peasantry

peasants, peasantry
The word ‘peasant’ is a typical example of the confusion of the common use of a word with its sociological definition. Probably the common use, in this case, is more correct. People always know whether or not a person is a peasant, even though they may be referring to rich smallholders, share-croppers , or landless labourers, in a vast range of historical and cultural contexts. Social scientists, on the other hand, have devoted a good deal of time and passion to arguing over the exact definition.
There have been attempts to define peasant economies, particularly in Marxist theory, in such a way as to link social groups as diverse as feudal tenants, independent farmers, and rural day-labourers. These have variously stressed the importance of the peasant family as a unit of both production and consumption, the relationship of capitalist to non-capitalist agriculture, the use of family labour in a rural setting, and the exploitation of poor, or relatively poor, agricultural producers. There have been attempts to define a peasant mode of production , through the notion of the family-labour farm, as well as assertions that the peasantry is a class. The latter is related to debates about the revolutionary potential of the peasantry-again particularly among Marxist theorists.
Among social anthropologists, peasants have been defined by their cultural habits and norms, by narrowness of vision, and clinging to tradition . These attempts to characterize peasants as a generic human type have been littered with typologies that try to agglomerate all the different social and economic forms that are variously called peasant. However, as with Marxist economics, no precise or useful definition has been produced, and the term is best regarded as an imprecise socio-economic category of descriptive rather than heuristic usefulness.
There are extensive literatures on the social structure of peasant societies and on peasant movements and rebellions . The writings of Eric R. Wolf still offer one of the best introductions to these topics (see Peasants, 1966, and Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century, 1971).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • Peasantry — Peas ant*ry, n. 1. Peasants, collectively; the body of rustics. A bold peasantry. Goldsmith. [1913 Webster] 2. Rusticity; coarseness. [Obs.] p. Butler. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • peasantry — [pez′ən trē] n. 1. peasants collectively 2. a peasant s rank or condition …   English World dictionary

  • Peasantry —    Karl Marx did not accord the same significance to the peasantry as he did to the proletariat. The former he saw as essentially a doomed class that would be swept aside by capitalism, while the proletariat represented the agent of revolution… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • peasantry — noun a) Impoverished rural farm workers, either as serfs, small freeholders or hired hands. 1920 They distressed her. They were so stolid. She had always maintained that there is no American peasantry, and she sought now to defend her faith by… …   Wiktionary

  • peasantry — [[t]pe̱z(ə)ntri[/t]] N SING COLL: also no det, usu the N You can refer to all the peasants in a particular country as the peasantry. The Russian peasantry stood on the brink of disappearance …   English dictionary

  • peasantry — peas|ant|ry [ˈpezəntri] n the peasantry all the peasants of a country …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • peasantry — noun the peasantry all the peasants of a particular country …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • peasantry — peasant ► NOUN 1) a poor smallholder or agricultural labourer of low social status. 2) informal an ignorant, rude, or unsophisticated person. DERIVATIVES peasantry noun. ORIGIN Old French paisent, from pais country …   English terms dictionary

  • peasantry — noun Date: circa 1553 1. peasants 2. the position, rank, or behavior of a peasant …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • peasantry — /pez euhn tree/, n. 1. peasants collectively. 2. the status or character of a peasant. [1545 55; PEASANT + RY] * * * …   Universalium

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