Huai-pei peasants, we have seen, lived in a highly unstable natural environment. The resultant insecurity cast a dark shadow upon economic, social, and political life in the area. With productive opportunities severely constrained, peasants turned to alternative means of promoting and safeguarding their survival. Many households pursued the familiar strategies of controlling family size, borrowing from others, or moving elsewhere in an effort to obtain or conserve scarce resources. Such solutions, common to peasants the world over, assumed a particular form in Huai-pei that was conducive to the emergence of a diverse array of more aggressive strategies. These violent adaptations to a hostile environment can, for the most part, be subsumed within two broad categories. The first category includes offensive attempts to seize the resources of others: the predatory strategy. The second is composed of efforts to guard against such attacks: the protective strategy.
Although the motivation for these strategies was personal survival, their effect was to provide peasants with valuable experience in cooperation, mobility, and high-risk behavior. It is often assumed that sideline pursuits work primarily to sap rebellious potential.* Missing from this view is the point that adaptive strategies are more than simply income boosters. Far from____________________