Peasants, Agricultural Intensification, and Collective Action in Pre-Modern States

Author(s): Lane Fargher; Richard Blanton

Year: 2017


Historically, anthropological archaeologists assumed that intensification, in complex societies, involved a combination of population pressure and state direction, which culminated in the rise of powerful, centralized states. However, intensive research over the last 30 years has considerably altered our concepts of intensification and the state. Drawing on landscape archaeology and alternative pathways theory, we consider how diverse political-economic and landscape strategies interact to create complex socio-bio-physical environments. Specifically, we focus on the ways that rural populations (peasants) solved (or failed to solved) cooperation problems involving landesque intensification strategies that require large-scale quasi-voluntary participation in the context of varying political environments. Data from a wide sample of pre-modern states indicate that peasants pursed a wide of array of strategies that varied in degree of collectivity. In states low in collectivity, some peasants were able to overcome cooperation problems and invest in large-scale agricultural facilities; whereas in others, they failed to do so and agricultural strategies were limited to the household scale. In some highly collective states where food security was a concern, principals relied on pre-existing intermediate-scale cooperative units to increase agricultural production; and, in others the state had to penetrate deep into society to build these cooperative units.

Cite this Record

Peasants, Agricultural Intensification, and Collective Action in Pre-Modern States. Lane Fargher, Richard Blanton. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430569)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14360