No Condition Is Permanent: The Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africaby Sara S. Berry
“No condition is permanent,” a popular West African slogan, expresses Sara S. Berry’s theme: the obstacles to African agrarian development never stay the same. Her book explores the complex way African economy and society are tied to issues of land and labor, offering a comparative study of agrarian change in four rural economies in
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“No condition is permanent,” a popular West African slogan, expresses Sara S. Berry’s theme: the obstacles to African agrarian development never stay the same. Her book explores the complex way African economy and society are tied to issues of land and labor, offering a comparative study of agrarian change in four rural economies in sub-Saharan Africa, including two that experienced long periods of expanding peasant production for export (southern Ghana and southwestern Nigeria), a settler economy (central Kenya), and a rural labor reserve (northeastern Zambia).
The resources available to African farmers have changed dramatically over the course of the twentieth century. Berry asserts that the ways resources are acquired and used are shaped not only by the incorporation of a rural area into colonial (later national) and global political economies, but also by conflicts over culture, power, and property within and beyond rural communities. By tracing the various debates over rights to resources and their effects on agricultural production and farmers’ uses of income, Berry presents agrarian change as a series of on-going processes rather than a set of discrete “successes” and “failures.”
No Condition Is Permanent enriches the discussion of agrarian development by showing how multidisciplinary studies of local agrarian history can constructively contribute to development policy. The book is a contribution both to African agrarian history and to debates over the role of agriculture in Africa’s recent economic crises.
“A very important account of African agrarian structures. The author presents us with an intelligible and lucid account of both general agricultural conditions and case studies in selected African countries to supplement her theoretical analysis. . . . No Condition is Permanent reads like a novel; it is clear, enjoyable, and interesting. It engrosses the reader, leaving us with a clarity about African agricultural problems, the causes and effects of change, and the necessary structural adjustments which are not as yet forthcoming. For me, this is one of the most important and serious renditions on the subject that I have encountered. I highly recommend it for scholars and courses on economic development and African economic history.”—Lina M. Fruzzetti, International Journal of African Historical Studies
“Berry expands on and elaborates a theoretical approach to the study of change in rural Africa which proposes a mutual relationship between culture, power, and material resources. . . . In the process of making this argument she also sustains a powerful critique of a number of influential approaches to the study of modern African politics and economics.”—Megan Vaughan, Nuffield College, University of Oxford
“The author makes vivid the colonial-era scars and economic distortions that continue to skew rural development, as well as the vitality, indigenous resources and flexibility that have helped small-scale farmers survive.”—African Farmer
- University of Wisconsin Press
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Meet the Author
Sara S. Berry is professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Fathers Work for their Sons: Accumulation, Mobility and Class Formation in an Extended Yoruba Community and Cocoa, Custom and Socio-economic Change in Rural Western Nigeria.
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