9281 - Reflections on the condition of the peasantry and the new rurality in the Brazililan Amazon

In recent years, residents in rural communities throughout Brazil have benefited from a number of social programs providing monthy income in the form of social welfare payments and rural retirement pensions. The addition of this income to family earnings represents an interesting form of livelihood diversification, where beneficiaries earn payments without having to dedicate labor away from rural activities to engage in off-farm activities.

This paper presents an examination of the influence of these incomes on rural prodution activities, patterns of housheold consumption, and work relationships in two Amazonian peasant communities, in southeastern Amapá and the middle Solimões region, state of Amazonas. The discussion addresses two central questions: Does the addition of payments alter patterns of production to something other than the peasant mode of production as described in the wider literature (c.f. Chayanov 1966, Mendras 1978 and Wolf 1976)? Or on the contrary, do these new forms of income make viable the peasant mode of production, and thus the permanence of residents in their communities depsite observed challenges of land scarcity, degradation, and fluctuations in prices for agricultural goods? We place this discussion in dialog with the greater literature on the rural peasantry in Latin American and Brazil, and in particular with Wanderley (1993,1996), who discusses the diversity and flexibility of the Brazilian peasantry throughout its history. It also contributes broadly to the growing literature in the social sciences on the new rural condition ( novo rural ) in Brazil (c.f. Abramovay 2003 and Wanderley 2001).

Keywords: anthropology, peasant societies, household economy, rural production, livelihood diversification

Author: Steward, Angela (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil / Brasilien)


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