Rent from the Land: A Political Ecology of Postsocialist Rural Transformation

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Anthem Press, 2010 - Business & Economics - 137 pages
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After decades of isolation, Albania was catapulted into capitalism in 1991. Until then, ideological hardliners had run the country and denounced their former Soviet and Eastern Bloc allies as 'revisionists' for falling away from Stalinist principles. Yet after the collapse of socialism, Albania quickly embarked on an ambitious program of political and economic reform. The postsocialist governments created private ownership in land, liberalized markets, and opened the country's borders to movements of goods, capital, and people. Such radical measures stood out, even in comparison with other postsocialist countries. For instance, the postsocialist governments did not restitute collective farmland to pre-collectivization owners as elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe; instead farmland was distributed in equal shares to the current agricultural labor force, giving Albania the highest degree of individual land ownership found in Eastern Europe. Postsocialist market reforms were no less radical, and as a result of trade liberalization, Albania became inundated by imports. This caused more commercially-minded farmers to compete against highly subsidized EU production, while the majority of land users largely withdrew from agricultural markets. They turned instead to a mixed approach to farming characterized by a low degree of commercialization and high subsistence production. The constraints rural people faced in agriculture, together with the loss of off-farm employment due to the collapse of state-run rural industries, caused one of the world's highest rates of emigration, reaching more than 40 per cent in some areas.

'Rent from the Land' examines the effects of these massive political and economic changes of postsocialism on rural society and environment in Albania. Stahl argues that the postsocialist transformations led to changes in the creation and distribution of resource rent, which shifted land users' incentives and productive decision-making and ultimately led to environmental change. The book brings together five years of research on Albanian transformation, and breaks new ground by discussing postsocialist transformation from a political ecology perspective.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Albanian Socialism
15
Patterns of Land Use Change
29
Impediments to Land Consolidation
54
Changes in Collective Action
62
Factors Differentiating Land Use among Villages
73
Effects
81
The Fate of the Postsocialist Forest
97
Rent from the Land
117
Bibliography
129
Index
135
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About the author (2010)

Johannes Stahl works on natural resource governance and institutions in agriculture and forestry. He was a Ciriacy-Wantrup Post-Doctoral Fellow in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy at the University of California at Berkeley and holds PhD and MA degrees in Agriculture and Social Anthropology.

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