In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

CHAPTER VI Relieving the Stress INTRODUCTION VILLAGES which had been controlled by strong and vigilant lords faced an uncharted course once the power of the lords eroded. The social organization of such villages had been built primarily on the separate dyadic ties between the lord and each of the peasant households. After patron withdrawal, the peasants were left without long-established and complex pat­ terns of mutual interaction and cooperation to meet the needs that transcended the household level. These needs had pre­ viously been most often satisfied by the lord. This lack of elaborate institutions and mechanisms among those peasants also meant that they did not experience com­ munity restraints on individuals' outside participation. If opportunities arose to alleviate the economic crisis through such means as the national market, there was little in the form of community resistance to stop them from participating extensively. For example, the decrease in vigilance among hacendados in the La Convencion Valley of Peru resulted in a rapid conversion of peasants to farming the cash crop of coffee.1 Unlike peasants under strong lords, freeholding peasants and peasants living under less powerful lords still faced obstacles to vastly increased outside participation even 1 See Wesley W. Craig, "Peru: The Peasant Movement of La Convencion," in Latin American Peasant Movements, ed. Henry A. Landsberger (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1969), pp. 293-294. RELIEVING THE STRESS after economic crises struck. The very social and political organizations of their communities continued to have the effect of keeping them inward-oriented. This chapter will analyze the ways in which these peasants tried to solve their economic crises without running headlong into these obstacles, in other words, while continuing to re­ strict relations with the outside world. It will then outline the paths of action these peasants have taken when such outlets no longer solved the problem. BALANCING ACCOUNTS WHILE MAINTAINING AN INWARD-ORIENTATION The first attempts by peasants to deal with their sustained economic crises were to take the paths of least resistance. This involved reestablishing (if possible) a balance in their accounts without confronting the social and political organi­ zation of the village. Three means were most commonly used: (1) conquering the frontier, (2) long-term out-migra­ tion, and (3) short-term out-migration. 1) Conquering the Frontier Expanding the amount of land under cultivation, while keeping a constant level of technology was a means of allevi­ ating economic pressure on households that had an oversupply of labor. This was done within the boundaries of the community or in virgin areas outside.2 The effect was to in­ crease net production per capita without the necessity of confronting the community's barriers against expanded out­ side relations. The area for house sites in Ku Daeng (Thai­ land), for example, was cut in half in less than a century, as peasants increased the amount of land for agriculture. In addition, some of the population purchased cheap land and 2 Ester Boserup, The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure (Chicago: Aldine, 1965), p. 13, talks of "frequency of cropping" which in­ cludes intensification, as well as expansion, of agriculture. CHALLENGE OF OUTWARD-ORIENTED FORCES brought it under cultivation in the village of Myang Fa-ng, which became known as the "New Ku Daeng."3 In Sirkanda (India), population pressure resulted in an expansion of farming land to the surrounding hills. When the new fields became too far from the central village com­ pound, people built semi-permanent homes in clusters in the outlying areas. At times, a cluster developed into an inde­ pendent village. Others continued to identify Sirkanda as their village, but usually only about half the village popula­ tion resided in the central compound at any one time. As a result, this central compound population of Sirkanda re­ mained stable from 1815 to 1958 while the overall village population and the amount of land under cultivation doubled.4 Another interesting case is the village of Ban Ping, Thai­ land. It appeared to be adopting new agricultural techniques, as indicated by the use of tractors, in order to relieve its pop­ ulation crisis. A close look at the way the tractors were used, however, shows that in reality its peasants were attacking the problem by conquering the frontier and avoiding permanent incorporation of the outside technology.5 Although the population of Ban Ping was growing, it had not reached the crucial threshold where there were land shortages rather than...


Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.