van der Ploeg J. D. The role of Chayanovian ideas in Peasant Studies, and in the art of farming // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2017. V.2. №3. P. 6-27.

DOI: 10.22394/2500-1809-2017-2-3-6-27


This article is an abridged version of the book by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg “Peasants and the Art of Farming. A Chayanovian Manifesto”—the second one in the series of “little books on big ideas” in the sphere of agrarian transformations established by Saturnino (Jun) Borras. The author identifies key features of the structure and dynamics of peasant agriculture, and its historically variable characteristics that determine labour, production and social processes and relationships. Van der Ploeg believes that peasant agriculture can play an important, if not central, role in augmenting food production and ensuring sustainable rural development. However, peasants today, as in the past, are materially neglected. Based on the ideas of Alexander Vasilyevich Chayanov, the author seeks to address this neglect and to show how important peasants are in the ongoing struggles for food, food sustainability and food sovereignty. The author examines two main balances identified by Chayanov—the labour-consumer balance and the balance of utility and drudgery, as well as a number of other interacting balances (between people and living nature, of production and reproduction, of internal and external resources, of scale and intensity, etc.), and emphasizes their social, economic and political importance in the past and present. The author also considers the position of peasant agriculture in the wider social context focusing on the town-country relations, state-peasantry relations, and on the balance of agrarian growth and demographic growth. At the end of the article, there is an overview of different models and mechanisms for increasing productivity and intensification, the choice of which is determined by the dominant discourse (i.e. by the state priorities reflected in agrarian programs and reforms, and by the position of agrarian sciences in designing the future of agriculture and assessing the role of peasantry), and a brief description of the current trends of repeasantization in Europe.


peasantry, peasant farming, Chayanov, interacting balances, the state, agricultural sciences, the agrarian question, repeasantization, productivity (yeilds), intensification

About the authors

van der Ploeg Jan Douwe, Professor at the Wageningen University (the Netherlands) Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 PB Wageningen and at the China Agricultural University in Beijing. 
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Trotsuk Irina V., DSc (Sociology), Associate Professor, Sociology Chair, RUDN University; Senior Researcher, Center for Agrarian Studies, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. 119571, Moscow, prosp. Vernadskogo, 82. 
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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