Peasants in the Modern World

Peasants in the Modern World

Peasants in the Modern World

Peasants in the Modern World

Excerpt

The peasant is a rural native whose long established order of life takes important account of the city.

-- Robert Redfield ( 1953:31)

Most anthropologists would accept the above statement, with various modifications, as a minimal definition of peasantry. Some would wish to limit our consideration to rural agriculturalists, and others would insist that what is important is the peasant's relationship to an elite class, whether or not these social superiors live in an urban center. But Redfield's definition does bring out, in a few words, the essential point about peasants: they exist only in relationship to a larger society of which they form a part.

Anthropologists came to the study of peasant societies after a long period of preoccupation with "primitives," i.e., relatively isolated tribal peoples whose ways of life could be profitably studied with little reference to what went on outside of the local community. In recent years our approach to such primitive groups has changed; we now take fuller account of the social and economic fields in which every human society is included. And this is, in part, a consequence of our involvement in peasant studies, for to study a peasant community as an isolate is to miss the point completely. Anthropologists soon recognized that, again to quote Redfield, . . .

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