THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF BUYENGO'S MAIZE: MARKETS, EXPLOITATION, DISPOSSESSION AND COLLECTIVE ACTION
The neoliberalism project is now quite widely spread and consequently small scale farmers all over the world are invariably integrated in commodity exchange. How has this deep market integration reshaped agrarian relations and formations? How have these markets altered land ownership and land use, social relations of production, and with what implications for the agrarian condition? These questions concern household level decisions around property (primarily land) ownership and use, household expenditure patterns and earnings, and therefore these issues sit at the heart of this dissertation. At the same time however, these issues are often quite personal and private and it is for this reason that I employed an ethnographic approach, in order to engage with them in more intimate ways. I argue that the exploitation of small scale farmers via the market hinders rural accumulation and the emergence of a bourgeois class in this Ugandan rural area, and that it is this exploitation that explains the myriad of agrarian crises we see unfolding here. I argue that markets, especially “free” markets, do not always operate as mechanisms for generating equilibrium and efficiency and, quite to the contrary, are in fact sites for those that have power to leverage the market for their benefit at the expense of those that wield comparatively less power in the market place. Hence, in this dissertation I argue that studying the market is indispensable to understanding the dynamics of the agrarian crisis unfolding in many parts of the global south today. The community in this area were generally aware of the intense relations of exploitation in which they were presently embedded. And yet this shared consciousness of exploitation did not translate into overt community based actions meant to challenge these relationships of exploitation. This dissertation finds that possibilities for collective action are foreclosed by the extent to which these small scale farmers are integrated into contradictory class-based struggles over wages and working conditions. Second, that small scale farmers generally live a half-way house between the market and subsistence, and faced with a choice between confronting the merchants and resorting to the land, they generally choose the latter. They are guided by a choice for subsistence over risk, what (Scott 1976) has called a subsistence ethic. However, over and beyond social relations of production, small scale farmers are integrated in all kinds of patronage and kinship relations, which shape their material wellbeing in ways that mitigate the consciousness of exploitation from translating into collection action. Hence, to come to grips with the agrarian crisis and formations unfolding today one must look beyond production relations to broader questions that lie at the intersection of culture and politics.
African studies; Sociology; globalization; agrarian change; Rural markets; Neoliberalism; Agriculture
Pfeffer, Max John
McMichael, Philip David; Makki, Fouad M.
Ph.D., Development Sociology
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis