The Political Economy of Agrarian Change: Dinosaur or Phoenix?

Date: Nov, 2008
ODID Working Paper No. 174
Author(s): Lucia da Corta (QEH)

In this paper I argue for the resurrection of the political economy of agrarian change (PEACH) in mainstream policy research in order to understand the deeper causes of poverty and its transformation in rural areas. I critically examine chronic poverty research and argue that in the wake of the devastating critique of PEACH theory, an unlikely combination of post-structural and methodologically individualist new development economics (NDE) theory became hegemonic in development studies throughout the 90s and shaped emergent chronic poverty methodology. As a consequence subsequent chronic poverty empirical research tended to produce results confirming post-PEACH theory - poverty caused by assets based vulnerability experience of poor people and by their exclusion from economies and societies. In order to address the possibility of poverty as a problem of inclusion into economies and societies, chronic poverty research advanced new social relational concepts in the intergenerational transmission of poverty literature (IGT) and in adverse incorporation and social exclusion research (AISE). These and other such critical oppositional thinkers endorse a dynamic, relational transformational approach, one which combines realist structural and interpretive thinking and which coheres with critical realist PEACH methodology. However, they hesitate in fully embracing PEACH concepts - such as capitalist accumulation, class relations and unfreedom - which can shed light on materialist processes of poverty. I argue that the difficulties this body of research confronts in addressing the deeper causes of poverty can be resolved by drawing on PEACH concepts together with critical realist PEACH methods, and that the pluralism that this entails enables much deeper explanations for processes of impoverishment and escape and a wider range of empowering policy responses.

ODID Author(s)