Explaining rural calm and rural unrest in Costa Rica: the coffee and banana export sectors

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Explaining rural calm and rural unrest in Costa Rica: the coffee and banana export sectors

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Title: Explaining rural calm and rural unrest in Costa Rica: the coffee and banana export sectors
Author: Jansen, Lloyd A
Abstract: This study examines, contrasts, and analyzes the near absence of unrest in the Costa Rican coffee sector and the somewhat regular unrest in the Costa Rican banana sector. An explanation for such divergent behavior within the same state is offered. This study also seeks to explain why state repression of agrarian unrest, relative to that seen in other states, has been so restrained. Additionally, this work also serves as a test of the theories proffered by Jeffery Paige in his 1975 book, Agrarian Revolution. Paige argues that specific types of relations of production lead to specific forms of agrarian social movements and unrest.It is argued in this dissertation that the calm relations of production found in the coffee sector are attributable, primarily, to a historical shortage of labor. The shortage was significantly responsible for the creation of coffee smallholders, who are structurally predisposed not to participate in unrest. A shortage of skilled harvest labor continues to foster good patron-client relations on larger coffee estates and this, too, inhibits unrest. The shortage of labor is primarily a consequence of the small indigenous population that previously lived in what is now Costa Rica. Without a large, indigenous, population whose labors could be exploited, moderated class relations developed during the colonial period. This history of calm class relations, reinforced by the structural conditions of coffee production, has led to a political culture adverse to extreme state repression. This, in turn, has led to limited repression in the banana sector. Repression has nonetheless occurred and the degree of this repression has changed over time, depending on the changing relationships of the workers to the state. While Costa Rica does not lend itself to a test of every aspect of Paige's theories, the evidence found largely supports his theses.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1998
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/10702

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