The Everyday Lives of Policies and People
Edited by Norman Long, Jingzhong Ye and Yihuan Wang
Chapter 3: Rural Livelihoods and Agrarian Change: Bringing Class Back in
3. Rural livelihoods and agrarian change: bringing class back in Henry Bernstein INTRODUCTION This chapter proposes and illustrates an argument for bringing class back in to the analysis of rural poverty and its causes, with implications for development policy. For present purposes, development policy is understood broadly as intervention aiming (at least rhetorically) to achieve advances in agricultural production, more secure livelihoods and greater welfare in the countryside. The argument hinges on seven theses about agrarian change in the contemporary world that aim to identify some of the class dynamics that underlie the issues that development policies address in different ways, more or less directly, coherently and plausibly. The conditions of development policy are themselves partly shaped by the effects of past policies, including their unintended consequences which may outweigh the realisation of their intended objectives (and typically do?).1 The seven theses are generated from within materialist political economy. Adapting the ‘mission statement’ of the Journal of Agrarian Change, I understand political economy as ‘investigation of the social relations and dynamics of production and reproduction, property and power’. The classic questions of political economy that address the social relations of production and reproduction are: Who owns what? (Social relations of different ‘property’ regimes)2 Who does what? (Social divisions of labour) Who gets what? (Social divisions/distribution of income) What do they do with it, and how? (Social relations of consumption, reproduction, accumulation). The sites and scales of application of these questions extend from households to ‘communities’ to regional as...
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