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The Term Peasant is imprecise, but it has much historical significance. It could hardly be otherwise when the defining characteristic of the modern economy has been the gradual transformation of a world dominated by peasants and landlords (of various kinds) into a world dominated by waged labor and capitalists (of various kinds).

The contradictions within the modern project—a project predicated on the expansion and control of national territories and resources, on urban industrial development as the hallmark of progress, and on the construction of certain kinds of citizens—have turned peasants into a contradictory group, both theoretically and in practice. Throughout the modern period they have been alternately seen as backward, ignorant throwbacks to a primitive period (even today, the second definition of peasant in most ...

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