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Tarih ve Toplum

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Structural adjustment policies and privatisation of survival strategies: The cases of the Tuzburgazı-Söke and Kınık-Sivrihisar villages


This article analyses the agrarian crisis in Turkey. Drawing on the results of fieldwork carried out in the Tuzburgazı village in Söke-Aydın and the Kınık village in Sivrihisar-Eskişehir it contends that the neo-liberal structural adjustment policies implemented since 1980 do have a direct bearing on the current crisis. It argues that the alliance between the Turkish State and international agencies like the IMF and the World Bank in re-structuring the economy in general and the agricultural sector in particular is far from resolving the problems. If anything it exacerbates them. In the face of a gradual decline in living standards in the countryside, farming households have been developing a wide range of survival strategies. It is these strategies which are largely responsible for the maintenance of the structural adjustment policies in Turkish agriculture. However rural households have almost exhausted their capability to generate further survival strategies. Any more demand on the countryside by the State and international agencies may generate social tension and upheavals.




The re-structuring and internationalization of

agro-food sector in Turkey


This paper is concerned with the major economic and political processes involved in the re-structuring and internationalization of Turkish agro-food sector in the post-1980 period. It argues that there have been two major phases in the structuring of Turkish agro-food sector since the 1950s. In the first phase, which lasted between the 1950s and the early 1980s, this sector was defined by protectionist policies and the endurance of small-scale production not only in farming but also in food processing. An immediate outcome of this was the creation of a more homogenized food market. After the 1980s, in the second phase, parallel to the restructuring of the national economy which was defined by the gradual dismantling of national developmentalist policies and the switch to export-oriented economic policies, agro-food sector has undergone simultaneous processes of deregulation and internationalization. In this phase, the homogenized market started to disintegrate and instead, a more segmented market structure began to take shape. Accompanying this process, food distribution system began to be transformed as well.

This paper also suggests that investing in foreign markets by exploiting intellectual property has increasingly become an important expansion strategy for transnational corporations (TNCs) in the processed food sector in the past several decades. It analyzes the operations of Unilever and Nestle in Turkey in the post-war era as examples of changing forms of investment by food TNCs. Joint ventures with and acquisitions of locally strong food companies have been a major way for Unilever and Nestle to gaining access to the Turkish market and to cash in on intellectual property.




Who is the underdog?

The case of tea producers in Rize


No single region can be ‘typical’ of a country as diverse as Turkey, and certainly not a region as geographically distinctive as that of Rize. Nonetheless it is possible in this remote border region to trace the main thrust of national-level developments in each successive phase of republican history. Tea was initially promoted from the centre in the period of one-party rule. It later formed part of a systematic strategy of modernization that swept away the old subsistence-oriented rural economy after 1950. Major difficulties were evident by the late 1970s; these were temporarily resolved by drastic measures under martial law, followed up by limited privatisation in 1985, but the fundamental problems posed by globalization have not yet been resolved.

This cash crop exemplifies a process of rural transformation in which technology remains simple and labour is the dominant input, even after households become dependent on the market for virtually all of their subsistence. Classical models of peasant economy focus on the household but these need to be extended with both macro and micro linkages. When tea producers are examined within the wider national context, stereotypes of peasant exploitation and subordination are questionable. Many local people are generous in acknowledging the benefits the new cash crop has brought them. In terms of the micropolitics of the household, particular attention was paid to the sexual division of labour. Despite recent technological innovations that have simplified the task of plucking tea and carrying the leaves to the collection points, stereotypical representations of the ‘exploited Laz woman’ retain at least some of their force; but more in respect of immigrant sharecroppers than the indigenous residents.




Agadom, peasantry and rural transformation

in the hazelnut producing Eastern Black Sea

Region of Turkey


This paper examines successive phases and consequences of rural transformation in the hazelnut producing Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey. The case is studied within the framework of larger historical structures and processes, and resonates closely with Marx’s conception of formal and real subsumption to capital. The paper argues that in dealing with the question of rural transformation, especially in agrarian structures characterised by the predominance of small farms, the focus of analysis should be shifted from farm as a unit to farming as an activity of a social unit carrying out production. When seen from this perspective, the empirical data from the area cast doubt about the relevance of claims that simple commodity production has consolidated its position in Turkish agriculture. On the contrary, the research data indicate that such consolidation might have been a feature of the 1980s, whereas the rural structures in the new millenium are charecterised by articulation of simple commodity production with capitalist activities at the level of production unit, and dissolution of the peasantry in the direction of proletarinazation without being dispossesed of land ownership.




Political authoritarianism and agricultural

reform in Egypt


In this essay, the agricultural reform imposed by the government of Egypt with the support of World Bank, USAID and IFIs is criticized of leading to poverty, enforced proletarianization, insecurity, and violation of human rights. Agricultural modernisation has been seen particularly by IFI policy makers and the GoE as a project to liberate rural productive forces from the grips of bureaucratic state power; to liberalise markets and input provision and to promote the production for export of high value low nutrition foodstuffs (and cut flowers) for Europe. This strategy has been flawed because it has not understood two crucial things. The first are the ways in which production is organised and decisions taken in the rural household which frustrate the neo-classical textbook view of market reform as the universal panacea for raising productivity. The second flaw in the strategy is that policy makers fail to understand the character of state power, they simultaneously invest too much in the view that the state has been all powerful as well as being inefficient and rent seeking.

The most significant aspect of the liberalisation of Egypt’s countryside has been the implementation of Law 96 of 1992. Law 96 has led to widespread dispossessions, increased levels of poverty and rural indebtedness and increased desire by younger family members of ex-tenants to migrate for work. It has also generated a new type of indentured labour. This is not the free wage labour intended by the creation of a market expansion of rural capitalism but enforced labour hire under extreme conditions of economic and social duress of a new lumpen rural proletariat.

The most noteworthy feature of the way in which the Act has been enforced has been the challenge to farmer human rights that undermines the notion that in Egypt civil and political rights are equally guaranteed for all. The economic reforms in agriculture were intended to promote increases in productivity, greater security of tenancy and rural stability. In contrast rural Egypt since 1997 has been characterised by increasing farmer debt; the struggle within large landholding families for access to a piece of land - the spoils of Law 96 (and therefore perhaps the failure to promote land consolidation as intended by the Act); labour relations based on coercion akin to indentured labour and a decline in school enrolment as previously tenanted families; and especially those women headed households, removed children from school to reduce livelihood expenses. In addition to this dynamic of change there have also been the promotion of classical survival strategies of the poor. These have included changes in diets and food purchases to economise on household expenses; extra labour time associated with searching for cheaper food in the souk and sales of livestock, jewellery and other household assets. The conclusions of the village work tracing the impact of Law 96 is presented and an alternative agrarian strategy is proposed.

An alternative strategy for economic reform and agricultural transformation will be to recognise that the market per se is an inadequate instrument for economic growth. Agricultural growth can only be possible and sustainable if a ceiling of 5 feddan is placed on land holdings. This is a viable land holding for average sized families and it would undermine the growth of an extractive class of rural landowners or absentee landlords recently reinvigorated by GoE strategy. A new agricultural strategy requires a proper assessment of what factors contribute to social inequality.




Territorial and agrarian rights: Land mobility and land market after 18 years of neoliberal politics in Mexico



In 1992 the reforms of the economic policy of Mexico (carried out in accordance with the neoliberal paradigm laid down by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), finally had a radical impact on national agrarian politics. This followed the reform of article 27 of the constitution and its prescribed laws - the Agrarian Law, the Water Law and the Forestry Law. In essence, the objective of these changes was to incorporate all of the land, water and natural resources (such as the forests) into a single and free market, independent of their tenure. Consequently, these reforms required the entrepreneurial and land tenure be restructured, through a market that would pass the land from peasant to modern entrepreneur. In other words, from a multimodal ownership of land to one that is more homogenic and of a greater economic scale. This process of rural “modernisation” required, once more, the competition of foreign investment and less that of national private investment.

Within the framework of neoliberal policies, this study proposes to examine in great detail, reflecting on seven cases, the dynamics of territorial and agrarian rights, that is, the particular form in which the mobility and market of land is expressed. In this sense, we intend to present the general results of an investigation concerning the land market in seven ejidos, who as a result of their vast differences, have encapsulated a wide selection of cases.

Governmental neoliberal policy towards rural society in general has tended to discourage the presence of actors considered to have low or worthless profitability on the productive scene. In order to reach this goal, strategies that are bound to exacerbate the deterioration of living conditions in the rural sector appear to have been employed. These include the withdrawal of governmental support and a low income in agricultural work. In essence, the results of 18 years of neoliberalism are evident: an impoverished and indebted agricultural sector, and the permanent migration of almost 4 million Mexicans to the USA over this period, the majority of them from rural Mexico.





The land factor in the diversification of peasantry

and the example of forest peasants


The theses that are discussed in this essay are as follows: In Turkey, in high lands and especially at mountains, the entrepreneurial plots are comparatively small and the conditions are suitable for dry agriculture. So, wage labor is used less and the number of entrepreneurs producing for the market is small. The higher the land the more the stock-breeding for economic purposes is preferred to agriculture. Stock-breeding is usually done in meras and the property of meras does not have an institutionalized structure and this brings conflict between peasants-entrepreneurs involved in stock-breeding and settled peasants-state. The quality and quantity of the natural resources determine the diversification of the economic and social structures and relations in the villages. In this essay, these theses are analyzed at national level and at the level of ‘forest peasants’. Agricultural production is taken as the major determining factor.




The People’s Houses and populism during

the single-party era in Turkey


This paper intends to shed light into populism during the single-party era in Turkey. Although populism was one of the six pillars of the governing Republican People’s Party, there are still few studies which analytically problematize the role populism played in the young Republic. This is perhaps due to the overreliance on intellectuals and official speeches only. In order to contribute to the history of populism in Turkey, this paper focuses specifically on an institution, the People’s Houses, and on a particular variant of populism that it advocated, that is peasantism. The People’s Houses were the propaganda organs of the single-party regime that aimed to mobilize the most prominent intellectuals loyal to the regime. After a brief discussion of the historical context and events that paved the way for the establishment of the People’s Houses together with the rise of the peasantist ideology, the peasantist activities of the time are presented and discussed. The discussion then continues with the intellectual characteristics of the peasantist ideology including anti-urbanism, anti-industrialism, and the glorification of villages and village people. The presentation then addresses the peasantist ideology’s relation to Turkish nationalism, westernization and education. Also considered will be the major controversies revolving around the peasantist ideology in the mid-1930s. From this time onwards, there was a turning point in that while the intellectuals’ emphasis of the peasantist movement slowed down, the government itself attempted to achieve significant peasantist goals as embodied in the Village Institutes and land reform. The paper ends with an evaluation of the peasantist activities of the People’s Houses and of the possible implications of the peasantist ideology.




Village views: Romanticism and the dualisms

of realism


In this essay, the change in the village images in the novels and films on rural life is analyzed. The Kemalist intellectual of the single-party era feels guilty over the peasants and believes that unless rural life is transformed Turkey would not change. This framework determines the perceiving of villages in the formation period of the Republic. The leading cadre was composed of cultural intellectuals who gave the responsibility of transforming the society in a revolutionary and artistic style especially to literature. The canonical novels of the formation years loose impact in the 1940s and a romantic idealization and apolitical village romances with folkloric characteristics dominate the scene. Different interpretations of village and peasants are written by those from Village Institutes. They criticize romanticism and explain the negative dimensions of rural life and this should be analyzed within the current of social realism. This understanding integrates with the Marxist thoughts of the emancipatory environment of 27th May and villages are explained with a leftist terminology. This is in compliance with the understanding that is critical of seeing art as an instrument of pleasure and entertainment. But this complicity and the schematism of evil aga-muhtarĞ good peasant-teacher, and setting of the peasant as the leading transformatory agent are criticized. In the 1960s, leftist romanticist narratives are seen in the movies. Cinema was seen before as an apolitical and commercialized sphere and village movies transform this perception. But the movies reproduce the cliches of the village literature. Despite this fact, the exaggerated authentism of the movies makes the Turkish cinema successful in the international arena.




The power of the rural


The transformation of the village novels and stories, from the formation years of the Republic up until today is the subject of this essay. In the earlier periods, intellectuals are seen to be responsible of transforming the country which would be possible by emancipating the village. The ‘ignorant’ peasant would be emancipated by the Kemalist intellectuals. In the novels of 1950s, Anatolian village life is represented as a jungle swallowing the Kemalist intellectual. Anatolia is a distant place that intellectuals want, but cannot love. The intellectuals believe sĞhe should love it in the name of some transcendental values. The role of Village Institutes is emphasized and the major characteristics of the village novels of 1950s and 1960s are analyzed. From 1960s on, village novels gained popularity and till 1980s to give leftist political messages was the main objective. The fall of village novels in 1980s can be explained with political, economic and social conditions of Turkey. The diminishing share of agriculture in Turkish economy, the loss of interest in rural sphere, and the migration of peasants to urban suburbs are explanatory factors in the fall of village novels.




On Russian Populism


This paper aims to shed light into Russian Populism of the late 19th century with a particular emphasis on Peter Lavrov’s influential “Historical Letters.” The paper starts with a critique of the widely accepted definition of the concept of Populism offered by Lenin and Walicki. Instead of regarding Populism as an expression of small-producers or peasants, I suggest that populism cannot be understood without analyzing the birth of a new kind of intelligentsia in the 19th century, a worldwide phenomenon parallel to the rise of the “modern” state. In this context, I elaborate on the necessities and interests of this new intelligentsia with regard to the masses as a key to understand the populist ideology. For this reason, attention will be devoted to Lavrov’s thoughts regarding the state, liberal democracy, the critically-thinking individuals, the subjective nature of knowledge and the peasant commune. The paper continues with a discussion on the role of the Russian peasant commune which was seen by almost all the Populists as the evidence for the possibility of bypassing the capitalist stage. The paper ends with the presentation of some of the historical conditions in Russia of the late 1890s that paved the way for the failure of the Populist ideology.



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