Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1978
  • Online publication date: May 2010

10 - The dynamics of Indian peasant society and migration to coastal plantations in central Peru


The problems of the transition from one social formation (or mode of production) to another have not yet been seriously tackled. A few attempts have been made to give them some systematic formulation, but they are on too high a level of abstraction to be of much use as guides to empirical research. As far as the concrete evidence available on the passage of traditional societies to capitalism is concerned, for example, it often comes from analyses carried out from a perspective which is too narrowly evolutionist to make generalizations possible. The authors responsible for these studies seem to agree, for the most part, that, as capitalism is a higher social formation, traditional societies are inevitably condemned to break up on contact with it and fall in a passive and mechanistic way, into the moulds established by it. Hence, no doubt, the importance given to the phenomena of destruction and deculturation which arise from these relations, which are certainly real enough, but which cannot be taken as a general rule.

Latin America is a particularly rich field for the study of the many responses which traditional societies of a colonial and seigneurial nature can make to capitalism, which has historically been built up on a broadly agrarian base. These responses from time to time result in some sort of provisional compromise, but they sometimes also result in long-lasting adjustments by which the two social formations come to articulate and consolidate themselves over a period of time, without consequently having to modify their structures.