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CHAPTER V Villages Under Stress INTRODUCTION DESPITE the sanctions and other obstacles restricting outside involvement, there has been a worldwide movement of peas­ ant communities in the last century and a half from the low to the high end of the scale of external relations. Peasants have been forging new, complex relationships with strangers outside the bounds of the village. Increasingly, peasants have become more involved with and dependent on the multiplier mechanisms: markets, cash, and wage labor. The changes have extended beyond the social and economic realm and have affected peasants' politics as well. To understand these social and economic changes and new political orientations among peasants, a sequential explanation is developed in this book which will help answer the following questions: Under which circumstances have villages increased their outside participation? Who within the village has initially been involved in the process and how have groups differed in their reaction to the new conditions? Which institutions within the village have taken on different structures and functions or have died altogether? The sequential explanation has five basic components: (1) Within the inward-oriented village, aspirations to increase outside participation exist among those with sufficient re­ sources to make outside alliances. These aspirations are thwarted by a combination of restrictions by lords and by villages' social and political organization. (2) These restric- CHALLENGE OF OUTWARD-ORIENTED FORCES tions on outside participation and the insecurity of market participation lead to a rather fixed level of technology and thus to fairly constant income and expenditure levels for the village. (3) Sustained crisis strikes families in the village, resulting in a drop in the ratio of income to expenditure. The crisis is felt on a differential basis within the village. (4) Un­ der the impact of the crisis or with some withdrawal of the lords' vigilance (often associated with the crisis), there is a decrease in the effectiveness of restraints against outside in­ volvement. (5) Those least affected by the crisis, i.e., those with adequate resources, take advantage of this decrease in effectiveness to increase their power and establish new outside ties. This leads to new kinds of much more rigid patterns of peasant social stratification. The first component was explored in Part One. This chap­ ter will analyze the next two components of the historical process, that is, the constant levels of income and expendi­ tures, and the crises that have affected such villages. It will explore under which conditions villages have been affected, by analyzing what have been the forces able to overcome the strong resistance of the village's social and political organiza­ tion and able to undermine the powers of strong lords. BALANCING ACCOUNTS Total income was severely limited for the vast majority of peasant households in inward-oriented villages by the scarcity of either fertile land or an adequate labor force. Household budgeting in such villages, then, consisted of a fine accounting balance. From its meager income the household had to pro­ vide itself with enough for subsistence food needs, for partici­ pation in the prestige economy, and for payment of often stag­ gering amounts of rent, interest, and taxes. The following chart shows, on the one hand, most of the typical sources of income of such peasant households and, on the other hand, the items of consumption and expenditures which used up that income.1 1 For an example of a specific account of peasants' income and VILLAGES UNDER STRESS ITEMS OF CONSUMPTION AND EXPENDITURE Household Consumption Food Clothes Tools Village Expenditures Village Taxes Prestige Economy Payments to Other Classes Rent Interest Taxes SOURCES OF INCOME Agricultural Production Crops Animal Husbandry Artisan Services Handicraft Production Barbers Butchers Priests Medicine Men, etc. Prestige Economy Gifts Dowries, etc. The striking aspect of the debit side of the account is that, except for the amount expended on the prestige economy, peasants had very little flexibility in consumption and expend­ iture. Since they already generally lived with few frills in their lives, household consumption could have been cut for many households only at a cost to health or future productivecapac­ ities. And, of course, there was little control by peasants of the amount of payments to other classes. On the income side of the ledger, there was only a bit more flexibility. Generally, the level of technology used in agricul­ ture, the major source of productive income, and the level used in handicrafts were fairly constant. Historically, although there always were some technological innovations and set­ backs that could have increased...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400868766
MARC Record
OCLC
933516043
Pages
310
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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