Peasant Society

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Defines peasantry and provides an overview of their features.

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Peasant Society

  1. 1. Peasant Society Maya Culture Area and China
  2. 2. Defining Peasants <ul><li>Kroeber in a 800-page tome Anthropology allows a part sentence to define peasant as “part societies with part cultures” </li></ul><ul><li>This indicates that peasant societies are part of a large society </li></ul><ul><li>It is part of an empire, or a nation state </li></ul><ul><li>Anthropologists have long debated just what it is a part of </li></ul>
  3. 3. Defining Peasants: Wolf’s Fund Metaphor <ul><li>The funding metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>Primitive Cultivators and Peasants both must meet a </li></ul><ul><li>Caloric fund (food, other necessities) </li></ul><ul><li>Replacement fund (seeds, house repair) </li></ul><ul><li>Ceremonial fund (life change, solidarity) </li></ul><ul><li>Peasants </li></ul><ul><li>Subject to domain of state </li></ul><ul><li>Rent fund (taxes, tribute, forced labor) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Peasants and Primitive Cultivators: Caloric Fund <ul><li>Both peasants and primitive cultivators must provide for a caloric fund </li></ul><ul><li>Both have to provide enough to sustain a living according to local definition of what constitutes a livelihood. </li></ul><ul><li>His emphasis is on an agrarian population </li></ul><ul><li>Contrast: Raymond Firth would define Tikopian (south Pacific islanders) fisherman as peasants. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Peasants and Primitive Cultivators: Replacement Fund <ul><li>Both peasants and primitive cultivators must provide for next year’s crop </li></ul><ul><li>Generally, that means saving the seeds of the best crop for next year </li></ul><ul><li>By extension, replacement fund involves repairing shelter, replacing a broken pot, or attending to the birth of a calf </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, it has to be regarded as a metaphor </li></ul>
  6. 6. Peasants and Primitive Cultivators: Ceremonial Fund <ul><li>Every society has a ceremonial fund </li></ul><ul><li>There are rites of passage in most societies, weddings among almost all, and funerals </li></ul><ul><li>There may be other ceremonial festivals: religious festivals in Mesoamerica, first fruits ceremonies in spring of every year </li></ul><ul><li>These promote the solidarity of a community </li></ul>
  7. 7. Peasants: Provision of a Fund of Rent <ul><li>Peasants are subject to the domain of a state </li></ul><ul><li>This connection eliminate the autonomy that primitive cultivators enjoy </li></ul><ul><li>This domain obliges the peasant to provide for a fund of rent that primitive cultivators need not provide for </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: forced labor, tribute in kind, taxes in money </li></ul><ul><li>Peasant still own property, which proletarians (day laborer) do not have </li></ul>
  8. 8. Cultural Definitions: Robert Redfield <ul><li>Redfield and his followers defined peasantry in two terms </li></ul><ul><li>One is the Great Tradition versus the Little Tradition, in which the latter imitates the former </li></ul><ul><li>The second is the Folk-Urban Continuum, in which placement on the continuum depends on the extent of acculturation of rural communities to urban features </li></ul>
  9. 9. Great Tradition and Little Tradition <ul><li>“ Tradition” implies a longstanding existence of both entities and their longstanding relations </li></ul><ul><li>The culture of the rural community is a rough expression of the urban, or “great” tradition </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: religious beliefs—Balinese have a rough imitation of Hindu beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>For example, rebirth implies that the ancesfors will return to the local villages </li></ul><ul><li>Local government is a rough imitation of the national </li></ul><ul><li>Even local dress is a rough imigation of the national, as shown by this Mayan man in an outfit that recalls a 16 th century Spanish soldier’s uniform or this woman’s imitation of a Spanish lady’s dress style </li></ul>
  10. 10. Folk-Urban Continuum <ul><li>Redfield ordered four Yucatecan communities along a continuum </li></ul><ul><li>Urban: Merida, the capital of Yucatan </li></ul><ul><li>Town: Dzitas, a small community with many attributes of a city </li></ul><ul><li>Village: Chan Kom, “a village that chose progress </li></ul><ul><li>Tusik, a hamlet in the territory of Quintana Roo </li></ul>
  11. 11. Points on the Folk-Urban Continuum <ul><li>Merida has universities, a market center, connections with the national economy, and is the capital </li></ul><ul><li>Dzitas had a high school and other urban amenities, such as markets and electricity, but many folk beliefs as well </li></ul><ul><li>Chan Kom was a relatively isolated community, an elementary school, and some of the other aspects of urban life, but no electricity as yet </li></ul><ul><li>Tusik was the opposite end of the continuum, with few if any amenities and relying entirely on subsistence cultivation. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Critique of Redfieldian Models <ul><li>Redfieldian assumption: functionalism, in which all aspect contribute to a harmonious whole </li></ul><ul><li>All communities are tied to the larger economy in some way </li></ul><ul><li>Peasant communities are not necessarily homogeneous; often division occurs within them </li></ul><ul><li>This was the debate between Redfield and Oscar Lewis about Tepoztlan in Central Mexico </li></ul><ul><li>To Redfield, Tepoztlan was an isolated, relatively harmonious village </li></ul><ul><li>To Lewis, the community was a divided, conflict ridden community with antagonisms going back to the Mexican revolution and tensions between the caciques (“chiefs”) and the peasants. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Models of Peasant Societies: Image of Limited Good <ul><li>Image of Limited Good: the perception that all things useful exists in fixed amounts </li></ul><ul><li>Zero-sum game: if you use an asset for some purpose, that asset will not be available for others </li></ul><ul><li>Development programs: this perception renders any promise of increased wealth dubious to the peasant </li></ul><ul><li>Example: peasants from Tzintzuntzan in Michoacan, Mexico, were reluctant to join a pottery marketing cooperative </li></ul><ul><li>Reasoning: how could peasants hope to generate more revenue from sales in Guadalajara or Mexico City without a shrinking market elsewhere </li></ul><ul><li>That would also mean withdrawing from the local market </li></ul>
  14. 14. Models of Peasant Society: The Dyadic Contract <ul><li>In Tzintzuntzan, peasants make deals only on a dyadic basis </li></ul><ul><li>If you make a deal with another man, it does not involves your wife or brother </li></ul><ul><li>If the deal turns sour, you can withdraw. </li></ul><ul><li>Again there was reluctance to join a cooperative that involves a manystranded relationship </li></ul><ul><li>Withdrawal is costly if the cooperative fails or someone absconds with the funds </li></ul>
  15. 15. Typology of Peasantry: Patron-Client Relations <ul><li>Peasants with a feudal patron have one set of obligations </li></ul><ul><li>It involves dependence on the lord, or master, or the patron </li></ul><ul><li>Markets are limited and the patron holds a monopoly </li></ul><ul><li>Patron-client relations involve goods and services from the client in return for special favors of the patron </li></ul><ul><li>Relations between haciendas and peasants in Mesoamerica before independence are one example </li></ul><ul><li>Peasant-warlord relations in China during feudal times are another </li></ul>
  16. 16. Typology of Peasantry: Market Relations <ul><li>Markets allow peasants direct access to goods, services, and jobs through the market place or market mechanism </li></ul><ul><li>Some involve regional markets, where peasants have direct access to marketers from other communities on an equal basis </li></ul><ul><li>Advantage of market: larger numbers of buyers and sellers can take part and access more goods than through a personalistic system such as patrons and clients. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Typology of Peasantry: Vertical Market Relations <ul><li>Central places emerge to enable peasant access to manufactured products otherwise not accessible </li></ul><ul><li>This involves the use of currency, which governments issue </li></ul><ul><li>It saves bartering, or seeking one buyer after another to exchange your products </li></ul><ul><li>It also establishes control for the centralized authority to collect taxes and regulate the market </li></ul><ul><li>The state is also freed from administered trade, which can be a logistical nightmare with a large population and a large number of transactions. </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Case Studies <ul><li>We examine two cultures </li></ul><ul><li>The first one is the Mayan culture area, which includes Mayan peasants from Spanish colonization to the present </li></ul><ul><li>We look at the role of corporate communities and their hostile symbiotic relations with the hacienda, or landed estate </li></ul><ul><li>The second case is the Chinese village of Taitou </li></ul><ul><li>They relied on a system reliant on market towns </li></ul><ul><li>Both communities exemplify reinterpretations of religion in terms of local beliefs. </li></ul>
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