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Violence and War in Agrarian Perspective


  • We thank the editors of the Journal of Agrarian Change for enticing us to put together this special issue, and for their patience and support during the process. We also thank the authors of the contributions and the anonymous reviewers.

Christopher Cramer, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, UK. E-mail: Paul Richards, Technology and Agrarian Development group, University of Wageningen, P.O. Box 9101, 6700 HB Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


The bulk of analysis and commentary on violent conflicts in developing countries over the past 20 years or so has neglected the dynamics and tensions of agrarian political economy. Introducing a special issue devoted to these agrarian dimensions of armed conflict, non-war violence and post-war repertoires of political mobilization, this paper argues for a new research and policy agenda. In doing so, we revive some older analytical approaches and suggest that they can refresh and enhance current scholarship. We argue too for a historical perspective: not simply to highlight precedents but, rather, because such a perspective helps to clarify the issues involved and their centrality to processes of rural change, as well as to show that there may be long-run continuities in patterns of conflict. Bringing the agrarian back in to the study of violent conflict means investigating access to land and capital and means of mobilizing labour; it means investigating changes in the institutional regulation of such access and control; and it means identifying the tensions, techniques of compulsion and modes of resistance developed around productive relations in, typically, a globalized context.