Rahardhika Utama is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Northwestern University. As an Arryman Scholar from Indonesia, Rahardhika’s research focuses on the variation of development among agrarian economies in the Global South. He examines historical factors that transform and sustain agrarian society by tracing domestic and international forces from colonial to contemporary periods that affect paths of economic development. For his dissertation project, Embedded Peasantry and Economic Transformation in the Asian Rubber Belt, he employs the case of natural rubber plantation and manufacturing industries to examine the bifurcation of development among historically prominent rubber producing countries in Asia.
Embedded Peasantry: A Critical Event Analysis on Peasants’ Repression and Emancipation in the Asian Rubber Belt
Why does the state-peasant relationship differ among post-colonial countries in the Global South? The variation in peasantry embeddedness—whether the state incorporated peasants in the post-colonial modernization plan— is one of the core explanations for the diverging economic development. However, previous studies have focused on how developing countries foster industrialization rather than address the agricultu ral burden left by decades of colonialism. In this chapter, I scrutinize the origin of peasantry embeddedness and discuss how its variation shaped different levels of state capacity among post-colonial countries in overcoming agricultural burden and transforming their economy. Using comparative cases of Indonesia and Malaysia, I perform a critical event analysis (Garcia-Montoya & Mahoney 2020) to elaborate on the origin of the peasantry embeddedness. I employ an interpretive historical analysis to identify critical events using data gathered from 20 libraries and archival centers in Europe and Asia. The data comprises policy memos, government records, statistics, ministerial correspondence, memoir, and oral history. I found the episodes of peasants’ repression in Indonesia following World War II are critical events that resulted in the dis-embedded peasantry. In Malaysia, the smallholder emancipatory policies implemented in the same historical period set the course toward creating embedded peasantry. I demonstrate that countries’ experiences with either peasants’ repression or emancipation are historical contingency that resulted in bifurcating peasantry embeddedness, which systematically causes divergence development. This finding offers new insights to address theoretical puzzles of the colonial origins of post-colonial development and the geopolitical explanations of underdevelopment in the Global South.
Affiliation: Northwestern University, USA