The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia
James C. Scott places the critical problem of the peasant household—subsistence—at the center of this study. The fear of food shortages, he argues persuasively, explains many otherwise puzzling technical, social, and moral arrangements in peasant society, such as resistance to innovation, the desire to own land even at some cost in terms of income, relationships with other people, and relationships with institutions, including the state.
Once the centrality of the subsistence problem is recognized, its effects on notions of economic and political justice can also be seen. Scott draws from the history of agrarian society in lower Burma and Vietnam to show how the transformations of the colonial era systematically violated the peasants’ “moral economy” and created a situation of potential rebellion and revolution.
Demonstrating keen insights into the behavior of people in other cultures and a rare ability to generalize soundly from case studies, Scott offers a different perspective on peasant behavior that will be of interest particularly to political scientists, anthropologists, sociologists, and Southeast Asianists.
“The book is extraordinarily original and valuable and will have a very broad appeal. I think the central thesis is correct and compelling.”—Clifford Geertz
“In this major work, … Scott views peasants as political and moral actors defending their values as well as their individual security, making his book vital to an understanding of peasant politics.”—Library Journal
James C. Scott is professor of political science at Yale University.
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2 Subsistence Security in Peasant Choice and Values
3 The Distribution of Risk and Colonial Change
4 The State as Claimant
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A.O.M. Indochine NF agrarian Agricultural Annam areas Asian average balance of exchange baskets Cao Dai capitalist capitation tax cash Central Luzon chap claim Cochinchina colonial regime communal context costs crop failure cultivator culture Delta districts economic elites example exploitation fiscal fluctuations force green revolution guarantees Ha-Tinh harvest head tax hectare Ibid Iglesia Ni Cristo increasingly Java land rates landlord landowners legitimacy less Lower Burma marginal minimal moral economy Nam Dan needs Nghe-An Nghe-Tinh normative obligations officials owners paddy party patronage pattern peasant peasant society peasantry percent Philippines piastres political poor population Press problem production protection reason rebellion reciprocity region relationship represent resistance revolt rice right to subsistence risks rural Saya San Settlement share sharecropping smallholders social Southeast Asia structure subsistence ethic subsistence security surplus tion Tonkin traditional Upper Burma Vietnam Vietnamese village Vinh wage labor yield