James C. Scott. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998. xiv + 445 pp.
James C. Scott. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998. xiv + 445 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-300-07016-3; $19.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-300-07815-2.
Reviewed by Mark B. Tauger (Department of History, West Virginia University)
Published on H-Russia (April, 1999)
The Moral Agronomy of the Peasant v. the Moral Economy of the Town
In this wide-ranging study, James Scott contributes to the large literature that critiques modern economic and specifically agrarian development programs. Scott takes a longer historical perspective than is usual in such works, however, and employs a fashionable postmodernist approach. He focuses on governmental efforts to extend control over local communities by means of intrusive and often coercive measures to "simplify" local practices and make them "legible" to state officials. His study consists in large part of an attack on "authoritarian high-modernism" as exemplified in the Soviet Union's collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s and in Tanzanian and Ethiopian policies of villagization in the 1970s and 1980s. Scott's study is cohesive and challenging, but his centerpiece studies of Tanzania and especially of the USSR are so flawed by errors, omissions, and misleading arguments that they discredit rather than support his overall argument.
The first of the book's four sections, "State Projects of Legibility and Simplification," begins with a discussion of scientific forestry, arguing that the "state conception" of the forest imposed by nineteenth century German foresters reduced the complexities of a real forest to a single number, the revenue yield. On this basis these foresters established monoculture timber plantations that removed all aspects of the forest that did not accord with those goals. As a result of this failure to consider factors outside a narrow focus on yield, the timber plots ultimately declined in yield drastically, in the worst cases undergoing "forest death" (waldsterben) (p. 20).
Scott periodically refers back to this case as a classic example of the inadequacy of modernist, scientific, "simplifying" approaches to complex problems. This cautionary tale serves as the setting off point for similar discussions of the introduction of the metric system, land reform (including the Stolypin land reform in Russia), urban renewal (such as Haussmann's Paris), maps, language, and surnames. Like the German foresters who ignored and ruined the forest in their attempt to profit from the trees, Scott argues, the modernizing state seeks to reduce or ignore complexities of real life and eliminate local practices and institutions that interfere with its extractive goals.
Scott qualifies his argument by acknowledging that some state modernizing activities bring benefits. What he warns against, and devotes the next sections to, is "authoritarian high-modernism," which combined officials' commitment to a high-modernist ideology, an administrative ordering of society, an authoritarian state willing to employ coercion to realize such projects, and a prostrate civil society.
As an example of the inadequacies of authoritarian high modernism, Scott examines the city planning of the architect Le Corbusier. Scott contrasts Le Corbusier's utopian projects for functionalist, large-scale, simplified, and extremely open, "legible" cities with Jane Jacobs' emphasis on real cities' complexity, small scale, adaptability and "illegibility." The planned city of Brasilia, built according to the principles of Le Corbusier, in Scott's view is not only inhospitable, with bland, identical large apartments and office buildings, but also not self-sufficient, dependent on the unplanned "Free City" and other squatter communities which function spontaneously in much the way Jacobs described.
Based on this example, Scott argues that high-modernist approaches are fundamentally aesthetic, reflecting leaders' preconceptions of what modernity should look like, and insensitive to the actual ways such institutions actually function. They are also ultimately parasitic on local non-modernist and even traditional activities that the modernist project often attempts to eliminate. The modernist project, Scott argues, almost always relies on a "dark twin" (a term he introduces later on page 261) that contradicts its basic goals.
In this context Scott presents his interpretation of revolution and collectivization in the Soviet Union and of villagization in Tanzania and Ethiopia, which I will discuss below. After this, Scott broadens his attack to scientific agriculture for its "imperial pretensions": its refusal to consider and utilize knowledge from outside its paradigm (p. 264). He summarizes familiar arguments on the ecological drawbacks of modern farming methods (too few crop varieties, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers), and contrasts these with the practices of West African peasants: polycropping, shifting cultivation, use of natural fertilizers, and continual experimentation with new varieties.
Scientific agricultural research, Scott argues, by reducing variables to manageable numbers and relying on controlled experimental plots, follows a logic of homogenization and elimination of local knowledge and seeks to create "standard" farmers. By contrast, Scott argues, "real farmers" such as West African or Peruvian peasants are inventive and resourceful, with an exhaustive knowledge of an enormous variety of crops which they can adapt effectively to changing soil and environmental circumstances. Such farmers may not use reliable scientific methods, Scott admits, but they have a detailed and extensive knowledge of plants that exceeds that of scientific investigators.
In the last section of the study, Scott presents a general case for the importance of such practical knowledge and experience, for which he uses the Greek term metis, in contrast to techne and episteme, respectively formal scientific knowledge and explanation. As examples of this distinction, Scott explains the different roles of the trained ship's captain, who pilots well on the open sea, and the local pilot who knows his own harbor much better than the captain and on whom the captain must depend to bring the boat into port.
While qualifying his argument with an acknowledgement of the value of techne and episteme, Scott emphasizes as before their ultimate dependence on practical knowledge, on metis, citing the example from his own experience of an East German factory that depended for its work on a jack-of-all-trades repairman and what specialists would call a tolkach [pusher] who bought and sold various goods underground in order to obtain necessary inputs. He ends with an appeal for institutions that allow for metis, for people to be involved in the continual adaptation and transformation of the structures in which they live.
Like the rest of Scott's work, this study is well and cohesively written and overflows with ideas and insights, and I fully agree with his concluding philosophical points. In some ways this study reconciles the old moral economy-political economy dispute. Scott no longer asserts that peasant farmers are risk averse, but rather that they continually take risks, that every season's planting is a prudent bet, that farmers continually innovate in response to a variable environment (p. 301). This book does resemble his classic Moral Economy of the Peasant (1974), however, in that it assumes a fundamental opposition between an insensitive, often cruel state out to extract and control and a benign, creative, innocently self-interested peasantry. In this sense, Scott's defense of peasant farming methods represents an extension of his earlier analysis of the subsistence-oriented practices and values in the moral economy, and could be called "the moral agronomy of the peasant."
Scott's view of the state, however, is inconsistent and unclear. He shows how policies from timber production to the metric system facilitated state intervention, but he is less clear about what the goals of the state actually were in those interventions. He refers to "the classic state functions of conscription, taxation, and prevention of rebellion" (p. 2), but he repeatedly acknowledges that modernizing leaders at least intended to improve conditions, even if they failed (e.g., p. 352). Most important, in his focus on state efforts to make society "simpler" and more "legible," to control and extract resources, he minimizes or ignores state actions to provide those resources to urban (and also rural) people, when crop failure or market failure reduced food availability, raised prices, and eliminated their entitlements to food. These were the original issues behind the idea of the "moral economy."
Both the Tanzanian and Soviet cases exemplify this problem. In Chapter Seven Scott depicts the villagization programs in Tanzania and (more briefly) in Ethiopia as the most dramatic of a series of development schemes, derived from colonial models, to make the rural economy more legible to government and more accessible to state control. Scott sharply criticizes villagization for the violence with which it was implemented, for imposing servitude on the peasantry, for causing ecological damage, and for the hijacking of the program by local officials who distorted it to benefit their interests.
Despite these deleterious results, however, Scott's own evidence suggests a different reason for villagization (for reasons of space I will discuss here only Tanzania, to which Scott devotes most of his discussion). In Tanzania, Scott notes that the regime employed the threat of withholding famine relief to induce peasants to settle in villages, but while he identifies only one regional famine in Dodoma in 1969, he refers to the use of this threat in other places in 1974 and later (pp. 232-33, 235) without identifying a famine at that time. Later he mentions "huge" food imports in 1973-1975, that began before the intensive villagization program (p.239; on p. 234 Scott notes that President Julius Nyerere announced the program only in December 1973, and it was implemented only in 1974).
These references to famine relief and imports suggest that villagization was at least in part an attempt to increase food production to overcome repeated famine caused by droughts and crop failures. Scott mentions increased food production in passing as a goal of villagization, but he gives the impression that Nyerere implemented the policy in 1973 out of impatience to achieve modernization and control (p. 234). Scott also interprets state measures requiring peasants to farm a certain minimum of cropland in terms of control, i.e. the means to an end, without mentioning the goal of increased food production implied in such measures (pp. 349-51).
Certain of Scott's sources support this interpretation. Goran Hyden, for example, emphasizes the connection between Nyerere's announcement of the villagization campaign and the drought that began in November 1973. Grain production, he notes, had declined for years before 1974 and had forced the government to import hundreds of thousands of tons of grain by 1973. Hyden specifically states that this decline in production was not the result of villagization but rather of the severe drought, which in 1974 reduced the harvest to less than half of normal and "illustrated the strong dependence of Tanzanian agriculture on the whims of nature." The drought, Hyden notes, led the regime to abandon the collectivist aspect of its policies (ujamaa) but not villagization (Scott seems to imply that it led the regime to shelve villagization, p. 410 fn. 88). By 1975, Hyden continues, food production increased substantially, perhaps by ten percent, especially in some newly villagized regions. By 1978-1979, villagized peasants produced so much grain that Tanzania had a surplus to export.
My point here is not to defend coerced villagization; many of the criticisms Scott makes of it are valid, especially concerning its bureaucratic abuses and the injustice and harshness with which it was implemented. But perhaps the regime continued to implement it to the point that most of the rural population lived in villages by the early 1980s because initially, and despite the program's drawbacks, it was successful in increasing production, the objective that Nyerere emphasized in his statements at the time.
Scott's approach to the topics he discusses in Russian and Soviet history reflects the same assumptions about the state's goals and the same omissions of conflicting evidence as in the Tanzanian case, exacerbated by numerous errors. While he acknowledges his limited background in Soviet history, the fact that he published these arguments warrants mention of some of the most important errors.
In his discussion of urban planning, Scott classifies St. Petersburg as an example of an artificial, modernist city together with Brasilia and Chandrigarh, and Moscow as a small scale intimate city like Rio and Calcutta (p. 144). Anyone who has lived both in Moscow and St. Petersburg knows that Scott's characterization is wrong. St. Petersburg never was a wide-open, cold modernist city like Brasilia but a small-scale urban environment of the sort Jacobs praised, a rich cultural center with narrow streets, mixed neighborhoods, multiuse spaces and a long tradition of urban intimacy, while Moscow is the grandiose, imposing megalopolis, with huge streets and endless rows of repetitive, large apartment buildings. Moreover, Moscow is more complex than Scott's dichotomy and Brasilia's example would allow, with smaller scale neighborhoods interspersed among the large buildings. In part this reflects the different meanings and conceptions of "planning" and "modern" in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, which Scott overlooks.
Scott's interpretation of the Stolypin reform shows the limits of his assumptions regarding state goals. He attempts to view Russian open field peasant farming in the same revisionist way that he approaches polycropping later on, asserting that the complexity of the interstripped fields was "enough to make the head of a cadastral surveyor swim" (p. 39). This interpretation is misleading on several counts. First, while Russia did have land taxation, the income from it was small compared to its major fiscal sources (excise taxes, especially on vodka, and the redemption payments for the emancipation of the serfs). Further, no study or source that I have seen ever refers to difficulties on the part of local officials in understanding field layout, partly because most of them were educated former peasants who could easily understand and map an interstripped village.
Scott even presents maps of such villages without stopping to consider who prepared them (pp. 40-43). He then asserts that interstripping was simple for the peasants who used it, a questionable claim in view of the endless disputes in interstripped villages over equity in redistribution, peasants' abandonment of distant strips, and their efforts to avoid repartition as long as possible. These difficulties led many peasants to try and escape the constraints of the commune long after Stolypin. During NEP, many peasants undertook to consolidate their land holdings in the manner of the Stolypin reform, usually with the aid of agricultural specialists from the People's Commissariat of Agriculture, to the point that in some regions communal land holdings almost disappeared. Soviet investigations found that many other peasants wanted to consolidate their holdings and were held back only by the costs.
In general Scott paints a quaint, overly positive image of Russian peasant open field farming, and an unjustly pejorative picture of the Russian government's goals in the reform. He attributes to the regime fiscal goals it did not have in this reform: the regime abolished the main direct "tax," the redemption payments, when it introduced the reform. He omits Stolypin's objective of ensuring the peasants' security of land tenure, a peasant-oriented goal that many peasants shared and that would seem to fit in with Scott's ideals of participation and metis. Scott is so committed to the assumption that the state only takes that he excludes the possibility that the state could also give.
In discussing Lenin and the revolutionary party, Scott attempts to contrast what he considers Lenin's rigid theory of centralized leadership in the revolutionary party with both Lenin's "actual practice" and with Luxembourg's and Kollontai's endorsement of spontaneity and the free flow of revolution. In his analysis of Lenin's What is to be Done?, Scott rehearses well-known arguments regarding Lenin's authoritarianism and condescension toward workers. He then argues that the 1917 revolutions did not take place in the manner Lenin anticipated. He cites E. H. Carr and Hannah Arendt to the effect that the Bolsheviks contributed little to the overthrow of tsarism, and asserts that few workers supported the Bolsheviks. He even claims that Lenin's model of the vanguard party was a "pipe dream" during the October 1917 coup, which was a situation of utter confusion, with no "command and control structure" and Lenin out of step with the party's leadership.
After further analysis of Lenin's writings as examples of high-modernist ideology, Scott outlines Rosa Luxembourg's criticisms of Lenin's ideas for their focus on control and regimentation. Rejecting Lenin's centralized conception of revolution as manageable from a central command, Luxembourg saw it as a spontaneous and almost natural process. Scott argues that Lenin approached the working classes like an engineer approached raw materials, while Luxembourg approached workers as a physician approached a patient, and anticipated in 1918 that the Bolshevik regime would become "a dictatorship of the bourgeois type" (p. 174).
Scott's desire to support Luxembourg's spontaneity argument leads him to assert that "Those who fought in 'The Russian Revolution' discovered this fact about themselves only later, when the revolution was an accomplished fact. In the same way none of the historical participants in, say, World War I or the Battle of the Bulge, not to mention the Reformation or the Renaissance, knew at the time that they were participating in anything that could be so summarily described" (p. 160).
This assertion reflects the historical ignorance of much of Scott's argumentation in this section. All of the terms he cites or their counterparts (combatants knew they were fighting "the Great War" or even a "World War," but not yet "World War I") were employed in the periods to which they refer, and virtually everyone involved in them and most people who observed them perceived their signficance and magnitude. This was especially the case with the "Russian Revolution," which Russians of all political stripes anticipated or dreaded from 1905 on.
Scott's failure to understand that context leads him to exaggerate and misunderstand the spontaneity of the 1917 revolutions. Pace Carr and Arendt, much research has demonstrated that the Bolsheviks won substantial support among the Russian working classes, both before 1914 and again during 1917. Further, as argued by participants and scholars from Leon Trotskii to Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, the years of propagandizing by Bolsheviks and other revolutionary parties, and the experience of 1905, had prepared workers to act in an organized way once the crisis matured. The fact that, as soon as it was clear that the regime had fallen, the radical parties put together a soviet to "represent" the working class, clearly indicates that all parties thought along the lines Lenin proposed in What is to be Done?, of taking control of the popular movement.
Scott's assertion that Luxembourg's ideas described better how the Bolsheviks actually came to power in 1917 than does What is to be Done? is almost absurd. While the situation was chaotic, Lenin and Trotskii were able to perceive how to take over the remaining power structures, in other words to carry out a coup, and in doing so they employed the principles of central organization and military discipline Lenin had propounded in What is to be Done?.
Scott emphasizes that Luxembourg and Kollontai saw revolutions as "voyages in uncharted waters" (p. 177), while Lenin thought that the road to socialism was mapped out in detail (p. 174). This may reflect Lenin's clear objectives and his conception of revolution as a means to an end, of which high-modernism was only a part, and Luxembourg's greater interest in the process itself. Lenin's viewpoint also reflected his awareness of the potential threats posed by opponents of a revolution. In this sense, Luxembourg's more humane perspective was also one more likely to end up in defeat, and Lenin's ideas were not a "pipe dream" but all too realistic.
For Scott, Soviet collectization was the extreme example of state intervention gone wrong. Scott relates collectivization to the "cultural and aesthetic" aspects of Russian and Soviet high modernism, from tsarist "administrative utopianism" to the "gigantomania" of Soviet planning, and to the "fetish" of large-scale industrial farming. After briefly discussing the interchange of ideas and advisors between the Soviet Union and the U.S. on planning large farms in the 1920s, Scott argues that industrial farms were not more efficient than small farms, even peasant farms, and their application to Russia was unrealistic because it involved typical high modernism: oversimplified and abstract theory applied to unpredictable and complex reality.
Scott traces in a very compressed manner the development of collectivization from 1917. The peasants' expulsion of the landlords and repartition of land, he argues, made the village more resistant to the Soviet regime than it had been to the tsarist regime, and "nearly unfathomable" from the standpoint of a tax or procurement official (the same type of argument he made about the Stolypin reform, and just as inaccurate). Consequently, the Soviet regime employed "forced tribute" as the tsarist regime had done during World War I, which the peasants interpreted as plunder. The regime also set up collective farms, which he argues simplified landholding and taxation.
Scott argues that "the overriding purpose of collectivization was to ensure the seizure of grain," but that this goal "was filtered through a high-modernist lens" (pp. 209-10). Despite Soviet intentions of replacing the backwardness and poverty of the village with modern science and abundance and plans for specialization and increased sowing, collectivizaiton actually was a process of simplification and extension of state control. Acknowledging the peasants' view of collectivization as serfdom, Scott argues it destroyed rather than revived older structures, by replacing the "sprawling and autonomous" organization of the traditional village with a modular management scheme similar to McDonald's fast food restaurants.
The author repeatedly asserts that collectivization failed in its high-modernist goals, and blames the failure on the fact that collectivization turned the peasants into foot-dragging unfree laborers, created a system that was unresponsive to local knowledge and conditions, and left officials without any incentive to adapt to or negotiate with their "rural subjects" (pp. 210-18). From collectivization Scott draws general conclusions, employing a table contrasting "illegible" patterns, such as open commons land holding, decentralized transport networks, and local naming customs, with "legible" patterns such as collective farms, centralized transport hubs, and permanent last names (p. 220).
The analysis of collectivization rests on inaccuracies, misleading assertions, and omissions, which if corrected make a substantially different case from what he intends. The most important problem in his discussion of collectivization concerns the same problem omitted in his analysis of Tanzania: food shortages. Scott began his discussion of authoritarian high-modernism with a description of the German economic mobilization policies during World War I (98-100), which he asserts represented the peak of high-modernism.
This may have been the case in the industrial sector, but the aim of food supply policies in this period was not to be "modern" but to feed starving cities. The Germans, the French, the Austrians, and the Swiss, at least, introduced state monopolies on food and requisitioned food from farmers within their own countries during World War I; Britain fixed prices and later imposed rationing; Britain, France, and Germany requisitioned food from their African colonies in such large amounts that the requisitions caused several famines and malnutrition among Africans that lasted long beyond the War; and the United States imposed fixed prices on producers during the last year of the War.
Scott does not seem to be aware that tsarist, Provisional Government, and Bolshevik food requisition policies were based on those precedents, or that after 1917 the Whites and the Greens, who openly opposed Bolshevik antimarket views, also applied these policies, often more harshly and arbitrarily than the Bolsheviks. All of these regimes resorted to requisition and market-control policies in response to what were without any question famine conditions in the towns, conditions to which Scott gives only the barest mention.
Scott asserts that the small collective sector in the 1920s absorbed ten percent of the labor force but produced 2.2 percent of farm products, and therefore had no potential to increase food production (p. 209). The page he cites (R. W. Davies, The Socialist Offensive), and indeed the entire chapter, has no such data in it. In fact, kolkhozy in the 1920s included fewer than two percent of the peasants, and produced a much larger share of farm products. In general in the 1920s, the state agricultural sector (collective and state farms) was more productive than the private sector. Scott asserts that during the grain crisis in 1928 "the [Soviet regime's] mandated price was one-fifth of the market price" (p. 209). This statement reflects ignorance of the Soviet economy. There was no single "mandated" or "market" price: both the prices offered by state procurement agencies and market prices ranged literally all over the map, varying by period, region, and crop. Most notably, Scott does not take into consideration how the impoverished majority of the urban population were supposed to pay such high market prices.
The endorsement he appears to give here of high market prices for peasants, and the criticism it implies of the Soviet regime, is a remarkably inconsistent statement from a scholar who in previous works associated himself with the "moral economy" and the subsistence ethic, and who defended the principle, in The Moral Economy of the Peasant [pp. 33-34, especially fn. 49] that "one man's right to subsistence supersedes another man's right to a surplus."
What such a price difference should have suggested to Scott, like the "famine relief" in Tanzania in the 1970s, was that the regime faced a shortage and the townspeople faced famine. To alleviate that famine, the regime needed to increase food production, and because collective and state farms were more productive than peasant farms, Soviet leaders decided collectivization was a better risk than relying only on the existing peasant economy. Scott refers to certain scholars' views that the regime sought only to extract, but does not bother to investigate the bottom line. The Soviet regime invested much more in agriculture than in any other sector except industry, and much industrial investment went into agriculture.
Scott's point that collectivization made the villages more legible is closer to the mark, but is still misleading. Old village land-holding patterns were more of a problem for peasants than for the regime. Conflicts over land between villages were the subject of many legal cases during the early Soviet period. Collectivization alleviated these conflicts in some cases but perpetuated or created them in others. Furthermore, a village's capacity to resist the regime depended more on the village's remoteness from roads than on its layout.
Perhaps most notably, despite his repeated assertions that collectivization failed to achieve its "high-modernist" goals, at the end of his discussion Scott admits that centralized high-modernist approaches can work well for certain tasks, and that "collective farms were successful at growing some crops, especially the major grains" (p. 221). The contrast Scott attempts to demonstrate between production of the "proletarian crop," wheat, the durability of which lends itself to centralized production, and a "petit-bourgeois" crop, raspberries, which requires the care that only a small family farm can provide, only weakens his point. After all, even the "petite bourgeoisie" could not survive on raspberries; both they and the proletarians needed bread.
Despite Scott's attempts to qualify his arguments in Seeing Like a State, it still has strong anti-modern, anti-technology, anti-science implications. For example, in a footnote on Soviet modernization he refers to Eisenstein's film The General Line, which "conveys the utopian aspirations of high modernism by contrasting the plodding dark narod with his horse and scythe with images of electric cream separators, tractors, mowing machines, engines, skyscrapers, and airplanes" (p. 401, fn. 62). But these machines were not "utopian" aspirations, they were not "nowhere," they existed, not only in the United States but in the Soviet Union as well. Calling such items utopian implies that it was unrealistic for the Soviet regime to adopt them, and that the regime should have made do with the plodding horse and the scythe.
Scott's attack on large-scale farms as inefficient ignores the obvious fact that U.S. agriculture is dominated by such farms and has massively increased its production despite the enormous decline in the number of farmers. Scott dismissively attributes any advantages of large farms to their access to credit, political influence in the form of support payments, and "marketing muscle," which presumably means their ability to sell products at a low price (p. 198).
Here again Scott does not take into consideration the urban population. Most countries subsidize their farmers and provide incentives for them to modernize their production methods, among other reasons because such subsidies enable food products to be provided to consumers at lower prices than they would be if farms had to be entirely self-financing. It is much more manageable and economically much less risky to subsidize some hundreds of thousands of farmers than to try to subsidize the incomes of the entire population, although most countries do that as well for the poorest. The alternative is periodic "entitlement failures," as Amartya Sen explains famines, that result less from severe shortages than from volatile markets and ruthless prices set by farmers and grain traders.
Scott continually contrasts the abstract, simplified, "legible" but ultimately unrealistic plans of high-modernist administrators with the down-to-earth, complex, "illegible" but realistic approaches of the small-scale producers. This image of the administrator, however, is itself unrealistic, like his image of the Russian tax assessor whose "head swims" at the sight of an interstripped field. These people also have to deal with complicated problems, such as assuring food supplies for cities of millions of people in times of crop failure and other crises.
While small scale farms with polycropping may be superior ecologically and reflect wisdom accumulated through the ages, they may not do a good job of providing a large enough surplus of basic staples to keep the towns fed and at peace. One reason is that in some cases, peasant metis, for all its virtues, could not stand up to the forces of nature. In Tanzania in the 1970s, as in the USSR in the late 1920s, natural disasters brought major crop failures and serious food shortages before the regimes implemented their high-modernist transformations. Under those circumstances, it may be more "realistic" to apply high-modernist methods and centralized control, even if they are less efficient (i.e., require more inputs and costs) than to rely exclusively on the metis and good will of local-minded peasants.
. Examples of this literature include Susan George, How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (Hammondsworth: Penguin, 1977); Graham Hancock, The Lords of Poverty (New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1989); Gilbert Rist, The History of Development (New York: Zed, 1994).
. See James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), and Samuel Popkin, The Rational Peasant (Berkeley, 1983).
. The concept of the moral economy originated in British towns, on the part of poor townspeople who could not afford the high food prices that traders and farmers charged during years of scarcity and famine in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. See E. P. Thompson, "The Moral Economy of the English Crowd," Past and Present, 1971, reprinted in E. P. Thompson, Customs in Common (New York: New Press, 1993), as well as his "The Moral Economy Reviewed," in the same collection, and Roger Wells, Wretched Faces: Famine in Wartime England (London, 1988).
. Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), pp. 129-148.
. Andrew Coulson, "Agricultural Policies in Mainland Tanzania," Review of African Political Economy 10 September-December 1977), p. 94.
. On these points, see D. J. Male, Russian Peasant Organization Before Collectivization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), and P. N. Zyrianov, Krest'ianskaia obshchina evropeiskoi Rossii,1907-1914 gg. (Moscow: Nauka, 1992); V. P. Danilov, "Zemel'nye otnoshenii v sovetskoi dokolkhoznoi derevne," Istoriia SSSR, 1958, no. 3, pp. 109-110.
. Scott's discussion here is marred by errors. For example, Scott begins with a discussion of Lenin's What is to be Done?, and he notes that Lenin found inspiration in the eponymous novel by Chernyshevskii, "in which a "new man" of the intelligentsia set about destroying the old order and then ruling autocratically to establish a social utopia." His source is a book review by Robert Conquest (not the most reliable reference, yet one of Scott's main sources) in The New York Review of Books.
. For food supply policies in World War I, see Avner Offer, The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989); Melvin E. Page, ed., Africa and the First World War (London: MacMillan, 1987). The best study of Bolshevik food supply policies in these years is Lars Lih, Bread and Authority in Russia (Berkeley: University of California, 1990); on the Whites, see Peter Kenez, Civil War in South Russia (Berkeley: University of California, 1977 and 1981), passim, and Jon Smele, Kolchak i Sibir (White Plains, 1988), v. 1, pp. 228-229.
. R. W. Davies, The Socialist Offensive: The Collectivization of Soviet Agriculture (London: Macmillan, 1980), p. 6.
. E. H. Carr & R. W. Davies, Foundations of a Planned Economy (New York, 1969), v. 1, pt. 1, pp. 179-180.
. All of these data can be found in Ezhegodnik khlebnoi torgovli and Ezhegodnik khlebooborota.
. For evidence that urban food supplies approximated famine conditions, see for example Carr and Davies, Foundations of a Planned Economy, pt. 1, p. 699ff; Michael Reiman, The Birth of Stalinism (Bloomington, 1987), pp. 47-48.
. See for example R. W. Davies, The Development of the Soviet Budgetary System (Cambridge, 1958), p. 296.
Copyright (c) 1999 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact H-Net@h-net.msu.edu.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the list discussion logs at: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl.
Mark B. Tauger. Review of James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed and
Scott, James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed.
H-Russia, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 1999 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.