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The main social developments in the world over the last thirty years or so have been 1) the imposition of neoliberal economics over nearly every one of the world’s economies, and 2) the fantastic growth in slums that have accompanied the explosion of urban capitalism in the neoliberal era.  Using Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums, I outline a "way out" of the resultant social and ecological catastrophe brought on by these developments: a movement to defend the right to live off of the land.

The beginnings: enclosure

In every country in which a capitalist system has been imposed, the beginnings of it all have been with enclosure.  Enclosure, a movement beginning in the Middle Ages in England, meant the privatization of large tracts of land, wherein the peasants living off of said land were kicked off.  Said peasants had to live in cities, where (eventually) truancy laws required them to work for subsistence wages in factories.  Karl Marx discusses this enclosure in great detail here.

The process continues to this day.  Here is an article by "The South Asian" describing how it is done in India.  The government screws the people for the sake of private corporations, and all of a sudden farming is not viable.  Thus huge populations are set into motion from rural areas to cities.  A pre-capitalist society has large populations capable of rural subsistence; in the days of the manorial system, the nobles simply appropriated the surplus from those doing the rural subsisting.  In a capitalist society, these populations will be exploited through low-wage urban factory labor, thus the hyperactive urbanization and economic growth of countries like India and China.

The result: slums

When combined with overall human population growth, the result of this hyperactive urbanization is the incredible growth of slums reported by Mike Davis in last year’s volume Planet of Slums:

The earth has urbanized even faster than originally predicted by the Club of Rome in its notoriously Malthusian 1972 report Limits of Growth.  In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population of more than one million; today there are 400, and by 2015 there will be at least 550.  Cities, indeed, have absorbed nearly two-thirds of the global population explosion since 1950, and are currently growing by a million babies and migrants each week.  The world’s urban labor force has more than doubled since 1980, and the present urban population – 3.2 billion – is larger than the total population of the world when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated.  The global countryside, meanwhile, has reached its maximum population and will begin to shrink after 2020.  As a result, cities will account for virtually all future world population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050.  (1-2)

And, pray tell, what do all these good folks do for a living?  Davis suggests:

Structural adjustment, it would appear, has recently worked an equally fundamental reshaping of human futures.  As the authors of The Challenge of Slums conclude: "Instead of being a focus for growth and prosperity, the cities have become a dumping ground for a surplus population working in unskilled, unprotected, and low-wage informal service industries and trade."   "The rise of this informal sector," they declare bluntly, "is... a direct result of liberalization." (174-175)

The role our current, neoliberal, phase of capitalism has picked out for the slum-living multitudes is that of micro-entrepreneurs – of which Davis, using Breman and Das as a source, cite one typical example:

One of the most telling pictures of this sector is the sight of the "gentlemanly" owner of a garbage shop, sitting in his well-ironed clothes by his gleaming motorcycle, amidst the piles of waste that the rag-pickers have painfully sorted out for him to profit from.  (From Breman and Das’s Down and Out: Laboring Under Global Capitalism, 56, cited in Davis, 181)

Adam Smith’s vision has been spread worldwide, and in the process turned into a cruel joke.  There will thus exist tremendous populations, worldwide, for the movement, which subsist in cities.  Walling off the United States from these populations won’t work; a world of ten billion people with nothing to lose will eventually find its way here, especially if they are performing well in the role of "entrepreneur" which the neoliberal elites have assigned to all of them.  If we really want them to stay home and tend their own gardens, they will have to have a new role ("farmer" would do) and a new relationship to both society and ecology.  Their lives, in short, cannot further be defined by neoliberalism.

What I am recommending in this context is that we, as a political movement, be a movement for the right to live off of the land – but not to live off of the land in the countryside, as the people of the world exist today in cities.  I am suggesting that farms be built in the cities, and that the future of the world’s "surplus populations" be as a sort of neo-peasantry living what Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen call "the subsistence perspective."

What I am recommending for change

What makes this era especially chaotic, I argue, is that under neoliberalism everyone is regarded, regardless of social formation, as an entrepreneur of some sort or another.  The problem, of course, is that there isn’t much of any surplus for the great underclass of "entrepreneurs" to exploit, and so they must extract profits from, say, assorted pieces of glass to be found in the local city dumps, or their labor as prostitutes, or whatever.  A neat firsthand picture of how this "entrepreneurship" works is written-up in Jeremy Seabrook’s volume Victims of Development.

At some point (and I elaborated upon this in my diary on Kees van der Pijl), however, the world will simply have had enough of this reorganization, and resultant "entrepreneurship," which I (following van der Pijl) call capitalist discipline.  Crises, most notably ecological crises, will overtake the capitalist system and produce the economic nausea which James O’Connor called the "Second Contradiction of Capitalism."  O’Connor’s theory is simple: capitalist growth becomes, at some point, damaging to the environment, so much so that environmental damage will impede and perhaps overwhelm the profit rate itself.  It will be time, when the "Second Contradiction of Capitalism" becomes serious enough, for us to form a movement to insure each and every person a right to live off of the land.

Such a movement will start by guaranteeing all the right to grow food.  This can be done through the proliferation of community gardens in unused spaces in parks and parking lots.  Food production must be detached from elaborate transportation networks that use precious reserves of cheap oil and handed back to popular, and local, control.

We need to respect the right of all to housing.  This means allowing people to use unused space to build their own housing, using the techniques of sustainable architecture.

This movement will need to have as one of its aims the inauguration of ecologically responsible government.  Depending upon geographic and economic circumstances, government powers of eminent domain will have to be exercised here and there to permit the otherwise disempowered to carve a living out of forbidding urban landscapes.  Just as capitalism used the powers of government to enclose the land, so we will have to use the powers of government to unenclose some sort of commons for people to live on.

Eventually this "right to live off of the land" will have to supercede capitalism.  Capital today is out of control, and the people will have to rein it in (at some point).  The reining-in of capital will create a struggle in which, for the majority to win, decentralized, community-based economics will have to become a way of life for most everyone.  As Paul Prew points out, capitalism is a "dissipative structure" which divides the world into centers of accumulation (the cities, the First World) and zones of extraction (the countryside, the Third World).  What I am suggesting is a partial withdrawal from the zones of extraction from within the centers of accumulation.  At some point, a full pull-out will end this division altogether, and we will have a world based on ecological discipline and not capitalist discipline.  (See Joel Kovel's concept of "ecological production" or Enrique Leff's concept of "Green Production" for further elaboration).

Clearly this vision is not for the world as it exists now.  It is far too early in the building of such a movement.  But one can imagine a future point at which, if current trends go unheeded (or papered over with corporate PR efforts and aggressive Republican diversions), it will be necessary for all to form a movement to defend the right to live off of the land.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 04:37 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (12+ / 0-)

    Is it true that waiters/ waitresses won't accept pennies?

    Reduce, reuse, recycle

    by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 04:33:55 PM PST

    •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Autarkh, UneasyOne

      People in many societies do have the right to live of the land. There are still a few nomadic pastorialists, hunter gatherers, and subsistance agriculturalists out there.

      Even in the United States you still have all the rights your government hasn't specifically deprived you of. Although it has no obligation to enforce them for you it isn't allowed to deny or disparage them either.

      Amendment IX

      The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      Amendment X

      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

      While my little shack in the swamp doesn't compare favorably with all those nice neat little suburbs you depict in your illustration, and I'm not within walking distance of the city either, I would have room to grow some subsistence crops, except I'm afraid the land and water are probably contaminated.

      Live Free or Die (-8.88 -9.49) IMPEACH THEN TRY FOR WAR CRIMES

      by rktect on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 04:46:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can I get sushi in the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Urbanization and capitalism are the reason why there are so many people living in slums. Before they would have been dead.

    There are lot of problems with modern agriculture but it produces. There is more than enough food for everyone.

    While I understand the wish, that people would return to the village lifestyle. However, its more efficient and better for the environment to have millions of people in cities, than to spread those people across the countryside.

    Growing your food is not efficient. Its better to pick another job and purchase the food you want.

    Strengthen what remains

    by litero on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 04:44:15 PM PST

    •  Having a lawn is not efficient but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bablhous, Autarkh, UneasyOne

      growing your own food is very efficient if you have good topsoil, good weather and the means to tend the garden. Even more efficient if you have the means for natural cold storage (such as a cold cellar). Anyway, if more people in suburban settings raised their own food there would be less demand to expand agricultural areas where they're not needed.

      "the dog ate the part we didn't like"

      by frankzappatista on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:10:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the advice (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, Autarkh

      Growing your food is not efficient. Its better to pick another job and purchase the food you want.

       There are 850 million starving people in the world, almost all of whom are in such a position because they don't have the money to buy food.  I'll pass your recommendation on to them.

      Reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:22:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  and... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        However, its more efficient and better for the environment to have millions of people in cities, than to spread those people across the countryside.

         I'm not recommending that people be spread across the countryside.

        Reduce, reuse, recycle

        by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:54:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Without high tech means (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It takes quite a bit of soil to grow enough food to support a human being.  So, if you are planning on people raising enough food to feed themselves and their families on a dozen square feet or two, you're not doing the math.

          My grandmother lived in a small town and had the lot next to her as a garden.  She significantly impacted her need to buy food, but certainly couldn't live off of it.  And we are talking about a relatively generous lot, not the kind of lots we have in the suburbs.

          The reason few people are living on farms is that agribusiness generates more food with less labor than family farms.

          •  bigger is easier business (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Urizen, jfm

            in the sort of market where you have to be big to make good on a small margin...

            The reason few people are living on farms is that agribusiness generates more food with less labor than family farms.

            and this makes sense in an economy where mass production gets you a profitable distribution nexus.  Agribusiness also dumps enough junk in the oceans to create a New Jersey-sized dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  Part of the problem here is the economic relationship between human beings.  If people are to establish a right to live off of the land, they will have to do so in groups, and communally, rather than individually.  Small farms would still be meaningful if there were a cooperative society between them.

            (For both problem and solution in this regard check out Michael Pollin's The Omnivore's Dilemma...)

            Reduce, reuse, recycle

            by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 07:17:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  also (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              agribusiness is poisoning us directly through GMOs and their next fave cloned animals.  The rise of obesity (and any number of other diseases) in america has a direct relation to what can be grown most cheaply and stuffed down the maw of the public.  Agribusiness, by nature, can't care if the food it produces is good or healthy.

            •  The cost of goods (0+ / 0-)

              To a large extend depends upon the amount of human labor involved in creating them.  One of the reasons that food is so cheap is that we have very little human labor involved in the making of it.

              You long for a time when the bulk of human labor was tied up in simply growing enough food to stay alive -- sometimes unsuccessfully.

              The family farm is not evaporating due to some agribusiness conspiracy, it's just that people are finding that performing another job and buying cheap food is a more desirable life style.

              People, in general, have a right to live off the land in many areas.  They dont.  The reason they don't is that a living doing subsistance farming is not particularly attractive.

              •  I think you misunderstand my intent (1+ / 0-)
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                You long for a time when the bulk of human labor was tied up in simply growing enough food to stay alive -- sometimes unsuccessfully.

                No, that's not true either.  I want our current understanding of agroecology applied to growing food, democratically -- in a society where people live in cities.

                Reduce, reuse, recycle

                by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 09:34:49 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  and... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Urizen, jfm

                  since there's quite a surplus of available labor-time in our world society, and plenty of people without the right to grow their own food...

                  I have consistently NOT argued for the OBLIGATION, but rather the RIGHT to grow one's own food, and you have consistently misunderstood me in that regard...

                  I also want the production of food detached from production for the almighty market, the main reason why the "bulk of human labor was tied up in simply growing enough food to stay alive -- sometimes unsuccessfully"...

                  Reduce, reuse, recycle

                  by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 09:41:43 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm having a hard time understanding this (1+ / 0-)
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                    You seem to be crusading for a right that people have already.  Is there a law that prevents people from growing their own food?  So far as I know there is nothing stopping them other than the fact that it is not cost-effective except as a novelty or to get fresher produce.  I know a number of people with small gardens -- no one is stopping them.

                    Are gardens forbidden in other countries?

                    Or, since most of the city dwellers have little land, are you arguing for the right of people to sieze land to grown the food on?  You've repeatedly said that you don't want to spread the people around the countryside.

                    Do you have a garden?  How much of your food do you grow? (I just grow a couple spices -- mint, rosemary and some basil.)

                    •  Now, if... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      So far as I know there is nothing stopping them other than the fact that it is not cost-effective except as a novelty or to get fresher produce.  I know a number of people with small gardens -- no one is stopping them.

                      Now if there are, as I said in a response above, 850 million malnourished people in the world, how is it that these people have the right to live off of the land?  They're clearly not producing their own food, or at least not enough to support themselves.

                      Fresher produce?  How about produce that doesn't have pesticides on it, or produce that hasn't been genetically modified?

                      Cost-effective?  According to what criteria?  You plant seeds and water them.  Let's question capitalism's idea of cost-effectiveness.  Capitalist agriculture is "cost-effective" because it is heavily subsidized by government.  Archer Daniels Midland is America's biggest welfare bum.  Moreover, the oil used to subsidize the national transportation network that brings produce to you is  only cheap now.  What happens when its price shoots out of sight as the wells start to dry up?

                      City dwellers ought to be able to eke out a portion of city parks or unused parkinglots as community gardens.  Cities can buy up vacant lots and put community gardens in them and the local property owners will get a great deal on the increased equity their homes will get.  Community gardens can employ the homeless and the neighborhood exconvicts.

                      Reduce, reuse, recycle

                      by Cassiodorus on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 04:34:31 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You need ground -- rather a lot of it (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        to grow enough food to support a human being. You seem to be really into ranting on capitolism. You've yet to indicate in any way that these people are being prevented from growing their own food.  Do you grow your own food?  What is stopping you?

                        There's a big difference between having the right to do something and it actually being practical to do it.  I have the right to fly by flapping my arms.  No governmental agency has made it illegal.  The capitalist airlines have not gotten it banned to prevent competition.  The subsidy of the airline fuels has not made it economically impractical.  The simple fact is that flapping my arms will not generate enough lift to get my body off the ground.

                        Similarly, planing a patio or rooftop garden will not generate enough food to feed a family.  Supplement their food, perhaps, but not to replace a professionally produced food supply.

                        As a side note, there are no available crops that have not been genetically modified.  The invention of agriculture in pre-history has spurred the genetic modification of crops by trial and error for thousands of years.  

                        •  and... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          As a side note, there are no available crops that have not been genetically modified.  The invention of agriculture in pre-history has spurred the genetic modification of crops by trial and error for thousands of years.

                           Natural hybridization is something qualitatively different from genetic manipulation in the laboratory.

                          Reduce, reuse, recycle

                          by Cassiodorus on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 05:41:30 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Yes, it's more random (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            In the laboratory, you know what you are doing.  There is the chance that a gene will be expressed in a way that is unexpected, but at least you know what genes you are transferring.

                            Natural hybridization involve randomly mixing genes and seeing what happens.

                            Personally, I prefer to know exactly what we are doing rather than just guessing.  But the old way is considered 'normal' because we're used to it.

                        •  more (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          Do you grow your own food?  What is stopping you?

                          I think I need to be organized, like the South Central farmers.  By the way, even though what they did, and do, may not provide all their food needs, the 350 families who were farming at the "14-acre urban garden located at 41st and Alameda Streets" were not stopped by the idea that what they did was not "cost-efficient."

                          I do grow some of my food.  But I think that my ability to do so would benefit greatly by more help and more land.  More can be grown on less, once we have a thriving agricultural ecology.

                          Growing food in the middle of cities is a step toward the conversion of cities into ecologically sustainable units.  This will be necessary in light of ecological crises which pile up as a result of, well, capitalist economics.  If you want to see why I am "into ranting" in this regard, do look at my other diaries, esp. this one.

                          Cities, btw, are ideally suited to growing food, perhaps much more so than small farms, for most cities have already been adapted to growing huge quantities of a rather unecological, resource-intensive, and wasteful, crop: grass.  We can do better.

                          Reduce, reuse, recycle

                          by Cassiodorus on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 05:54:13 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  well (0+ / 0-)

                            thanks for pressing me on this...

                            Reduce, reuse, recycle

                            by Cassiodorus on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 06:44:55 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  14 acres is a nice piece of land (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            Thats a square about 38 feet on a side for each of the 350 familes.  Urban dwellers don't generally have access to that much ground.

                            My grandmother had several times that amount of space in her garden and certainly it supplied a good deal of her vegtables.  She was not self-sufficient.

                            I suppose what attracted me to your diary was you phrased this in terms of a 'right' -- as though someone was prohibiting people from doing this.  I think it's simple economics.  On the other hand, I will admit that if I plant soybeans in my front yard instead of grass I may find there is some zoning code to stop me.

                            The tragedy of the potato famine in Ireland was that the introduction of the potato was a miracle food.  It meant that people would no longer go hungry.  Babies survived, the population grew and reached a size that was not sustainable with the farming available prior to it's introduction.  Then the crop failed and famine ruled.

                            Forty years ago, when I was just entering high school, they predicted that when the population reached levels that we have reached starvation would be rampant.  But agricultural productivity outpaced our growth.  I don't think we can go back to that level of productivity without inducing the same thing that happened to the Irish when the potato crop failed.

                          •  The Potato Famine and land ownership (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            The crux of the issue is, I think land ownership, rather than any other economic issue.  You and I, who have, I suppose, lawns, could grow a significant portion of our food (though not enough for self-sufficiency), but don't because it is more economical for us to do other work.  The urban unemployed of the third world do not have any more economical way to use their time than subsistence farming.  They are prevented from using their time in that way by the fact that they do not own any land.  In my view, if Cassiodorus is arguing anything sensible, ze is arguing that usufruct rights in land are a natural right.

                            During the potato famine, Ireland was exporting agricultural products.  The problem was not that there was not enough land to support the Irish population on non-potato crops.  The problem was that most of the land was dedicated to production for export rather than domestic consumption, thanks to an unjust allocation of property rights in land (I realize that the issue is complicated by the subdivision of inheritance, and that concentration of land ownership wasn't the only issue).

                            I don't think anyone wants to go back to pre-modern levels of agricultural productivity.  However, the extent to which industrial for-profit agriculture is an efficient use of land is a subject of many myths.  There are other methods which are equally or more efficient on the basis of yield-per-acre; the "problem" with them is that they are labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive. Compared to being unemployed and starving, however, that's not a problem.

                            I don't really agree with Cassiodorus that cities can be self-sufficient in food just via community gardens (though community gardens, rooftop gardens, etc. will certainly help).  The rapid growth of slums in the developing world is because of enclosure --- the growing urban populations are mostly people who would go back to the farm if they could.  They can't, because their property rights (often traditional and informal rather than legal and formal) have been violated by the elite of their countries and elsewhere.  The real solution has to involve land reform.

  •  The right for everyone to have a plot (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Albatross, Demena, UneasyOne

    of land to live off of GUARANTEES starvation and social chaos.  Not enough land to meet demand.  One of the reasons for the mess in Rwanda.

    Even if you HAD adequate land to give out, within one generation you run into a mess when the owner dies and has to split that parcel up.  The REAL problem is too many people and not enough resources.  Global agribusiness is NOT a good thing in many ways, but a eturn to a mass agrarian economy is not going to work either.

    As far as the urban aspects of your plan......

    Taking vacant land has led to the mess you see in most thid world cities.  Thinking that "the people" will work things out is being overly optimistic.

    And if you know the history of most vacant urban landscapes you probaly wouldn't WANT to eat anything grown in them - unless you replace all the soil..... and even then the accumulated pollutants from the air in some places are horrid.....

    Better than a slum and scavenging the dump?  yes but the problem still goes back to too many people and not enough opportunities for gainful employment.

    •  Tell me more (0+ / 0-)

      One of the reasons for the mess in Rwanda.

      I know little about Rwanda.  Could you explain?

      Reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:56:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Read up. (0+ / 0-)

        Thisseems to include a good summary.

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        by Odysseus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 06:35:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  not much agroecological analysis here (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bablhous, strobusguy, jfm

          here... it summarizes:

          Rwanda has a hilly topography. More than 50 per cent of farm holds experience severe forms of soil and fluvial erosion. Because of land scarcity there is over cultivation of agricultural fields and almost all marginal lands are being utilized.  Due to demographic pressure man based environmental degradation and lack of application of modern methods of agriculture productivity per area of all major crops has been declining since 1990s.

          I am left with plenty of questions.  Are they monocropping?  Polycropping?  Interplanting with legumes to increase soil fertility?  "Modern methods of agriculture"?  What's that supposed to mean?  Agribusiness agriculture?  Agribusiness agriculture is one of the most unsustainable forms of agriculture, requiring huge quantities of "input" from farmers who are plugged into a money economy.  What are the basic plant/ animal and plant/ plant symbiotic relationships on these farms?

          Then below it says:

          However erosion of the soil is not the fundamental problem as such. Although soil erosion is cause of fall in agricultural productivity, the primary cause is over cultivation of the farms, fall in fertility due to short or lack of fallowing and little or no application of fertilizers and other inputs (Kelly and Murekezi 2000, Waller 1996). Rwanda’s land problem demonstrates the failure of the Boserup hypothesis which has posited that farmers adapt to changing population and scarcity of resources (Clay 1996).

          Fertilizers and other inputs?  Huh?  If there are animals on the land, they contribute to its fertilization.  If Rwanda is overpopulated, that's a lot of human shit that can be composted.  Is it being used?

          And it says here that "Rwanda’s land problem demonstrates the failure of the Boserup hypothesis which has posited that farmers adapt to changing population and scarcity of resources."  Maybe the problem is that they can't adapt to changing political circumstances.  Are we supposed to consider that independently?

          All of which indicates to me that I am reading a narrative written by folks with the wrong world-view.  Do these authors even know what agroecology is, or is farming merely a matter of "inputs" to them?  There are farmers on the isthmus of Mexico, definitely a site of high birthrate, who have been farming a particular way for the past two millenia or more with little aggregate loss in soil fertility.  The authors of this case study don't even seem interested in whether or not that success can be duplicated in Rwanda.  Perhaps it's because they're writing for people who have some sort of relationship to the World Bank.  I'm not trying to demonize anyone here, but it would make me feel more comfortable if I saw something like these principles being investigated here.

          Part of the recipe, say the authors, is "land reform."  This is usually code for "there are rich and powerful folks hogging the land, and the poor folks have to make do with crap."  There I agree.

          Reduce, reuse, recycle

          by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 07:06:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Read Amy Chua's "World on Fire" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Urizen, bablhous

        about how "democracy" imposed on the third world gets used and distorted to inflame ethnic hatred....

        In a world with "haves" and "have-nots" that are often split along ethnic lines, politicians use ethnic hatred to expand their political base among the disempowered majority.....

        Unfortunately the result is too often destruction of the local economy and bloody messes...

        Rwanda was more about a growing population and not enough land - with the Have-nots looking for an excuse to take from the haves - and incited into doing so by politicians....

        Even Yugoslavia was a case where ethnic divisions were exploited  by Miloslovic

        in the long run it's all really about economics and $$$$......  

        Chua's basic premise is that by giving political power to the masses in the third world - to people with NO "investment" in society leads to simplistic efforts to take from those that "have" - with a real mess resulting.

        Look at Zimbabwe.  Yes, former white settlers had the best land (but some had it for generations).  A simplistic land grab and "redistribution" (to the supporters of the current dictator) only led to the collapse of agriculture there and unnecessary violence.

        In Malaysia where ethnic Chinese held economic sway, the government instituted "partnerships" with local Malays so that the majority were brought into "ownership roles" - providing a gradual an dpeaceful "sharing".

        Often those that "have" may come from one group or another and may have attained that position by unfair means - eg political "connections" and such - but they may also attain that position by simply taking advantage of preexisting talent and financing and such.... How to account for the dominance of the ethnic Chinese in "trade" and business in Asia?  You have the same thing with ethnic Indians (having left India a hundred years earlier) in East Africa and other areas.

        You can say that hostility towards Jews in Eurpoe is in a similar vein - since Jews were allowed to lend money (something Christians frowned on).  Being forbidden to buy property and often forced to relocate, they also became adept at trade - especially in more valuable commodities (an easier way of making wealth transportable - an advantage if being forced to move out of an area).  

        The Irish "troubles" in Northern Ireland had more to do with Protestants having a lock on the better jobs - as in shipyards and such.  As the economy has changed and the South grown in economic power, much of the "religious" rivalry is fading.  It's not good business.

        this is an overly simple explanation but gives an overview.

        You can expand this to Iraq - where the Sunnis had power and control of the country's wealth.  Now with Hussein gone, the Shias and Kurds are reclaiming what is "theirs" - the divisions occurring along religious/ethnic lines.

        Chua's thesis actually REFUTES Bush's thought that "spreading Democracy" is GOOD.  In fact even the US did not give all adult males the vote for some time.  "Democracy" was introduced gradually starting with those that were property owners - those that had a vested interest in a stable society.

        In contrast look at the result of the French (and later Russian) Revolution - where the masses sought immediate retribution, first against the "haves" and then against anyone that disagreed with their extremist policies.

  •  Where is the picture taken? n't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    80 % of success is just showing up - Woody Allen

    by Churchill on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 05:20:15 PM PST

  •  thanks for another great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bablhous, Cassiodorus, jfm

    a meal for thought.  It's obvious that we will have to come up with profound changes to market capitalism if we're going to survive and to do this we'll have to reexamine our most basic assumptions about our most basic rights.  The crux of this will be weaning ourselves from the concept of property as an exclusionary idea rather than an extension of fairness and practicality.  We have been thinking (and even cooperating) in terms of exclusion and privation for so long that the concepts themselves seem more like givens than choices made a few centuries ago.  What is imaginary and impossible today may well be the simplest truth of tomorrow's reality.  

    •  thanks Urizen (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, jfm

      I think that the thing missing from this diary is the idea of agroecology -- I want to get people involved in the ecological management of their basic needs, most especially food...

      Reduce, reuse, recycle

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 09:38:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Our disconnection (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus, jfm

        from the land, from having any idea where what we eat comes from (or even what it is) is the deepest alienation we have to contend with.  In modern america, it's something people have no idea about.  I spoze they assume it's too basic to think about.  That people on a lefty leaning site like this assume that Monsanto (or Archer Daniels Midland) is somehow good for them shows how bizarre the situation has become.  People who are willing to devote a few hours of study and argument to a tax cut won't spend five minutes thinking about food.  The hopeful sap in me figures the penny will drop at some point and we'll have a collective awakening when we realize that a whole slew of issues that impact us negatively (nutrition and disease, pollution and energy, poverty and hunger, alienation and psychology) are really all the same problem seen from different sides and extend into the mechanics of society at every level.  When that day comes it won't be nearly as difficult for us to reinvent the wheels the world is currently rolling on.  

        A few hopeful glimmers are beginning to appear.  I'm hoping the open source and creative commons ideas about intellectual property are laying the psychological groundwork for people's acceptance of physical "commons" (starting with air and water and how to keep them clean, but eventually moving to the earth itself).  As we get more crowded we'll just have to figure it out.

        Anyway, thanks again.  Your diaries get my mental juices flowing.

  •  The right to live off the land (0+ / 0-) strictly equivalent to the rights to life and liberty.  You cannot live without a use-claim on the property needed to produce your food, or on the property needed to make things or perform services to exchange for food.  You cannot be free if someone else can control your access to the property you need to live.  Having access to enough land to produce for subsistence guarantees you both.

    In response to those responding to this diary by saying that agribusiness is necessary to have the productivity needed to support large populations:  agriculture can be either capital-intensive or labour-intensive to be highly productive.  Industrial agriculture as we practise it is capital-intensive, because this is the more profitable way to be highly productive.  But if you are unemployed or marginally employed, modern labour-intensive methods such as permaculture and intensive raised-bed farming are going to be better for meeting your own needs.  There is a good article on the subject at  Mutualist Blog.

  •  Late to the party, but ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... I have to say, excellent exchange of points. Sadly, too few will, I fear, have read this one, Cassiodorus. It's discussion such as this one that need to be had more often and with more and more of this beleaguered planet's citizens. Thank you for an excellent diary.

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