Journal of Peasant Studies (JPS) Special Issue: «Agrarian Marxism in the 21st Century»

The purpose of this special issue is to advance heterodox reconstructions of agrarian Marxism on the occasion of Marx’s 200th birth anniversary in 2018.

Scholarship on the origins of agrarian capitalism and the purported contrasts between agrarian and industrial capitalism have been a vital part of debates over and within Marxism and have been central to the social scientific and historical understandings of the modern world system. At the same time, since the seminal debates associated with Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg, and especially between Lenin and Chayanov, agrarian studies is marked by durable – and enduring – tensions and even polarities in theoretical approach. For example, while Marxists have long criticized “populists” for ignoring capitalism and class, populists have charged Marxists with historical determinism. It is the premise of this special issue that much of this debate – and in fact a good deal of the earlier peasant studies research of the 1960s and 1970s – has reached something of an impasse. This is in part because new empirical work addressing the complex contemporary patterns and conjunctures of global agrarian capitalism, and because new and generative heterodox theoretical reconstructions of Marxism itself, offer exciting new analytical horizons.

Progressive theoretical reconstruction presumes that, despite historical anomalies, there remains a “core” upon which to build. Whether the multi-linear agrarian trajectories and methodological approach of the Grundrisse; the late suppressed letters to Vera Zasulich; the humanism of the Paris manuscripts; or the nuanced accounts of historical agency in the political writings, we argue that there remains a non-determinist core to Marxian theory available for illuminating trajectories of agrarian change and political struggle in the 21st century. But while we will certainly entertain innovative contributions on Marxian theory, this issue will prioritize heterodox theoretical reconstructions based on deep and grounded empirical work on either contemporary or historical aspects of the agrarian question. We invite submissions which demonstrate how reconstructions of Marxian theory can illuminate agrarian change and politics in different parts of the world. Specific contributions might include but are not limited to:

  • Class and class-like struggles in the countryside, whether by landless laborers, semi-proletarians or other agrarian “classes of labor”
  • The implications of class differentiation for food politics and agrarian social movements (broadly construed) in the Global South or North.
  • Intersections of class, gender, race and ethnicity in shaping agrarian inequality and politics.
  • Reproductive labor and the care economy.
  • Political struggles over land dispossession or repossession.
  • Globalization, financialization and agrarian dynamics
  • The implications of jobless growth and “surplus populations” for class formation and agrarian politics.
  • States, austerity and social reproduction in the countryside.
  • Agrarian revolutions: biotechnology, GMOs and the forces of production.
  • Agro-industrial linkages and global value chains
  • Revisiting the Brenner debate forty years on
  • Debating agrarian alternatives (and futures)
  • Agrarian systems in the face of global climate change

Or, surprise us with proposals outside the listed themes above!

We would like to underscore that while we are interested in contributions that demonstrate the utility of Marxian theory to explain these and other phenomenon of relevance to agrarian populations, we are interested in neither slavish applications nor simple refutations. Rather, we will prioritize contributions that challenge but also extend Marxian concepts in ways that enrich our theoretical and empirical understanding of capitalism, agrarian change and political struggle in the contemporary world.

Send abstracts to:

Important Dates:

  • Deadline for abstracts: Please send abstracts by 11 April 2017.
  • Decisions will be made by 30 April 2017.
  • Deadline for full papers: for those selected and invited, full papers are due by 31 August 2017
  • Special issue release date: 5 May 2018.

Special issue guest editors:

  • Michael Levien is assistant professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Michael Watts is professor of geography at the university of California Berkeley
  • Yan Hairong teaches in Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

For queries, email any of the guest editors, or send email to: or, Jun Borras, JPS Editor,

Journal of Peasant Studies
Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Report 2015 Impact Factor: 4.3
Ranking: 1/55 Planning & Development; 1/84 Anthropology


The Journal of Peasant Studies

2013 Impact Factor: 5.477
5-Year Impact Factor: 4.484
Ranking: 1/81 (Anthropology) 1/55 (Planning & Development)
©2014 Thomson Reuters, 2014 Journal Citation Reports®

The Journal of Peasant Studies is edited by ISS Professor Jun Borras

About the Journal of Peasant Studies

The Journal of Peasant Studies is one of the leading journals in the field of rural development. It was founded on the initiative of Terence J. Byres and its first editors were Byres, Charles Curwen and Teodor Shanin.

It provokes and promotes critical thinking about social structures, institutions, actors and processes of change in and in relation to the rural world. It encourages inquiry into how agrarian power relations between classes and other social groups are created, understood, contested and transformed. The Journal pays special attention to questions of ‘agency’ of marginalized groups in agrarian societies, particularly their autonomy and capacity to interpret – and change – their conditions.



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