Class, Gender and the American Family Farm in the 20th Century
To Be Published October 1st 2013 by Routledge – 224 pages
Series: New Political Economy
Integrating a focus on gender with Marx’s surplus-based notion of class, this book offers a one-of-a-kind analysis of family farms in the United States. The analysis shows how gender and class struggles during important moments in the history of these family farms shaped the trajectory of U.S. agricultural development, and generates surprising insights about the family farm we thought we knew, as well as the food and agricultural system today.
Elizabeth Ramey theorizes the family farm as a complex hybrid of mostly feudal and ancient class structures. This class-based definition of the family farm yields unique insights into three broad aspects of U.S. agricultural history. First, the analysis highlights the crucial, yet under-recognized role of farm women and children’s unpaid labor in subsidizing the family farm. Second, it allows for a new, class-based perspective on the roots of the twentieth century "miracle of productivity" in U.S. agriculture, and finally, the book demonstrates how the unique set of contradictions and circumstances facing family farmers during the early twentieth century, including class exploitation, were connected to concern for their ability to serve the needs of U.S. industrial capitalist development. The argument presented here highlights the significant costs associated with the intensification of exploitation in the transition to industrial agriculture in the U.S. When viewed through the lens of class, the hallowed family farm becomes an example of one of the most exploitative institutions in the U.S. economy.
1. INTRODUCTION A. Manor Economy: A Class Analytical Framework of the Family Farm B. Class Struggle on the Farm: Constructing the "Farm Woman Problem" C. Conclusion and Plan of Work 2. THE FAMILY FARM HYBRID, FEUDAL-ANCIENT SUBSIDIES AND THE FARM WOMAN PROBLEM A. The Ancient Corn Belt Farming System and Feudal-Ancient Subsidies B. "Unemployed" and Unpaid: What Did Farm Wives Do? C. Family Farm Feudalism D. Children as Serfs E. Non-Class Conditions of Existence for the Family Farm Hybrid F. Feudal-Ancient Subsidies: Making Do and Helping Out G. The Farm Woman Problem Revisited H. Conclusion 3. TECHNICAL CHANGE, ANCIENT COMPETITION, AND THE HUNT FOR SUPERPROFITS A. Industrial Agriculture B. From the "Farm Woman Problem" to the "Farm Problem" C. The Tractor Dilemma: Through the Lens of Class D. State Policy and the Technology Treadmill: Through the Lens of Class E. The Rise of Agribusiness F. Surviving the Treadmill: Making Do and Helping Out Revisited 4. CONCLUSION 5. APPENDICES A. The Hunt for Superprofits B. The Story of Hybrid Corn 6. BIBLIOGRAPHY
Elizabeth Ramey is Assistant Professor, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA.