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Peasant Society and Clientelist Politics


  • Powell, John Duncan


The basic social relations of peasant life are directly related to an environment characterized by extreme scarcity. The major factor of productive wealth in agriculture is land, to which the peasant has little or no free access. Labor—his own, and that of his family members—is available to the peasant, but this relatively unproductive factor must be applied to land in order to generate wealth. Few other outlets for productive labor employment are available to him. When the peasant is able to combine land and labor in a wealth-generating endeavor, his productivity is likely to be extremely low, due to limiting factors such as technology, capital, marketing information, and credit. All of these life aspects combine to hold down the peasant's income and preclude savings. He is, in a word, poor.Furthermore, the peasant is powerless against many threats which abound in his environment. There are disease, accident, and death, among the natural threats. There are violence, exploitation, and injustice at the hands of the powerful, among the human threats. The peasant knows that this environmental constellation is dangerous. He also knows that there is relatively little he can do about his situation, and, accordingly, his culture often features themes of vulnerability, calamity, and misfortune. As George Foster has neatly summarized if, the outlook this situation engenders in the peasant is the “Image of the Limited Good.â€

Suggested Citation

  • Powell, John Duncan, 1970. "Peasant Society and Clientelist Politics," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 411-425, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:64:y:1970:i:02:p:411-425_12

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    Cited by:

    1. Erdmann, Gero & Engel, Ulf, 2006. "Neopatrimonialism Revisited - Beyond a Catch-All Concept," GIGA Working Papers 16, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Razvan Vlaicu, 2008. "Democracy, Credibility, and Clientelism," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 371-406, October.
    3. Kuhn, Lena & Brosig, Stephan & Zhang, Linxiu, 2016. "The brink of poverty: Implementation of a social assistance programme in rural China," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 75-108.
    4. Oscar Amarasinghe, 1989. "Technical Change, Transformation of Risks and Patronage Relations in a Fishing Community of South Sri Lanka," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 20(4), pages 701-733, October.
    5. Akramov, Kamiljon T. & Qureshi, Sarfraz & Birner, Regina & Khan, Bilal Hasan, 2008. "Decentralization, local government elections and voter turnout in Pakistan:," IFPRI discussion papers 754, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Mair, Johanna & Marti, Ignasi, 2009. "Entrepreneurship in and around institutional voids: A case study from Bangladesh," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 419-435, September.
    7. Hadia Majid & Rashid Memon, 2019. "Patronage and Public Goods Provisioning in an Unequal Land," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 145(3), pages 805-830, October.
    8. repec:foi:wpaper:2010_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:foi:wpaper:2010_14 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Shami, Mahvish, 2012. "The Impact of Connectivity on Market Interlinkages: Evidence from Rural Punjab," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 999-1012.

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