James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance. (1985), Chapters 1, 2, 6, 8.

Summary: Scott Looks primarily at why peasants put up with exploitation for long periods of time, and when/how this passivity is replaced with violent resistance.  The answer, for Scott, lies in the moral economy of the peasants.  Exploitation is a ‘‘relative’’ concept which varies across time and space.  Peasants are more concerned with stability than with profit, which helps to explain why an exploitative relationship that takes (say) 90% of surplus, but always guarantees a minimal level, is preferable to a flat rate tax which may potentially throw peasants below the subsistence line.  This logic also helps to explain why peasants will stick with tried and true low-yield rice than experiment with higher-yield, but higher risk, varieties.  Key to Scott’s analysis is that the moral economy of the peasant is distinct for a strict economic view of the producer – norms of reciprocity and the right to subsistence trump the ability to accumulate profit.  Thus, Scott refutes the relative deprivation theory of revolution, as he demonstrates that peasants are willing to put up with high levels of deprivation as long as there are low levels of variation around the subsistence line. Revolutions occur when these norms are disregarded.


Important Insight: Peasants are willing to be exploited if their basic needs are provided for in terms of subsistence – in fact, this would not be seen as exploitation on the part of the peasants.