This essay is adapted from a chapter in Dr. One of the great human tragedies of the disaster-ridden 20th Century was destruction of the Russian and Ukrainian peasantries. In the whole Russian Empire of , there were million peasants out of million total. In European Russia alone, 93 million peasants formed 84 percent of the population. For decades, moreover, this great mass of family farmers had grown more self-aware.
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Born in Moscow , Alexander Chayanov entered the famous Moscow Agricultural Institute in known as the Petrovsky Agricultural Academy from to and as the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy since and graduated with a diploma in agricultural economics in Appointed associate professor in , he became full professor and chair of the agricultural organization in , and worked at the academy until his arrest in In he was appointed director of the Seminar of Agricultural Economy.
As director, Chayanov gathered an illustrious body of researchers. Often traveling abroad from onward, he became an internationally recognized specialist in his field, forming a network of correspondence in more than sixty countries.
Chayanov actively participated in the Russian cooperative movement , filling leading positions during World War I and after the Revolution. From onward, he also took part in shaping agricultural policy, drafting plans for agricultural development at the Peoples Commissariat for Agriculture and the State Planning Commission.
Accused of being the head of the "Toiling Peasant Party," Chayanov was arrested in Only in did details of his further fate become known. Although the planned show trial never took place, he was sentenced to five years in prison in and exiled to Kazakhstan.
Released due to his poor state of health, Chayanov worked from to in the Kazakh Agricultural Institute in Alma-Ata, teaching statistics. In connection with the show trial against Bukharin, he was newly arrested in March , sentenced to death October 3, , and shot the same day in Alma-Ata. Belonging to the "neopopulist tradition," in the s Chayanov became the most eminent theoretician of its Organization and Production School of Agricultural Doctrine.
His fundamental work, Peasant Farm Organization , was published in an earlier form in in Berlin. Emphasizing the viability of peasant agriculture and its ability to survive, he posited a special economic behavior of peasant households that relied almost exclusively on the labor of family members. Unlike the capitalist enterprise, the peasant family worked for a living, not for a profit, thus the degree of "self-exploitation" was determined not by capitalist criteria but by a hedonic calculus.
He envisioned the modernization of traditional small farming not as part of capitalist or socialist development, but as part of a peasant process of raising the technical level of agricultural production through agricultural extension work and cooperative organization.
This work later became instrumental in his downfall. His studies on the optimal size of agricultural enterprises are of interest even today. Chayanov's theory of the peasant mode of production challenged the Marxist interpretation of differentiation of the peasantry into classes by positing the idea of a cyclical mobility based on the peasant family life cycle. Chayanov's ideas have survived him. His work after his arrest was rediscovered in the West in the mids. His pioneering study of the family labor farm now claimed the attention of agricultural sociologists, anthropologists, and ethnologists working on developing countries where the peasant economy remains a predominant factor.
In spite of the problematic nature of part of his work, it is generally seen as an important contribution to the development of the theory of peasant economy. Bourgholtzer, Frank, ed. Harrison, Mark. Kerblay, Basile. Chayanov: Life, Career, Works. Daniel Thorner, Basile Kerblay, R. Millar, James R. Chayanov's Theory of the Peasant Economy. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.
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Chayanov, Alexander Vasilievich gale. See also: agriculture; peasant economy bibliography Bourgholtzer, Frank, ed. Stephan Merl. Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia.
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Alexander V. Chayanov was born in Moscow , the son of a merchant, Vasily Ivanovich Chayanov, and an agronomist, Elena Konstantinovna born Klepikova. He attended a Realschule — and the Moscow Agricultural Institute — , becoming an agronomist; he taught and published works on agriculture until , when he began working for various government institutions. In he married Elena Vasilevna Grigorieva, a marriage that lasted until After the October Revolution , he served on several Soviet committees for agrarian reform and was a member of Narkomzem as well as "holding lecturing and administrative posts at several universities and academies. He was a proponent of agricultural cooperatives, but was skeptical about the inefficiency of large-scale farms.
The partial comparison of scientific and peasant utopias shows different perspective to various issues and questions. But were utopian projects a novelty, even then? Of course, they were not. Western civilization has a propensity for Utopia. This was expressed in the Hellenistic desire to describe the ideal Polis and the Christian search for Heaven on Earth. It is natural that in any age of revolutions and major social upheaval, utopias rapidly gained significance.
Chayanov, Alexander Vasilievich