Issue 43 – Agrarian Question

Editors: Aylin Topal, Ecehan Balta, Muammer Kaymak, Sinan Yıldırmaz, Umut Ulukan

A Debate Framework on Agriculture and Peasantry “Questions”
Nevzat Evrim Önal

Since the emergence and through all the phases of the development of capitalist mode of production, agriculture and peasantry have been problematized and discussed by different schools of thought according to their intellectual positions. All such arguments bear the mark of the class interests represented by these schools. On the other hand, because of the important qualitative differences between the development processes of agrarian and peasant “questions” in different parts of the world, striving to find a common framework in the distinct analyses of each of these processes an effort which is perhaps not theoretically impossible, but one which is ahistorical. Still, the debate has been rekindled and become even more complex in the last two decades with the addition of the issue of food. This paper focuses on the theoretical basis of this discussion, which has also been pursued heatedly in Turkey and which needs some simplification. To this end, it will belabor the approach of historical materialism in problematizing agriculture and peasantry in the contemporary context
and offer a framework of discussion.
Keywords: Agriculture, agrarian change, peasantry, petty commodity production.

Some Aspects of Capitalist Domination from Nature to the Consumer, Alienation and Alternatives in Agriculture
Fatih Özden

Marx’s theory of alienation can be examined in five headings, which are alienation to nature, to productive activity, to product and alienation from other people and species. Alienation to nature has been described with metabolic rift which implies to break between human and nature. Alienation to productive activity begins with seeds in agriculture. The seeds which can be considered the most critical point of the agriculture, are a closed box literally. Factors such as commoditization, possession and changing nature of seeds have reduced the seeds to genetic material position from the subject position. Genetic codes in the seed not only prevent reuse of the obtained product’s seed but also determine that which pesticide, fertilizer and technology will be used in production process and it leads to new dependencies. These dependencies entail the establishment of a new sovereignty relationship. After this point, farmer’s productive activity and products are under control of the giant monopolies and experts of these monopolies who want to sell more inputs. Furthermore, alienation of consumers to product and mutual alienation between consumers and farmers are issues that need to focus on. In this study all these issues were tried to be examined and focused on practices against the capitalist sovereignty in agriculture.
Keywords: Alienation, agriculture, capitalism, seed, food sovereignty.

Neoliberal Transformation and Commodification in Turkish Agriculture
Ekin Değirmenci

The most conspicuous process experienced in the recent years in agriculture has been the increased dependency, at an unprecedented rate, of the agricultural producers on commodity and market relationships. Despite commodification and intensified market domination, resilience of petty commodity production needs to be addressed and the conditions of its presence needs to be investigated. In this study, neoliberal restructuring and commodification processes in Turkish agriculture are studied by means of the opportunities introduced by agrarian political economy and commodification debates. This process in Turkey consists of two phases; the elimination of existing subvention rules and institutions and introduction of new institutional and legal regulations. In this context, financialization, indebtedness and precariousness have become more determinative over petty commodity producers.
Keywords: Agrarian transformation, agrarian political economy, commodification.

Rural Change and Commoditized Lives: Proletarianisation Processes and Class Relations in Soma Coal Basin
Coşku Çelik

In the context of neoliberalism, one of the most significant strategies of the capital has been to use the commons for the aim of capital accumulation and its impact on agriculture has been the subjection of the small producers to the functioning of the market. Due to factors such as uncertain market conditions and the limited capacity of small producers to compete in the market, this process mostly results in the proletarianisation of the small peasantry in agriculture or in other sectors. In Soma Basin, the determinant of the wave of proletarianisation in the 2000s has been the simultaneity of the neoliberal transformation of agriculture, especially that of tobacco production and the transfer of coal production to the private companies. This paper, reconsiders the Marxist discussions of primitive accumulation (and its permanency), detachment from the land and proletarianisation with reference to the stories of the miner families in Soma and discusses their impact on local class relations.
Keywords: Primitive accumulation, proletarianisation, detachment from land, Soma.

Peasantry’s Loss of Stature: Narratives of Women from the Mountain Villages of Bakırçay Basin in Times of Rural Change
Zeynep Ceren Eren

Neoliberal capitalist policies have devastating effects on the small producers living in rural areas. Dispossession, in the broadest sense, weakens the capacities for production and reproduction of those households. Yet, this article argues that peasantry is not only in economic crisis but also having difficulties in reproducing itself as a social category that is crystallized in the “loss of dignity”. This study will attempt to explore this “loss of dignity” in the narratives of the women that still live in the near emptied mountain villages of the Bakırçay Basin, Aegean Region, Turkey. At the same time these narratives form the basis of the story of the eclipse of these villages that once occupied with husbandry, olive and tobacco production. The narratives of women that still live in the aforementioned villages focus on the recent past emphasize the ageing of the village population and their becoming childless. These women while witnessing one by one the depart of the young women from the village stress that women no longer want to “marry in the village” and prefer to stay away from agricultural work, which is characterized by gender-based division of labor and unequal work burden. In addition, the lack of basic services and socio-cultural life in the mountain villages are among the other reasons to leave. Under these conditions, mountain villages seem to host a vulnerable population which has lack of opportunities to survive in the city and therefore cannot leave. Herein the choices of life of women, in another sense, under what conditions and why women make preferences demonstrate us that in order to understand the contemporary rural we have to understand the experiences of women. The attempt to understand the loss of stature of peasantry as a reflection of the rural transformation through women perspectives will show how the aforementioned process is shaped by gender dynamics
Keywords: Gender, rural transformation, aging, gendered division of labor, mountain villages, migration, marriage patterns.

Employment Strategies of Agricultural Enterprizes: The Case of Adapazarı
Elif S. Uyar-Mura

This article explores the employment strategies of agricultural employers with a specific focus on the dynamic relationship between intermediary usage and access to worker/intermediary social networks, product preferences, firm sizes, and the the nature of work in the case of Adapazarı. Intermediaries are independent individuals who actively involved in the employment processes of workers in the labor market. This form of recruitment is widespread in sectors such as agriculture where workers’ rights are not legally secured and employers usually demand labor for irregular or short-terms. Intermediation is generally subject to worker-focused analyses in the current literature. The practice has often been explained through workers’ preferences, social networks, and/or traditional codes of conduct. In fact, considering the insecurity of the agricultural labor market, workers may choose to work with intermediaries for many reasons, such as insuring the payment of wages, overcoming the ambiguities brought about by migration, finding new jobs, and making contact with law enforcement officials and employers. As an alternative to worker-focused explanations, this study focuses on employer preferences in the analysis of intermediation and approaches labor recruitment through intermediaries as one of the profit maximization strategies of employers. One of the important dynamics of the intermediary system, which is widespread in Turkey’s agricultural labor market, is that intermediation provides employers’ short-term access to ready, efficient and cheap labor teams. One of the advantages of using intermediaries is that it reduces the labor cost by offering ready and harmonized working teams because of the “collective dimension of skill” which significantly reduces costs in some agricultural tasks. The fieldwork conducted in the hinterland of Adapazarı shows that access to the workforce is the fundamental dynamic affecting landowners’ product preferences, hiring strategies and negotiations with traders. For short-term field tasks such as anchoring and harvesting, employers generally use intermediaries or to keep labor costs low by employing experienced workers’ teams that work cheaply and efficiently. This strategy helps to reduce the scale-related disadvantages of small-scale agricultural enterprises.
Keywords: Legal exemption, intermediary system, collective dimension of skill, agricultural enterprises, labor market.

Agricultural Transformation and Seasonal Workers in Yaşar Kemal and Orhan Kemal Novels
Uygar Dursun Yıldırım

The process of proletarianization in agriculture in Turkey is an ongoing process since the last years of Empire. Specifically in recent years, seasonal workers have become a widespread labor profile in various agricultural areas in Turkey. However in Turkey the agriculture sector has been mostly examined by focusing on peasants and small producers and disregarded the wage labor for many years. In this study, various characteristics of seasonal agricultural workers are tried to be enlightened such as their relations with the peasantry, the living and working conditions and their class behavioral patterns during the capitalization and mechanization processes in agriculture in the 1950s which is particularly considered as an important turning point. Orhan Kemal and Yaşar Kemal, who wrote their literary works in a socially realistic form reflecting the landowners, peasants and seasonal workers of Çukurova provide us with a wide range of data on this area. These works make it possible to examine the rapid capitalization process experienced in agriculture in the 1950s in the context of seasonal agricultural workers.
Keywords: Transformation in agriculture, agricultural classes, seasonal workers.

Where does Psychology Stand As a Scientific Field in Relation to Understanding Social Structure? A Critical Essay on the Relationship Between Social Structure and Human Behaviour
Özden Melis Uluğ and Ahmet Çoymak

As a social science, psychology, which aims to understand individuals’ emotions, cognitions and behaviors, has long ignored social structure, which plays a major role in constructing these emotions, cognitions, and behaviors. On the one hand, there have been significant disciplinary problems in psychology related to the nature of intergroup relations and in its positivist epistemology to ‘explain’ that nature. As a matter of fact, this relationship is driven by the interaction between the
individual as a micro level unit and social structure as a macro level unit. On the other hand, new criticisms in psychology are catalyzing the development of new epistemological tools in order to understand the relationship between individual and social structure, increasing the capacity of psychology to analyze different problems. Therefore, in this article, we critically discuss in detail why psychology has ignored social structure in psychological analyses as well as psychology’s objects of interest and its methods. We also try to examine why psychology has not been able to produce effective solutions to contemporary macro level social problems such as racism and sexism, which determine individuals’ cognitions, emotions, and behaviors at the micro level. We propose that only a psychological discipline that examines its object of interests taking social structure into account is able to contribute knowledge to human wellbeing and to produce solutions to unseen problems of social structure at the micro level. Hence, increasing the knowledge base in psychology by considering social structure not only contributes to the development of new epistemological tools for psychological analyses, but also offers applicable solutions to social problems from a micro level through systematic observation based on comprehensive theoretical approaches.
Keywords: Social structure, critical psychology, political psychology, methodological criticism, history of psychology.