Although hegemonic science obscures both the presence and importance of peasant agriculture in Europe, it composes, nonetheless, an important part of Europe’s agriculture. Ironically, it turns out, in the midst of the current crisis, the most resilient part as well. However, European and national policies mainly continue to bet on entrepreneurial agriculture. In this lecture it is argued that this is as much as betting on a lame horse.
J.D. van der Ploeg is Professor in Transition Studies at Wageningen University, Adjunct Professor of Rural Sociology at the China Agricultural University of Beijing and adviser to the Italian Minister of Agriculture. He has (co-)authored a wide range of books on rural development, land reform processes, peasants, styles of farming, agrarian and food markets, and the impact of technological change. In his latest, The New Peasantries (Earthscan), he links the debate on the peasantry with Empire and Globalization and explores the position, role and significance of the peasantry in an era of globalization, particularly of the agribusiness and food industries. He argues that the peasant condition is characterized by a struggle for autonomy that finds expression in the creation and development of a self-governed resource base and the associated forms of sustainable development. In this respect the peasant mode of farming fundamentally differs from entrepreneurial and corporate ways of farming. (www.jandouwevanderploeg.com)