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The peasantry in the expansion of the Amazonian frontier

Botelho, VL; (1990) The peasantry in the expansion of the Amazonian frontier. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Regarded as one of the last agricultural frontiers in the world, the Brazilian Amazon has, in the last 20 years, been subject to a steady process of occupation and colonization. Since the beginning, this process has given rise to intense debate by scholars concerned with, among others things, the ecological damage the occupation may provoke and the effects on the native inhabitants (Indians) resulting from the settlement of new social groups in the Region. However, it is the violent struggle for the possession of land between the newly-arrived, large-scale capitalist enterprises and the landless rural workers that has caused the greatest discussion during the last few years. Such discussion, based on the examples of the early frontier occupation processes in Brazil and the role played by the State, often concludes that the expansion of a small farming system in the Amazonian frontier Region will not occur. The formation and expansion of such a social category, many argue, will be blocked by the predominance of capitalist relations of production which will inevitably lead to the emergence of a process of social differentiation in which some of the settled peasants become capitalists and others proletarian. This thesis proposes to check the consistency of such a conclusion, amplifying the universe of investigation and adding new analytical approaches. It is argues that, despite the apparent similarities with the early processes which occurred in the country, the Amazonian frontier expansion process is quite different. Such difference is mainly determined by the physical environment and by the particular characteristics of the social agents - the State, the capitalist enterprises and the small farm producers ¬involved in this process. It also argued that despite all the constraints of a State policy favouring the capitalist enterprises and the hardships of the rain forest environment, even expand the small farming system of production in the Amazonian frontier region. The empirical ground for these arguments is found in a historical, political and social analysis of the particularities presented by the frontier expansion process in Amazonia and in a case study of two groups of small farm producers or peasants newly settled in the Region. Special attention is given to the case study which includes a detailed ethnographic analysis of the two groups of peasants and an evaluation of their present economic situation. The ethnographic analysis accounts for the back ground of the peasant families, their settlement process, their ability to adapt to the new physical and social environment and the main characteristics of the emerging social organization found in the newly formed rural communities. The economic analysis is mainly concerned with the means of production and how the peasants organize their system of production in order to maintain their condition as independent producers. Finally, an attempt is made to identify the main indicators of the economic performance of the small farmers and to what extent such indicators can actually be used to predict the viability and expansion of the small farming system in the Amazonian frontier in the long run.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The peasantry in the expansion of the Amazonian frontier
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10125115
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