Poverty Trap in a Tributary Mode of Production: The Peasant Economy of Ethiopia
The paradox of EthiopiaÕs agrarian economy is that, despite underwriting a world civilization, the transition to an industrial economy has eluded it. Using a model of AfroAsiatic tributarism, we attribute this outcome to endemic extractive contests between a predominantly landed peasantry and a titled, prebendary overlord class. The latterÕs strategy of political accumulation inevitably engendered immiserization of overlord and peasant alike by privileging diversion over production. The surplus was then dissipated on unproductive consumption, national defence, and internecine strife. Lacking a strong state to mitigate predation and political instability, the Ethiopian peasant rationally ÔchoseÕ to be efficiently, albeit self-sufficiently, poor.
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