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Images of the Peasant

The chapter three “Images of the Peasant in the Consciousness of the Venezuelan Proletariat” by William Roseberry discusses the “moral economy” of peasants as well the destructive effects of capitalism and colonial state. The author describes cultural possibilities presented in opposed areas: coffee and petroleum, backwardness and development, country and city, dictatorship and democracy, etc. Firstly, the author suggests that intrusion of colonial state and capitalism have strongly affected the development of moral economy and led to exploitation of peasantry.

Further, the author pays attention to pre-capitalist conditions, communities and values in the working class and asserts that those traditions have been transformed due to Industrial Revolution. It is suggested that the history of capitalism is “the history of those who won” meaning that the moral economy belongs to those who lost. Nevertheless, the moral economy created the basis for renewed tradition and theory of consciousness being the active force of the past in the present.

Apparently, the peasant is treated in uncritical and unambiguous terms because of unfortunate tendencies throughout the history. Nowadays the idyllic rural life has disappeared or has been disappearing. It is necessary to say that the author doesn’t analyze Venezuelan peasantry as whole, he simply concentrates on the coffee-producing peasantry living in the Andes. Moreover, the author doesn’t tend to give the very details of peasantry’s history. Roseberry makes an attempt to outline ideas and opinions as to cultural possibilities opened to Venezuelan peasants.

Firstly, the author focuses on the political and economic history and then proceeds to description of the images themselves. The author draws relevant conclusions summarizing main points of the discussion. He asserts that political and cultural task of Venezuelan peasantry is to take the issues of the past and to shape them to demands of future. Therefore, the chapter provides and idea that every culture should pay attention to the promise offered.


Roseberry, William. Anthropologies and Histories. London: Rutgers University Press, 55-79.

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