Autonomy and repeasantization: Conceptual, analytical, and methodological problems

Kees Jansen*, Mark Vicol, Lisette Nikol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


“Autonomy,” as a desirable state, is a notion often used by food sovereignty-oriented farmer movements and scholars studying repeasantization. The term is predominantly used rather casually, relying on presumed meanings, but van der Ploeg's book The New Peasantries seeks to elaborate a particular meaning of autonomy as a characteristic feature of the peasantry. The desire of farmers/peasants for autonomy is formulated in tandem with agroecological agriculture, farmers' agency, locally “nested” markets, co-production with nature, non-commoditized production, and multiple kinds of peasant resistance. This article identifies the distinctive nature of this take on autonomy and analyses its analytical, normative, and political aspects. It develops several critiques regarding the analytical shortcomings of the notion of peasant autonomy: the methodological problem of a peasant bias; the analytical limitations and incompatibility of intrinsic and “relative” autonomy; and the neglect of accumulation from below and subtle class contradictions. Rather than centring autonomy or relative autonomy, the authors argue for shifting the focus to the nature of different types of dependency relationships, ranging from very exploitative to those vital for human flourishing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-505
JournalJournal of Agrarian Change
Issue number3
Early online date13 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • agrarian change
  • agroecology
  • class dynamics
  • food sovereignty
  • political economy


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