Uneven Development

Arturo Herrera supervising.jpg (97708 bytes)A commercial farmer renting the land of a Mexican peasant farmer to grow tomatoes for the export market

The geopolitical context of post-war "peasant studies" is something that anthropology has still not come to terms with fully. Despite the distinguished contributions of a few anthropologists, notably Eric Wolf in Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century, to understanding the social injustices underlying peasant mobilization, some other anthropologists were personally complicit in the counter-insurgency projects of Northern powers in Third World countries and a surprising amount of anthropological research was actually funded by the CIA through the 50s and 60s. By the end of the 1960s, however, at least some of this had come to light, and the climate was changing for other reasons. The principle reason was that "development" didn’t seem to be happening. Third World countries had experienced a lot of economic and social change, but the "gap" in overall prosperity between the North and the South was widening rather than closing.

Airrigated beans.jpg (31377 bytes)t least some anthropologists now began to talk a different language of development, one which asked the question: why is development "unequal" in different parts of the world, and is there some kind of systematic process which links the continuing "development" of the North to the apparently continuing "underdevelopment" of the South? Perhaps "underdevelopment" isn’t a state — a state of backwardness and lack of modernisation — but a process — a process of distorted socio-economic change which reflects fundamental structural inequalities in the world economy?

A peasant plot rented to a speculator for a sowing of irrigated beans. Many peasant farmers ceased to cultivate their own land when government credits were withdrawn as a result of structural adjustment policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank in the 1980s.