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The Agrarian Question and the Neoliberal Rural Transformation in Latin America

Author:

Cristóbal Kay

International Institute of Social Studies Erasmus University Rotterdam, NL
About Cristóbal

Cristóbal (Cris) Kay is Emeritus Professor in Rural Development and Development Studies at the ISS, Erasmus University; Professorial Research Associate, Department of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London and Visiting Professor, FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador.  His research interests are in the fields of rural development and development theory, with particular reference to Latin America. He has been the editor of the European Journal of Development Research, a co-editor of ERLACS and is currently an editor of the Journal of Agrarian Change. At present he is co-editing with Leandro Vergara-Camus a special issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change on ‘Peasants, left-wing governments and neo-developmentalism in Latin America: exploring the contradictions’.

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Abstract

Since the neoliberal turn in Latin America the rural economy and society has experienced a great transformation. Corporate capital and transnational agro-industries have taken hold of agriculture radically transforming the economic and social relations of production leading to the precarization and feminisation of rural labour as well as the intensification of work. Peasant farmers were further squeezed having to increasingly find off-farm incomes, largely through precarious wage labour activities, so as to make a living thereby furthering the process of proletarianization. The ‘new rurality’ and ‘territorial’ approaches tried to take account of these transformations but they are found wanting. Instead, a political economy view to the agrarian question is found more promising. A counter-movement to neoliberalism has emerged spearheaded by indigenous peoples and the rural poor, sometimes linked to the transnational peasant movement ‘Via Campesina’. Their main aim is to construct an alternative agrarian system based on ‘food sovereignty’ which is promising but also controversial.

 

Resumen: La Cuestión Agraria y la Transformación Rural Neoliberal en Latinoamérica 

 

Desde el giro neoliberal en América Latina la economía y sociedad rural han experimentado una gran transformación. El capital corporativo y las agroindustrias transnacionales se han apoderado de la agricultura transformando radicalmente las relaciones económicas y sociales de producción que llevan a la precarización y feminización de la mano de obra rural, así como a la intensificación del trabajo. Los campesinos enfrentan condiciones cada vez más difíciles teniendo que buscar con mayor frecuencia ingresos fuera de la finca, principalmente a través de actividades salariales precarias, con el fin de ganarse la vida impulsando con ello el proceso de proletarización. Los enfoques de la ‘nueva ruralidad’ y ‘territoriales’ trataron de explicar estas transformaciones pero tienen limitaciones. En cambio, una visión desde la economía política sobre la cuestión agraria se estima más prometedora. Movimientos contestatarios del neoliberalismo han surgido encabezado por los pueblos indígenas y la población rural pobre, a veces vinculado al movimiento campesino transnacional ‘Vía Campesina’. Su principal objetivo es la construcción de un sistema agrario alternativo basado en la ‘soberanía alimentaria’, que es prometedor, pero también polémico.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/erlacs.10123
How to Cite: Kay, C. (2015). The Agrarian Question and the Neoliberal Rural Transformation in Latin America. ERLACS, (100), 73–83. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/erlacs.10123
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Published on 08 Dec 2015.
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