Neo-Classical Neo-Populism 25 Years On: Déjà Vu and Déjà Passé. Towards a Critique

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Abstract

The Griffin, Khan and Ickowitz argument in favour of redistributive land reform, as a means of eradicating rural poverty, is an updated version of a case made by Griffin 30 years ago, and is here seen as a variant of neo-classical neo-populism. The essential logic presented by GKI is considered and it is argued that the approach is defective in its lack of historical perspective and its deployment of a static approach in a dynamic context: these defects manifested in its ignoring of the processes associated with capitalist transformation. It is further argued that its logical foundation is the neo-classical construct of perfect competition, which is without historical basis; its empirical justification is a postulated inverse relationship between land productivity and size of holding, supposedly true of all places and all times, but which is swept away by the development of capitalism in agriculture; and its social specification, in failing to capture the existence of differentiated peasantries, ignores the actual class structure of the countryside.

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