Rural development: entering the market

So far, we have looked at problems of urbanisation and industrialisation. But, in most countries of the Third World, the typical way of life is rural and most probably agricultural-families and households working together to produce crops and animals either to support themselves or to sell for cash, or more likely a mixture of these activities.

A very important problem for the sociology of development is how the transition occurs from subsistence production and subsistence society, to production for the market and involvement in a much larger set of social and economic relationships. This process is called 'agrarian and rural change'. As with industrialisation, it is central to all sociology. It is, after all, the opposite side of the same coin. In Western societies, the change occurred nearly two hundred years ago (see box 1.3). Of course, recalling the 'Gerschenkron thesis', we should not expect it to follow the same pattern. The past is rarely a good predictor of the future in social matters. However, agrarian and rural change is of central importance in the Third World today. And in both the Soviet Union and China it presented, and continues to present, many difficulties.

Some False Impressions of the Third World

Most of us have some vague impression of how people in other societies live. For example, it is often assumed that in Africa and the Pacific, people live in 'tribes', while in India, the 'caste system' is important. Many of these images are inaccurate-they often reflect the very poor understanding of these social systems which was propagated during the colonial period, but which still hangs on in the way that we are taught history or geography. For example, in Africa, people do often have very


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Sociology and Development


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