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What is the Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Approach (SRLA) and what is it good for – and what not? In this episode we are joined by Ian Scoones in conversation about this approach which he has been centrally involved in elaborating. Unlike political economy, the SRLA is not, and cannot provide, a theoretical framework, in that it does not contain any overarching analysis of social processes. Ian describes the approach as having quite modest claims – as a generic set of empirical questions about complex rural worlds, centered on the question: what do people do all day to survive? Since the 1990s, the ‘development industry’ and donor agencies have widely and uncritically adopted ‘sustainable livelihoods’ in a depoliticised way. Ian responds to this, and the criticism that the approach focuses on the micro level and is highly descriptive – and anathema to political economy. Insofar as questions about livelihoods address questions about ownership of resources, labour, distribution of benefits and accumulation, he argues that it can be compatible and usefully integrated with class analysis.

This episode is presented by Prof Ruth Hall and PLAAS post-doctoral candidate Dr. Boaventura Monjane.