Peasant Poverty and Persistence in the Twenty-First Century

Theories, Debates, Realities and Policies

Edited by Julio Boltvinik and Susan Archer Mann


An innovative study of the ways in which peasants across the global South are persisting and resisting in the face of neoliberal capitalism and environmental degradation.

Peasants are a majority of the world’s poor. Despite this, there has been little effort to bridge the fields of peasant and poverty studies. Peasant Poverty and Persistence in the Twenty-first Century provides a much-needed critical perspective linking three central questions: Why has peasantry, unlike other areas of non-capitalist production, persisted? Why are the vast majority of peasants poor? And how are these two questions related?

Interweaving contributions from various disciplines, the book provides a range of responses, offering new theoretical, historical and policy perspectives on this peasant ‘world drama’. Scholars from both South and North argue that we must build upon the peasant economy’s advantages over agricultural capitalism in meeting the challenges of feeding the growing world population while sustaining the environment.

Author Bio

Julio Boltvinik has spent over three decades studying and fighting poverty. He is a professor and researcher at the Centre for Sociological Studies, El Colegio de México, and has been a visiting professor in the UK and Mexico, as well as holding government positions, working for the United Nations Development Programme and being member of the Scientific Committee of CROP.

Susan A. Mann was professor of sociology and former director of women’s and gender studies at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana. She also served as a former chair of the Race, Class and Gender Section of the American Sociological Association.

Table of Contents

  • Part I: Introducing the Book
    • Foreword by Meghnad Desai
    • Introduction - Julio Boltvinik and Susan Archer Mann
  • Part II: Papers
    • Session I: Theoretical Perspectives on Peasant Poverty and Persistence
      • 1. Poverty and Persistence of the Peasantry. Background Paper - Julio Boltvinik
      • 2. Rethinking Rustic Issues. Contributions to a Theory of Contemporary Peasantry - Armando Bartra
      • 3. From Field to Fork: Labour Power, its Reproduction, and the Persistence of Peasant Poverty - Gordon Welty, Susan Mann, James Dickinson and Emily Blumenfeld
      • 4. Baroque Modernity and Peasant Poverty in the Twenty-first Century - Luis Arizmendi
    • Session II: Historical and Empirical Approaches
      • 5. Agriculture/industry, Rural/urban, Peasants/workers: Some Reflections on Poverty, Persistence and Change - Henry Bernstein
      • 6. Employment and Rural Poverty in Mexico - Araceli Damián and Edith Pacheco
    • Session III: Environment, Food Crisis and Peasants
      • 7. From the Persistence of the Peasantry in Capitalism to the Environmentalism of Indigenous Peoples and the Sustainability of Life - Enrique Leff
      • 8. South American Peasants and Poor Farmers Facing Global Environmental Change: A Development Dilemma - Elma Montaña
      • 9. Financialisation of the Food Sector and Peasant's Persistence - Kostas Vergopoulos
    • Session IV: Policy, Self-reliance and Peasant Poverty
      • 10. The Rise and Fall of the Agrarian Welfare State: Peasants, Globalisation, and the Privatisation of Development - Farshad A. Araghi
      • 11. Overcoming Rural Poverty from the Bottom Up - David Barkin and Blanca Lemus
  • Part III: Closing the Book
    • 12. Dialogues and Debates on Peasant Poverty and Persistence: Around the Background Paper and Beyond - Julio Boltvinik


‘An original contribution to past and present debates on the peasantry. This is the text I was searching for in my teaching. Readers will learn much from it.’
Cristóbal Kay, International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague

‘A fascinating set of essays investigating the relationship between peasant persistence and poverty. This is a timely and substantive revival of the classic debate.’
Philip McMichael, author of Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions

‘Brings together different points of view to provide an innovative theoretical background and analyse changes in the condition of the peasantry, as well as suggesting ways to move so many people beyond a poor and precarious existence.’  
Frederick Magdoff, co-author of What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

‘A provocative examination of the persistence of the world’s peasantry and rural poverty that explores, challenges, and significantly advances one of the most influential lineages of scholarship that has shaped the contemporary sociology and political economy of agriculture.’
Patrick H. Mooney, University of Kentucky

‘This stimulating book offers a most exciting renewal of classic debates in Marxian theory over the character and the persistence of peasant production, and illuminates the implications for rural people of the ways in which contemporary capitalism works.’
John Harriss, Simon Fraser University

'Outstanding … on key issues and debates about the peasantry … a highly provocative, stimulating and innovative book in agrarian critical political economy.'
Journal of Agrarian Change


Publication Date: 15 August 2016
488 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783608430
Hardback: 9781783608447
eBook ePub: 9781783608461
eBook PDF: 9781783608454
eBook Kindle: 9781783608478

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