Contested paradigms of ‘viability’ in redistributive land reform: perspectives from southern Africa
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‘Viability’ is a key term in debates about land redistribution in southern African and beyond. It is often used to connote ‘successful’ and ‘sustainable’– but what is meant by viability in relation to land reform, and how have particular conceptions of viability informed state policies and planning approaches over time? How have such notions influenced the contested politics of land and agriculture? In southern Africa policy debates have tended to focus narrowly on farm productivity and economic returns, and an implicit normative model is the large-scale commercial farm. Through a review of land reform experiences in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, this paper critically interrogates this influential but under-examined notion. It examines contrasting framings of viability derived from neo-classical economics, new institutional economics, livelihoods approaches (both developmentalist and welfarist), radical political economy and Marxism, and their influence in southern Africa. Through a discussion of alternative framings of viability, the paper aims to help shift policy debates away from a narrow, technocratic economism, a perspective often backed by powerful interests, towards a more plural view, one more compatible with small-scale, farming-based livelihoods.
CitationCousins, B. and Scoones, I. "Contested paradigms of ‘viability’in redistributive land reform: perspectives from southern Africa." The Journal of Peasant Studies 37.1 (2010): 31-66.
Rights holderTaylor and Francis
- ESRC STEPS Centre