This lecture by Ian Scoones explores how processes of social differentiation and patterns of accumulation, linked to the emergence of different ‘classes’, can be understood, drawing on critical agrarian studies. How does this apply to pastoral settings, sometimes assumed to be egalitarian, governed by ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’?
Much empirical work points to increasing differentiation in pastoral systems, with some ‘moving up and out’, while others are stuck, or exit the system altogether. This varies by gender and by age, as well as over time, as particular shocks (drought, famine, war) result in major reconfigurations. The kin and community-based social relations that maintained (at least an impression of) homogeneity within pastoral groups, supported by systems of reciprocity and mutualism, have changed.
A more individualised, differentiated society, subject to market dynamics, invites a class analysis distinguishing those accumulating (hiring in labour, investing in livestock, maybe land etc.) as part of a class of a local capitalist elite and those poorer pastoralists, who may be selling labour or diversifying livelihood activities, as part of the ‘fragmented classes of labour’ in pastoral areas. But there are of course features of pastoralism – such as collective land and livestock holdings, mobility and livestock as a source of capital – that limit the parallels with peasant societies. Transitions to commercial, capitalist livestock production in pastoral areas has become possible for some as market opportunities open up, leaving others behind. The implications of such changes for labour, land access and market activity can be profound, suggesting very different futures for pastoral areas with highly differentiated populations.
Watch the lecture
- What are the sites of accumulation in pastoral areas? Who are the winners and losers?
- What processes of social differentiation are evident, driven by what processes?
- How is this influencing class formation, as well as gender and age divisions?
- What are the implications for labour dynamics in pastoral areas?
- Aklilu, Y. and Catley, A. (2013) Moving up or moving out? Commercialization, growth and destitution in pastoralist areas. Chapter in: Catley et al eds., Pastoralism and Development in Africa (pp. 108-120). London:Earthscan/Routledge. See also: Aklilu, Y. and Catley, A. (2010) Mind the Gap: Commercialization, Livelihoods and Wealth Disparity in Pastoralist Areas of Ethiopia, Report. Addis Ababa: Feinstein International Centre, Tufts University.
- Akram-Lodhi, A.H. and Kay, C. (2010) Surveying the agrarian question (part 1): unearthing foundations, exploring diversity, Journal of Peasant Studies, 37:177-202
- Akram-Lodhi, A.H. and Kay, C. (2010) Surveying the agrarian question (part 2): Current debates and beyond, Journal of Peasant Studies, 37:255-284.
- Bernstein, H. (2006) Is there an agrarian question in the 21st century? Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue Canadienne d’Etudes du Développement, 27(4): 449-460.
- Bernstein, H. (2010) Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.
- Cousins, B. (2010) What is a ‘smallholder’? Class-analytic perspectives on small-scale farming and agrarian reform in South Africa, PLAAS Working Paper 16. Cape Town: PLAAS.
- Edelman, M. (2013) What is a peasant? What are peasantries? A briefing paper on issues of definition. Prepared for the first session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, Geneva, pp.15-19.
- Gardner, B. (2009) Are livestock a troublesome commodity? Geoforum, 40(5): 781-783.
Photo credit: Masresha Taye