Capitalization without Proletarianization in China’s Agricultural Development
Marxist as well as classical and neo-liberal theories expect that the development of capitalist agriculture will be accompanied by the spread of an agricultural proletariat. That was what happened in eighteenth-century England; it is also what is happening in contemporary India. This article asks, first of all: just what is the size of China’s present agricultural proletariat? And how do we understand and explain those dimensions? Our finding is that, contrary to our own initial expectations, hired agricultural year-workers in China today total only 3 percent of all labor input in agriculture (and short-term workers another 0.4 percent), in sharp contrast to India’s 45 percent, this even while the past two decades have seen very substantial “capitalization” (i.e., increased capital input per unit of land) in agriculture. We term the phenomenon “capitalization without proletarianization,” perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of recent Chinese agricultural development.