• agrarian capitalism;
  • neo–liberalism;
  • non–traditional exports;
  • peasants;
  • Chile

In the mid–1970s, following the early shift to neoliberalism, the Chilean rural sector was restructured dramatically, becoming one of the most successful cases of non–traditional agricultural export (NTAE) growth. However, many analysts fail to discuss the problematic nature of Chile’s integration into the global market. Underpinning this rapid growth of NTAEs is the exploitation of cheap peasant labour, especially seasonal female wage workers. This article examines the elements of continuity and change in agrarian policy since the transition to democracy in 1990. In particular, it presents the policy debate on the future of the peasantry: capitalization or proletarianization? The dilemma that policy makers face over maintaining high rates of NTAE growth while at the same time attempting to reduce poverty and income inequalities are also highlighted. The Chilean case can be considered as paradigmatic insofar as it exhibits key characteristics of the classical capitalist transformation of agriculture: the emergence of a new class of dynamic agricultural entrepreneurs, renewed proletarianization and land concentration, and intensification of social differentiation.