by Jeffrey Paige
The specter haunting sociology is that the great political events of history still seem connected to agriculture. Barrington
Moore even linked agriculture to the rise of Hitler. Yet we supposedly live in an industrial and post-industrial world
in the imperialist countries.
This book is tough reading and contains the use of advanced statistical methods. As such it will mostly end up in
college-educated people's hands.
Here I will only touch on one issue among many mentioned in the book. In sociological literature the concern
or topic of interest is often called "collective violence." In connection to this, those of neo-classical economic bent
have raised the "free rider problem." According to this theory, the rational actor benefits from revolutions created by others,
but does not risk revolution him or herself.
We believe we have answered that question directly elsewhere, but let's look at what Jeffery Paige has
done in that context. Instead of raising merely a theoretical question about the free rider or an ideological question
as to whether the "free rider" is good or bad, what Paige has done is so much better.
Paige has taken data and shown that collective violence does exist, can be measured and has identifiable causations.
Instead of wondering whether collective violence can happen by simply asking about the "free rider problem," Paige collected
the data on incidents of violence and showed that people around the world do in certain circumstances take up
revolutionary violence. When we know that such violence will occur and under what conditions, the question of "free riders"
seems rather silly and ideologically motivated. It's a case where facts need to substitute for theoretical concern alone.
The question of how the tooth-fairy takes away the teeth at night is indeed scientific, but if we ask it again and again,
we have fallen victim to ideology.
A lesser discussed aspect of the book is the situation where revolutionary violence will not occur and that is in the setting
where social logic dictates compromise between capital and wage-earners. Since it is in fact true that no successful revolution
has occurred in an industrialized country--except for Stalin's Red Army invasion of Germany--it might well be that capitalism
succeeds in exporting its political crisis to the Third World. Paige shows that revolution happens in export-agriculture sectors,
where agrarian elites find themselves in a zero-sum struggle with peasants by the very nature of the business these
elites are in.
Paige operationalizes something similar to our line. We at MIM see that the more advanced capitalist countries did in fact
go the reformist road of compromise. The most advanced produced conservative middle-classes out of the former ranks of the proletariat.
It's tempting in imperialist countries to ignore the agrarian reality affecting most people in the world even in 2003. Because advanced capitalist countries
do not truly assist in economic development of agrarian countries and in fact support elites holding back those countries,
Agrarian Revolution is still terribly relevant.