Brainiac Book Reviews: Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change, by Henry Bernstein

November 16, 2013

(Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change, by Henry Bernstein.  Fernwood Publishing and Kumarian Press.  2010.)

The back cover of this book tells us: “Agrarian political economy investigates the power in agrarian formations, and how they change.  Using Marx’s theory of capitalism, the book argues that class dynamics should be the starting point of any analysis of agrarian change.”

Right away the alarms are going off.  This guy’s a Marxist, whether he admits it or not.  He has two academic appointments: he is Adjunct Professor in the College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University, Beijing; and Professor of Development Studies in the University of London at the School of Oriental and African Studies.  How can he be working in London and Beijing at the same time?  There’s something fishy here.  Okay, obviously he’s an extreme liberal.  The School of Oriental and African Studies is a place for lefties who like to sniff the assholes of wogs and jigaboos.  But no Westerner is going to be working at the China Agricultural University unless he is really tight with the Chinese Communist Party.

The book is simultaneously published in Canada by Fernwood Publishing and in the U.S. by Kumarian Press.  I never heard of either one of them.  Fernwood Publishing gets money from the government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council, as well as the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture and the provincial government of Manitoba.  Fernwood has offices in both Nova Scotia and Manitoba.  Why?  What Canadian book publisher needs two offices, and why in two such places as Nova Scotia and Manitoba?  We are also told that this book is the first in a series devoted to “Agrarian Change and Peasant Studies”, sponsored by the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS).  This is described as a “worldwide community of like-minded scholars, development practitioners and activists who are working on agrarian issues.  The ICAS is a common ground, a common space for critical scholars, development practitioners and movement activists.  It is a pluralist initiative, allowing vibrant exchange of views from different progressive ideological perspectives….The ICAS promotes engaged research and scholarship that are both academically interesting and socially relevant, and further, implies taking the side of the poor.”  (What a load of stinking Commie crap!)  The book series is financially supported by the Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), the Netherlands.  The series editors are Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Max Spoor and Henry Veltmeyer.

Okay, CIA, get to work.  There’s enough in the preceding paragraph to keep you busy for a while.  I can’t help speculating that any strange worldwide network that connects to some university in Beijing is automatically suspect.

I’m not attacking the author personally, but I’m suspicious of the company he keeps.  Besides, there is no evidence that he has any first-hand experience of farming or that he has ever grown so much as a tomato.  And I don’t know what the feck he’s talking about in this book.  What is this class dynamics and where is it happening?  I’ve never seen it.  Farmers are on their farms and I’m in a city.  I never even met a farmer.  Cesar Chavez united the grape-pickers in California.  We all remember that.  So what?  The author doesn’t even mention him.  And he doesn’t mention that other guy — whatsisname — Tito Guano, who led the root-growers who grow the roots for root beer.

The author talks about globalization and how big agribusinesses turn the whole world into one market and deploy their capital where they can make the most money, and the reaction to this is a kind of new peasant movement.  Where is this leading?  What’s the Chinese interest here?  For me, I don’t see any change or any dynamics.  What class do I belong to?  I don’t know.  All I know is that grocery prices keep going up, and I have to shop in this godawful supermarket for immigrants, white trash, and welfare bums, and I’ve got voices in my head telling me to KILL…and somehow I have to resist the urge to smash heads with a brick.  I am so depressed, and this book only makes it worse.  I swear, this book made me so mad I wanted to go out to Sherbourne Street and punch the first wog I found talking some wog language on a cell phone.  And how did this guy Henry Bernstein get to be an expert on peasants?  I know more about peasants than he does.  But never mind.  This isn’t the time to go there.

If this guy loves peasants so much, he should be put to the test.  His e-mail address is hb4@soas.ac.uk.  Write to him and tell him you’re a poor, oppressed peasant and ask for a donation in any amount.  See if he sends you anything.

A lot of Filipinos got wiped out in that big typhoon they had in November, but how much aid did those slitty-eyed Chinese bastards send?  Eh?  ZERO.  And what are the Chinese doing to their own farmers?  And what does the author have to say about the torture and persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong?  He doesn’t say anything in the whole book that could possibly be construed as a criticism of China.  What he does say is a lot of eye-glazing academic verbiage.  I don’t even want to quote any of it.  One egghead from Yale calls this book “the most sweeping, original, and discerning class analysis of agrarian history in many decades.”  And somebody else from Oxford calls it a “tour de force….It should be essential reading for all development students (whatever age) and activists (wherever they work).”

I’m going to take a pill and try to forget Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change, by Henry Bernstein.

Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail: crad166@yahoo.com

Reminder: my French book, Villes Bigrement Exotiques, is still in print.  Published by Le Dilettante (Paris).

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