The Agrarian Question in the Neoliberal Era

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A compelling and critical destruction of both the English agricultural revolution and the theory of comparative advantage, upon which unequal trade has been justified for three centuries, this account argues that these ideas have been used to disguise the fact that the North—from the time of colonialism to the present day—has used the much greater agricultural productivity of the South to feed and improve the living standards of its own people while impoverishing the South. At the same time, the imposition of neoliberal “reforms” in the African continent has led to greater unemployment, spiraling debt, land and livestock losses, reduced per capita food production, and decreased nutrition. Arguing that political stability hangs in the balance, this book calls for labor-intensive small-scale production, new thinking about which agricultural commodities are produced, the redistribution of the means of food production, and increased investment in rural development. The combined effort of African and Indian scholarly work, this account demands policies that defend the land rights of small producers and allow people to live with dignity.


Utsa Patnaik is a professor of economics at the Center for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University in India and the author of several books, including The Republic of Hunger and Other Essays. Sam Moyo is a professor and the executive director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies in Harare, Zimbabwe. Issa Shivji is a former professor of law and the Mwalimu Nyerere Research Chair in Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Discourse: The Role and Future of NGOs in Africa.