Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance / Edition 1by James C. Scott
Pub. Date: 09/28/1987
Publisher: Yale University Press
This sensitive picture of the constant and circumspect struggle waged by peasants materially and ideologically against their oppressors show that techniques of evasion and resistance may represent the most significant and effective means of class struggle in the long run.
- Yale University Press
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- 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
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Weapons of the Weak is an ethnography by James C. Scott that studies the effects of the Green Revolution within the village of Sedaka (renamed for its protection) in the country of Malaysia. One of the main objectives of the study is to make an argument that the Marxian and Gramscian ideas of false consciousness and hegemony are incorrect. He develops this conclusion throughout the book, through the different scenarios and characters that come up during his time of fieldwork in the village. The ethnography begins with a description of Sedaka and two characters named Haji Broom and Razak; characters who display the polar opposites of the class system in Sedaka- Haji Broom being a wealthy villager who is despised for his wealth, and Razak a very poor and yet despised character because of his conniving ways of trying to get the most with the least expense on his own part. These two characters give discernment to the organization of the Sedakan society and the ways that the working class view these polar opposites of the class system-in fact showing the creation of a third class, their own class in which they watch and gossip about the very poor and rich while just getting by on their own. Scott develops this idea throughout the study. The book continues with different insights into the village and other villages in the area as well as a few case studies of different individuals. It really takes a good hard look at the green revolution, which truly changed the system of agriculture, and therefore had extreme impacts on communities that thrived on such agriculture. Through Scott's ethnography we the readers can experience first hand the effects of this revolution and transition, while also coming to understand the different theories and ideas that many social theorists have developed in an attempt to explain why, in fact, the lower class or the proletariat does not revolt. Scott gives these different viewpoints and then works to disprove them, offering his own insights into the real reasons, which in fact, though he may seem Marxian at times, argue against the ideas of false consciousness and false ideology of the lower class.
In the ethnography "Weapons of the Weak - Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance," James C. Scott describes the class struggle in a village that falls within the administrative district of Yan and the main paddy-growing area of Kedah, Malaysia. Scott names this village Sedaka, which is a translation of alms or graciousness. With seventy-four households Sedaka is a small rice-farming community. Compared to other rice-farming villages Sedaka is fairly typical, "in its pattern of settlement, its economy, its size, and its history" (Scott, 90). However, before Scott chose a village to do his research, he had formulated a couple of requirements. First, Scott wanted a village that was, "more or less exclusively devoted to rice cultivation" (Scott, 90). Sedaka fit that requirement perfectly since there is, "not a single household in the village that does not now or, in the case of aged couples, did not once grow rice" (Scott, 90). The other requirement Scott had stipulated for his research was that the village must have been studied before 1971. In that year, double-cropping was introduced. To make it possible to discern basic changes in the local economy, it was thus necessary for a village to have been studied before 1971. Sedaka fits this requirement as well and was therefore picked by Scott for his fourteen month research....In short, the ethnography Scott describes the history of Sedaka, the consequences of double-cropping, the exploitation of the poor by the rich, as well as class and ideological struggle, and resistance. Overall I found this ethnography very interesting and fascinating in its description of the Sedaka community.
Weapons of the Weak written by James C. Scott is a widely acclaimed account of the green revolution that occurred in all parts of the world with an emphasis in Malaysia. The green revolution is a historic movement that tracks the change of agriculture from small farming to a large business ran by the elites. The green revolution, in essence, is the application of capitalism to small farming which had its benefits and negative effects to all that experienced the change. The green revolution implemented technology-based machinery in farming which allowed for an output three times larger than traditional farming. On the downside, the pesticides and chemicals that were used to allow for so much food production killed off many of the wildlife. The fact that farming became a capitalist empire meant that maintaining small farms afloat in the midst of giant enterprises would be virtually impossible. This further meant that the farmers that worked in these small farms would soon be out of business and would have no other option than to sell their small farms to the large farm-owners and staying with nothing. Not only this, but the fact that now only the wealthy could afford to maintain a farm and that the poor would be left working in these farms only increased the discrepancy between the classes. In the first section of the ethnography, Scott introduced us to two characters that are symbolic of a whole class of people and who each possessed qualities that are representative of many theoretical ideas such as power and self-interest. Scott does an amazing job at portraying the real lives of the people that were affected by the revolution, both adversely and positively. Scott argues the idea that the peasant class does not have to revolt with wars or inflicting others with pain to rebel against the upper class. In fact, he believes that the class is revolting their oppression with the use of resistance at the moment, an idea that I am very much intrigued by. The battle between the rich and the poor has been an endless clash silently combated since the beginning of time and this portrayal of it in Sedaka, Malaysia has allowed me to truly see the added fuel that capitalism added to the fire.