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Agriculture Publication

Ben Cousins , Alex Dubb, Donna Hornby & Farai Mtero (2018). Social reproduction of ‘classes of labour’ in the rural areas of South Africa: Contradictions and contestations. (JPS 45:5-6).

Marxist agrarian political economy has focused largely on the problematic of accumulation and its politics, but the dynamics of social reproduction in rural contexts remain somewhat under-theorised. These are explored through consideration of empirical evidence from communal areas and land reform farms in South Africa. Key arguments advanced are that social reproduction in such contexts include the reproduction of distinctive forms of marriage, systems of kinship and community membership, as well as of property relations that are not characterised by private ownership. Much social reproduction occurs outside of (direct) market relations, but it is nevertheless deeply conditioned and shaped by the dynamics of the wider capitalist economy, including in relation to wage labour and small-scale agricultural production. As a result, social reproduction in rural areas involves contradictions, tensions and contestations, and these are often at the centre of local forms of politics. The wider significance of these findings is discussed, and it is suggested that similar dynamics may be at work across the Global South.

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