The Agrarian Question and Coffee in Costa Rica – Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy: A triannual Journal of Agrarian South Network and CARES – article

The Agrarian Question and Coffee in Costa Rica

Nicolas Babin | Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy: A triannual Journal of Agrarian South Network and CARES

2019-11-03

This article traces the agrarian transition to capitalism in Costa Rica to identify the factors and dynamics that have contributed to the current persistence of the coffee producing peasantry. The case study reveals that the agrarian transition to capitalism and the persistence of the coffee commodity producing peasantry are both products of certain historical and political circumstances. The pro-smallholder politics of the post-revolution Costa Rican state and its emphasis on a particular form of agro-input-substituting industrialization, combined with the unique and historically contingent relations that have developed between landed agrarian and industrial capitalist classes and the peasantry, have led to an agrarian class structure which lacks a substantial landed capitalist coffee producing class. Instead agrarian capital has relegated itself to the processing and input spheres where the ‘real’ subsumption of nature and the ‘formal’ subsumption of peasant labour to agrarian capital occurred.

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