies.
Intimate Enemies is the first book to explore conflicts in Chiapas from the perspective of the landed elites, crucial but almost entirely unexamined actors in the state’s violent history. Scholarly discussion of agrarian politics has typically cast landed elites as “bad guys” with predetermined interests and obvious motives. Aaron Bobrow-Strain takes the landowners of Chiapas seriously, asking why coffee planters and cattle ranchers with a long and storied history of violent responses to agrarian conflict reacted to land invasions triggered by the Zapatista Rebellion of 1994 with quiescence and resignation rather than thugs and guns. In the process, he offers a unique ethnographic and historical glimpse into conflicts that have been understood almost exclusively through studies of indigenous people and movements.
Weaving together ethnography, archival research, and cultural history, Bobrow-Strain argues that prior to the upheavals of 1994 landowners were already squeezed between increasingly organized indigenous activism and declining political and economic support from the Mexican state. He demonstrates that indigenous mobilizations that began in 1994 challenged not just the economy of estate agriculture but also landowners’ understandings of progress, masculinity, ethnicity, and indigenous docility. By scrutinizing the elites’ responses to land invasions in relation to the cultural politics of race, class, and gender, Bobrow-Strain provides timely insights into policy debates surrounding the recent global resurgence of peasant land reform movements. At the same time, he rethinks key theoretical frameworks that have long guided the study of agrarian politics by engaging political economy and critical human geography’s insights into the production of space. Describing how a carefully defended world of racial privilege, political dominance, and landed monopoly came unglued, Intimate Enemies is a remarkable account of how power works in the countryside.
Half of Indonesia’s massive population still lives on farms, and for these tens of millions of people the revolutionary promise of land reform remains largely unfulfilled. The Basic Agrarian Law, enacted in the wake of the Indonesian revolution, was supposed to provide access to land and equitable returns for peasant farmers. But fifty years later, the law’s objectives of social justice have not been achieved.
Land for the People provides a comprehensive look at land conflict and agrarian reform throughout Indonesia’s recent history, from the roots of land conflicts in the prerevolutionary period and the Sukarno and Suharto regimes, to the present day, in which democratization is creating new contexts for people’s claims to the land. Drawing on studies from across Indonesia’s diverse landscape, the contributors examine some of the most significant issues and events affecting land rights, including shifts in policy from the early postrevolutionary period to the New Order; the Land Administration Project that formed the core of land policy during the late New Order period; a long-running and representative dispute over a golf course in West Java that pitted numerous local farmers against the government and local elites; Suharto’s notorious “million hectare” project that resulted in loss of access to land and resources for numerous indigenous farmers in Kalimantan; and the struggle by Bandung’s urban poor to be treated equitably in the context of commercial land development. Together, these essays provide a critical resource for understanding one of Indonesia’s most pressing and most influential issues.
Contributors: Afrizal, Dianto Bachriadi, Anton Lucas, John McCarthy, John Mansford Prior, Gustaaf Reerink, Carol Warren, and Gunawan Wiradi.
Land is a significant and controversial topic in South Africa. Addressing the land claims of those dispossessed in the past has proved to be a demanding, multidimensional process. In many respects the land restitution program that was launched as part of the county’s transition to democracy in 1994 has failed to meet expectations, with ordinary citizens, policymakers, and analysts questioning not only its progress but also its outcomes and parameters.
Land, Memory, Reconstruction, and Justice brings together a wealth of topical material and case studies by leading experts in the field who present a rich mix of perspectives from politics, sociology, geography, social anthropology, law, history, and agricultural economics. The collection addresses both the material and the symbolic dimensions of land claims, in rural and urban contexts, and explores the complex intersection of issues confronting the restitution program, from the promotion of livelihoods to questions of rights, identity, and transitional justice.
A valuable contribution to the field of land and agrarian studies, both in South Africa and internationally, it is undoubtedly the most comprehensive treatment to date of South Africa’s postapartheid land claims process and will be essential reading for scholars and students of land reform for years to come.
In 1969, Juan Velasco Alvarado’s military government began an ambitious land reform program in Peru, transferring holdings from large estates to peasant cooperatives. Fifty years later this reform remains controversial: critics claim it unjustly expropriated land and ruined the Peruvian economy, while supporters emphasize its success in addressing rural inequality and exploitation.
Moving beyond agricultural policy to offer a fresh perspective on the agrarian reform, Land without Masters shows how ideological assumptions and state interventions surrounding the reform transformed Peru’s political culture and social fabric. Drawing on fieldwork in three different regions, Anna Cant shows how the government adapted its discourse and interventions to the local context while using the reform as a platform for nation-building. This comparative approach reveals how local actors shaped the regional impact of the agrarian reform and highlights the new forms of agency that emerged, including that of marginalized peasants who helped forge a new social, cultural, and political landscape.
Making novel use of both visual and cultural sources, this book is a fascinating look at how the agrarian reform process permanently altered the relationship between rural citizens and the national government—and how it continues to resonate in Peruvian politics today.
The year 2008 is the deadline set by President Mbeki for the finalization of all land claims by people who were dispossessed under the apartheid and previous white governments. Although most experts agree this is an impossible deadline, it does provide a significant political moment for reflection on the ANC government’s program of land restitution since the end of apartheid.
Land reform (and land restitution within that) remains a highly charged issue in South Africa, one that deserves more in–depth analysis. Drawing on her experience as Rural Land Claims Commissioner in KwaZulu–Natal from 1995 to 2000, Professor Cherryl Walker provides a multilayered account of land reform in South Africa, one that covers general critical commentary, detailed case material, and personal narrative. She explores the master narrative of loss and restoration, which has been fundamental in shaping the restitution program; offers a critical overview of the achievements of the program as a whole; and discusses what she calls the “non–programmatic limits to land reform,” including urbanization, environmental constraints and the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Partners in Conflict examines the importance of sexuality and gender to rural labor and agrarian politics during the last days of Chile’s latifundia system of traditional landed estates and throughout the governments of Eduardo Frei and Salvador Allende. Heidi Tinsman analyzes differences between men’s and women’s participation in Chile’s Agrarian Reform movement and considers how conflicts over gender and sexuality shape the contours of working-class struggles and national politics. Tinsman restores women to a scholarly narrative that has been almost exclusively about men, recounting the centrality of women’s labor to the pre-Agrarian Reform world of the hacienda during the 1950s and recovering women’s critical roles in union struggles and land occupations during the Agrarian Reform itself. Providing a theoretical framework for understanding why the Agrarian Reform ultimately empowered men more than women, Tinsman argues that women were marginalized not because the Agrarian Reform ignored women but because, under both the Frei and Allende governments, it promoted the male-headed household as the cornerstone of a new society. Although this emphasis on gender cooperation stressed that men should have more respect for their wives and funneled unprecedented amounts of resources into women’s hands, the reform defined men as its protagonists and affirmed their authority over women. This is the first monographic social history of Chile’s Agrarian Reform in either English or Spanish, and the first historical work to make sexuality and gender central to the analysis of the reforms.
In Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico Jennie Purnell reconsiders peasant partisanship in the cristiada of 1926–29, one episode in the broader Mexican Revolution and the last major popular rebellion in Mexican history. While some scholars have argued that the Mexican Revolution was a people’s rebellion that aimed to destroy the political and economic power of the elites to the benefit of the peasants, others claim that the Revolution was a struggle between elites that left little room for popular participation. Neither approach, however, explains why thousands of peasants sided with the Church against the state and its program of agrarian reform—reform that was presumably in the best interest of the peasants. Nor do they explain why so many peasants who considered themselves devout Catholics took up arms against the Church. Rather than viewing the cristeros (supporters of the Church) as victims of false consciousness or as religious fanatics, as others have done, Purnell shows that their motivations—as well as the motivations of the agraristas (supporters of the revolutionary state)—stem from local political conflicts that began decades, and sometimes centuries, before the Revolution. Drawing on rich but underutilized correspondence between peasants and state officials written over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Purnell shows how these conflicts shaped the relationships between property rights, religious practice, and political authority in the center-west region of Mexico and provides a nuanced understanding of the stakes and interests involved in subsequent conflicts over Mexican anticlericalism and agrarian reform in the 1920s.
Following the end of World War II in 1945, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spent the next three decades carrying out agrarian reform among nearly one-third of the world’s peasants. This book presents a new perspective on the first step of this reform, when the CCP helped redistribute over 40 million hectares of land to over three hundred million impoverished peasants in the nationwide land reform movement. This land reform, the founding myth of the People’s Republic of China (1949–present) and one of the largest redistributions of wealth and power in history, embodies the idea that an equal distribution of property will lead to social and political equality.
Power Over Property argues that in practice, however, the opposite occurred: the redistribution of political power led to a more equal distribution of property. China’s land reform was accomplished not only through the state’s power to define the distribution of resources, but also through village communities prioritizing political entitlements above property rights. Through the systematic analysis of never-before studied micro-level data on practices of land reform in over five hundred villages, Power Over Property demonstrates how land reform primarily involved the removal of former power holders, the mobilization of mass political participation, and the creation of a new social-political hierarchy. Only after accomplishing all of this was it possible to redistribute land. This redistribution, moreover, was determined by political relations to a new structure of power, not just economic relations to the means of production.
The experience of China’s land reform complicates our understanding of the relations between economic, social, and political equality. On the one hand, social equality in China was achieved through political, not economic means. On the other hand, the fundamental solution was a more effective hierarchy of fair entitlements, not equal rights. This book ultimately suggests that focusing on economic equality alone may obscure more important social and political dynamics in the development of the modern world.
Reassessing the Cambodian genocide through the lens of global capitalist development.
James Tyner reinterprets the place of agriculture under the Khmer Rouge, positioning it in new ways relative to Marxism, capitalism, and genocide. The Cambodian revolutionaries’ agricultural management is widely viewed by critics as irrational and dangerous, and it is invoked as part of wider efforts to discredit leftist movements. Researching the specific functioning of Cambodia’s transition from farms to agriculture within the context of the global economy, Tyner comes to a different conclusion. He finds that analysis of “actually existing political economy”—as opposed to the Marxist identification the Khmer Rouge claimed—points to overlap between Cambodian practice and agrarian capitalism.
Tyner argues that dissolution of the traditional Khmer family farm under the aegis of state capitalism is central to any understanding of the mass violence unleashed by the Khmer Rouge. Seen less as a radical outlier than as part of a global shift in farming and food politics, the Cambodian tragedy imparts new lessons to our understanding of the political economy of genocide.
"In addition to the relevance provided by contemporary events, the republication of Revolution from Without comes at a particularly effervescent moment in Latin American revolutionary studies. An ongoing discourse among political sociologists, anthropologists and historians has greatly enriched our understanding of the political economy and social history of revolutions and popular insurgencies."—from the preface to the paperback edition
Righteous Revolutionaries illustrates how states appeal to popular morality—shared understandings of right and wrong—to forge new group identities and mobilize violence against perceived threats to their authority. Jeffrey A. Javed examines the Chinese Communist Party’s mass mobilization of violence during its land reform campaign in the early 1950s, one of the most violent and successful state-building efforts in history. Using an array of novel archival, documentary, and quantitative historical data, this book illustrates that China’s land reform campaign was not just about economic redistribution but rather part of a larger, brutally violent state-building effort to delegitimize the new party-state’s internal rivals and establish its moral authority.
Righteous Revolutionaries argues that the Chinese Party-state simultaneously removed perceived threats to its authority at the grassroots and bolstered its legitimacy through a process called moral mobilization. This mobilization process created a moral boundary that designated a virtuous ingroup of “the masses” and a demonized outgroup of “class enemies,” mobilized the masses to participate in violence against this broadly defined outgroup, and strengthened this symbolic boundary by making the masses complicit in state violence. Righteous Revolutionaries shows how we can find traces of moral mobilization in China today under Xi Jinping’s rule. In an era where states and politicians regularly weaponize moral emotions to foment intergroup conflict and violence, understanding the dynamics of violent mobilization and state authority are more relevant than ever before.
In Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata, Tanalís Padilla shows that the period from 1940 to 1968, generally viewed as a time of social and political stability in Mexico, actually saw numerous instances of popular discontent and widespread state repression. Padilla provides a detailed history of a mid-twentieth-century agrarian mobilization in the Mexican state of Morelos, the homeland of Emiliano Zapata. In so doing, she brings to the fore the continuities between the popular struggles surrounding the Mexican Revolution and contemporary rural uprisings such as the Zapatista rebellion.
The peasants known in popular memory as Jaramillistas were led by Rubén Jaramillo (1900–1962). An agrarian leader from Morelos who participated in the Mexican Revolution and fought under Zapata, Jaramillo later became an outspoken defender of the rural poor. The Jaramillistas were inspired by the legacy of the Zapatistas, the peasant army that fought for land and community autonomy with particular tenacity during the Revolution. Padilla examines the way that the Jaramillistas used the legacy of Zapatismo but also transformed, expanded, and updated it in dialogue with other national and international political movements.
The Jaramillistas fought persistently through legal channels for access to land, the means to work it, and sustainable prices for their products, but the Mexican government increasingly closed its doors to rural reform. The government ultimately responded with repression, pushing the Jaramillistas into armed struggle, and transforming their calls for local reform into a broader critique of capitalism. With Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata, Padilla sheds new light on the decision to initiate armed struggle, women’s challenges to patriarchal norms, and the ways that campesinos framed their demands in relation to national and international political developments.
On the eve of the twentieth century, Peru seemed like a profitable and yet fairly unexploited country. Both foreign capitalists and local state makers envisioned how remote highland areas were essential to a sustainable national economy. Mobilizing Andean populations lay at the core of this endeavor. In his groundbreaking book, The Rural State, Javier Puente uncovers the surprising and overlooked ways that Peru’s rural communities formed the political nation-state that still exists today.
Puente documents how people living in the Peruvian central sierra in the twentieth century confronted emerging and consolidating powers of state and capital and engaged in an ongoing struggle over increasingly elusive subsistence and autonomies. Over the years, policy, politics, and social turmoil shaped the rural, mountainous regions of Peru until violent unrest, perpetrated by the Shining Path and other revolutionary groups, unveiled the extent, limits, and fractures of a century-long process of rural state formation. Examining the conflicts between one rural community and the many iterations of statehood in the central sierra of Peru, The Rural State offers a fresh perspective on how the Andes became la sierra, how pueblos became comunidades, and how indígenas became campesinos.
What happens to a revolutionary town after the revolution? This apparently simple question frames Spent Cartridges of Revolution, an anthropological history of Namiquipa, Chihuahua, Mexico. Officially, the revolution of 1910-20 restored control over land and local politics to the peasantry. But Namiquipan peasants, who fought alongside Pancho Villa, have seen little progress and consider themselves mere "spent cartridges" of a struggle that benefited other classes.
Daniel Nugent's approach combines an emphasis on peasants' own perceptions of Mexican society after the revolution with an analysis of the organization and formation of state power. He shows that popular discontent in Chihuahua is motivated not only by immediate economic crises but by two centuries of struggle between the people of Northern Mexico and the government.
A massive land-seizure movement first erupted in Peru in 1958 and spread across the Andean highlands in 1963–1964. Several hundred peasant communities in the Peruvian Andes occupied neighboring haciendas in an attempt to retake lands they felt had been stolen from them over the years. Hacienda peasants also participated in this movement, forming peasant sindicatos (unions) to improve their labor conditions.
The land-seizure movement brought with it an upsurge in community political mobilization. Throughout the highlands, village leaders banded together in regional federations, often allying themselves with progressive or radical urban groups. Radical activists from labor unions and university student groups joined with indigenous peasant leaders, breaking down the highland peasantry’s traditional isolation from the political system.
Struggle in the Andes is an analysis of the causes and consequences of extensive social and political mobilization among Peru’s peasant population in the 1960s. In addition to describing the growth of the peasant land movement, Howard Handelman investigates the social and economic conditions that contributed to rural unrest. Using data that he collected in forty-one diverse highland communities, Handelman examines the correlates of peasant political activity, concluding that land seizures in the traditional southern sierra had different origins and political implications than did unrest in the more socioeconomically modernized central highlands.
The data suggest a model of peasant mobilization that calls into question prevailing scholarly hypotheses on the relationships between modernization, peasant political mobilization, and radicalization. Handelman discusses the land-reform program and the accompanying rural mobilization that was being implemented by Peru’s reformist military regime. Using his model of peasant mobilization, he speculates on the possible effects of the government’s contemporary programs on future peasant political behavior.
During the 1980s and ’90s, Mexico weathered an economic crisis, witnessed electoral upheaval, and saw the dismantling of state subsidies to farmers and the privatization of nationally owned industries. This book considers how popular movements found fresh footing in this new political-economic landscape as villagers in Tepoztlán fought to keep communal lands out of the hands of outsiders, the state, and—increasingly—global capitalists. Examining social movement politics from the margins rather than the center, JoAnn Martin revisits the famous Redfield-Lewis debate on Tepoztlán to argue that the gossip seen by Oscar Lewis as undermining community coherence is really a form of political practice. During more than fifteen years of research, she observed the metamorphosis of a movement founded as a revolutionary popular struggle into what she terms a “politics of loose connections,” in which temporary alliances, flexible identities, and shifting rhetoric are adapted to the demands of the moment. Martin examines contemporary land struggles with an emphasis on the Comité para la Defensa de Tierra and its attempts to weave together strands of an invented tradition, contemporary agrarian reform law, and revolutionary ideology. She shows how Tepoztecan politics borrows discourses from the Mexican state; she then tells how this process shaped local politics in the midst of the contested 1988 national presidential election when local actors elaborated a discourse of democracy as a technique for disciplining gossip, and in 1991 when Tepoztecans began to draw on the support of international environmental NGOs. Throughout her analysis, Martin explores how Tepoztecan politics unfolds in the climate of mistrust first nurtured by the role of the state in local politics and later by the demands of working with U.S. and Western European environmentalists. Martin shows that the politics of loose connections is above all else a style of political participation that has proved adaptive in the contemporary political landscape, and that understandings of politics have been dogged by a conception of connections that may well be obsolete in the contemporary world. Her study is a balanced re-evaluation of Tepoztlán that reveals how politics succeeds through loose connections, a strategy that may be instructive for others seeking to survive in either local or global coalitions.
In This Land Is Ours Now, Wendy Wolford presents an original framework for understanding social mobilization. She argues that social movements are not the politically coherent, bounded entities often portrayed by scholars, the press, and movement leaders. Instead, they are constantly changing mediations between localized moral economies and official movement ideologies. Wolford develops her argument by analyzing how a particular social movement works: Brazil’s Rural Landless Workers’ Movement, known as the Movimento Sem Terra (MST). Founded in the southernmost states of Brazil in the mid-1980s, this extraordinary grassroots agrarian movement grew dramatically in the ensuing years. By the late 1990s it was the most dynamic, well-organized social movement in Brazilian history.
Drawing on extensive ethnographic research, Wolford compares the development of the movement in Brazil’s southern state of Santa Catarina and its northeastern state of Pernambuco. As she explains, in the south, most of the movement’s members were sons and daughters of small peasant farmers; in the northeast, they were almost all former plantation workers, who related awkwardly to the movement’s agenda of accessing “land for those who work it.” The MST became an effective presence in Pernambuco only after the local sugarcane economy had collapsed. Worldwide sugarcane prices dropped throughout the 1990s, and by 1999 the MST was a prominent political organizer in the northeastern plantation region. Yet fewer than four years later, most of the region’s workers had dropped out of the movement. By delving into the northeastern workers’ motivations for joining and then leaving the MST, Wolford adds nuance and depth to accounts of a celebrated grassroots social movement, and she highlights the contingent nature of social movements and political identities more broadly.
"The time of freedom" was the name that plantation workers—campesinos—gave to Guatemala’s national revolution of 1944–1954. Cindy Forster reveals the critical role played by the poor in organizing and sustaining this period of reform.
Through court records, labor and agrarian ministry archives, and oral histories, Forster demonstrates how labor conflict on the plantations prepared the ground for national reforms that are usually credited to urban politicians. She focuses on two plantation zones that generated exceptional momentum: the coffee belt in the highlands around San Marcos and the United Fruit Company’s banana groves near Tiquisate. Although these regions were unlike in size and complexity, language and race, popular culture and work patterns, both erupted with demands for workers’ rights and economic justice shortly after the fall of Castañeda in 1944.
A welcome balance to the standard "top-down" histories of the revolution, Forster’s sophisticated analysis demonstrates how campesinos changed the course of the urban revolution. By establishing the context of grassroots mobilization, she substantially alters the conventional view of the entire revolution, and particularly the reforms enacted under President Albenz.
The Amazon, the world's largest rain forest, is the last frontier in Brazil. The settlement of large and small farmers, squatters, miners, and loggers in this frontier during the past thirty years has given rise to violent conflicts over land as well as environmental duress. Titles, Conflict, and Land Use examines the institutional development involved in the process of land use and ownership in the Amazon and shows how this phenomenon affects the behavior of the economic actors. It explores the way in which the absence of well-defined property rights in the Amazon has led to both economic and social problems, including lost investment opportunities, high costs in protecting claims, and violence. The relationship between land reform and violence is given special attention.
The book offers an important application of the New Institutional Economics by examining a rare instance where institutional change can be empirically observed. This allows the authors to study property rights as they emerge and evolve and to analyze the effects of Amazon development on the economy. In doing so they illustrate well the point that often the evolution of economic institutions will not lead to efficient outcomes.
This book will be important not only to economists but also to Latin Americanists, political scientists, anthropologists, and scholars in disciplines concerned with the environment.
Lee Alston is Professor of Economics, University of Illinois, and Research Associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Gary Libecap is Professor of Economics and Law, University of Arizona, and Research Associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Bernardo Mueller is Assistant Professor, Universidade de Brasilia.
Agrarian radicalism's challenge to capitalism played a central role in working-class ideology while making third parties and protest movements a potent force in politics. Thomas Alter II follows three generations of German immigrants in Texas to examine the evolution of agrarian radicalism and the American and transnational ideas that influenced it. Otto Meitzen left Prussia for Texas in the wake of the failed 1848 Revolution. His son and grandson took part in decades-long activism with organizations from the Greenback Labor Party and the Grange to the Populist movement and Texas Socialist Party. As Alter tells their stories, he analyzes the southern wing of the era's farmer-labor bloc and the parallel history of African American political struggle in Texas. Alliances with Mexican revolutionaries, Irish militants, and others shaped an international legacy of working-class radicalism that moved U.S. politics to the left. That legacy, in turn, pushed forward economic reform during the Progressive and New Deal eras.
A rare look at the German roots of radicalism in Texas, Toward a Cooperative Commonwealth illuminates the labor movements and populist ideas that changed the nation’s course at a pivotal time in its history.
Ugly Stories of the Peruvian Agrarian Reform reveals the human drama behind the radical agrarian reform that unfolded in Peru during the final three decades of the twentieth century. That process began in 1969, when the left-leaning military government implemented a drastic program of land expropriation. Seized lands were turned into worker-managed cooperatives. After those cooperatives began to falter and the country returned to civilian rule in the 1980s, members distributed the land among themselves. In 1995–96, as the agrarian reform process was winding down and neoliberal policies were undoing leftist reforms, the Peruvian anthropologist Enrique Mayer traveled throughout the country, interviewing people who had lived through the most tumultuous years of agrarian reform, recording their memories and their stories. While agrarian reform caused enormous upheaval, controversy, and disappointment, it did succeed in breaking up the unjust and oppressive hacienda system. Mayer contends that the demise of that system is as important as the liberation of slaves in the Americas.
Mayer interviewed ex-landlords, land expropriators, politicians, government bureaucrats, intellectuals, peasant leaders, activists, ranchers, members of farming families, and others. Weaving their impassioned recollections with his own commentary, he offers a series of dramatic narratives, each one centered around a specific instance of land expropriation, collective enterprise, and disillusion. Although the reform began with high hopes, it was quickly complicated by difficulties including corruption, rural and urban unrest, fights over land, and delays in modernization. As he provides insight into how important historical events are remembered, Mayer re-evaluates Peru’s military government (1969–79), its audacious agrarian reform program, and what that reform meant to Peruvians from all walks of life.
Undoing the Revolution looks at the way rural underclasses ally with out-of-power elites to overthrow their governments—only to be shut out of power when the new regime assumes control. Vasabjit Banerjee first examines why peasants need to ally with dissenting elites in order to rebel. He then shows how conflict resolution and subsequent bargains to form new state institutions re-empower allied elites and re-marginalize peasants.
Banerjee evaluates three different agrarian societies during distinct time periods spanning the twentieth century: revolutionary Mexico from 1910 to 1930; late-colonial India from 1920 until 1947; and White-dominated Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) from the mid-1960s to 1980. This comparative approach also allows examination of both the underclass need for elite participation and the variety of causes that elites use to incentivize peasant classes to participate, extending from religious-ethnic identity and common political targets to the peasants’ and elites’ own economic grievances.
Undoing the Revolution demonstrates that both international and domestic investors in cash crops, natural resources, and finance can ally with peasant rebels; and, after threatened or actual state collapse, they can bargain with each other to select new state institutions.
In Watering the Revolution Mikael D. Wolfe transforms our understanding of Mexican agrarian reform through an environmental and technological history of water management in the emblematic Laguna region. Drawing on extensive archival research in Mexico and the United States, Wolfe shows how during the long Mexican Revolution (1910-1940) engineers’ distribution of water paradoxically undermined land distribution. In so doing, he highlights the intrinsic tension engineers faced between the urgent need for water conservation and the imperative for development during the contentious modernization of the Laguna's existing flood irrigation method into one regulated by high dams, concrete-lined canals, and motorized groundwater pumps. This tension generally resolved in favor of development, which unintentionally diminished and contaminated the water supply while deepening existing rural social inequalities by dividing people into water haves and have-nots, regardless of their access to land. By uncovering the varied motivations behind the Mexican government’s decision to use invasive and damaging technologies despite knowing they were ecologically unsustainable, Wolfe tells a cautionary tale of the long-term consequences of short-sighted development policies.
The Worm in the Wheat is a compelling tale of political intrigue, violence, shifting allegiances, extreme poverty, and the recalcitrance of one woman. Above all, it is a multileveled interpretation of the Mexican revolution and the ultimate failure of agrarian reform. Timothy J. Henderson recounts the story of Rosalie Evans, a woman who lost her life defending her Mexican hacienda in defiance of confiscation decrees. This dramatic narrative is populated with many diverse actors: Mexican, British, and American officials, soldiers, rebel leaders, bureaucrats, peasants, vigilantes, and the unforgettable figure of Evans herself. In a world where power and wealth are distributed unevenly and where revolutionary ideas aiming to right the balance continue to proliferate, it is essential, Henderson claims, to understand the revolutionary process not as a philosophical abstraction but as intimate human drama. This book, by providing a detailed study of a single case, sheds invaluable light on this process and on the making of modern Mexico. Incorporating extensive primary research, Henderson describes the complexity of international, national, state, and local politics and the corresponding diverse responses to this historic attempt at agrarian reform. The Worm in the Wheat will be informative reading for those interested in the modern history of Mexico, students of social movements and revolution, Latin Americanists, and scholars of agrarian history.
The National Reform Association (NRA) was an antebellum land reform movement inspired by the shared dream of a future shaped by egalitarian homesteads. Mark A. Lause's Young America argues that it was these working people's interest in equitable access to the country's most obvious asset--land--that led them to advocate a federal homestead act granting land to the landless, state legislation to prohibit the foreclosure of family farms, and antimonopolistic limitations on land ownership.
Rooting the movement in contemporary economic structures and social ideology, Young America examines this urban and working-class "agrarianism," demonstrating how the political preoccupations of this movement transformed socialism by drawing its adherents from communitarian preoccupations into political action. The alliance of the NRA's land reformers and radical abolitionists led unprecedented numbers to petition Congress and established the foundations of what became the new Republican Party, promising "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men."