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Current Studies of Peasants and Rural Development: Applications of the Political Economy Approach

  • Forrest D. Colburn (a1)


Much of the recent writing on peasants and rural development is based on a litical economy model. This approach, best exemplified by Samuel Popkin's The adtional Peasant, sees the peasant as a self-interested rational actor, and develops a unchaning investment logic to explain economic and political decisions. It is a more sophiticated approach than earlier attempts at applying a political economy model because it recognizes that income-maximization is not the exclusive means for self-improvement. Equally important, it also recognizes that, although individuals tend to be cient in their use of resources, problems of cooperation and organization often preview villages from being economically efficient. Although this type of research tends to as empirical as earlier, more anthropologically oriented work, it promises to be me helpful in building generalizable theory about peasants, and in aiding practitioners rural development.



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1 Mellor, John, The Economics of Agricultural Development (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966), 23.

2 See Norman Nicholson, “Applications of Public Choice Theory to Rural Development—A Statement of the Problem” (Russell and Nicholson, 18).

3 Ibid., 19–20.

4 Wolf, Eric, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).

5 Ibid.; Migdal, Joel, Peasants, Politics and Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Scott, James, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).

6 The free-rider problem is discussed in organization theory by, among others, Olson, Mancur Jr, in The Logic of Collective Action (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965).

7 Frohlich, Norman, Oppenheimer, Joe A., and Young, Oran R., Political Leadership and Collective Goods (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971).

8 Though in general Migdal's analysis (fn. 5) is consistent with that of Scott and Wolf, he and Popkin are in basic agreement on the way leaders build up political organizations.

9 Hirschman, , Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970).

* I am grateful to Milton J. Esman and Norman T. Uphoff for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

Current Studies of Peasants and Rural Development: Applications of the Political Economy Approach

  • Forrest D. Colburn (a1)


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