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Plantation systems, land tenure and labor supply: An historical analysis of the Brazilian case with a contemporary study of the Cacao Regions of Bahia, Brazil

Gervásio Castro de Rezende

Rezende, Gervásio Castro. Plantation systems, land tenure and labor supply: An historical analysis of the Brazilian case with a contemporary study of the Cacao Regions of Bahia, Brazil. 1976. Tese (Doutorado) - University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Abstract: The thesis discusses the apparent paradox of the rise and reproduction of the dominant export sectors taking the form of a low-wage, technically-backward but profitable production in the context of a “naturally” land-abundant, labor-scarce economy, as has been the case historically in Brazil. This "paradox" is explained by the determined social frameworks of production, which have included slave labor as well as other forms of “cheap” labor. In this way it is argued that these capitalist sectors have been able to create for themselves an “unlimited supply of labor.” The social relations of production in this capitalist sectors, on the other hand, are analyzed in terms of what they have in common as means and conditions for production of surplus labor under determined technical condition, in particular the technical conditions of production of “necessaries” (or “subsistence goods”). These technical conditions of production of necessaries, in their turn, are analyzed as an aspect of a fundamenta1 duality export production/subsistence production that has been found to be a general feature of capitalist development in the backward countries. A selected survey of a broad range of historical examples is presented in order to suggest that these structural features seem to have been, rather than the exception, the general historical pattern. The Brazilian is then discussed against the background of the coffee economy in the nineteenth century. The role of land tenure is exemplified with an analysis of the Northeastern sugar economy, in the transition from slave to free labor. As an empirical contribution to the subject, the “cacao region” of Bahia is analyzed on the basis of data collected in 1972-73 for a sample of about 3,000 farms. It is demonstrated the existence of sharp duality between the cacao plantation sector and a petty production (or “peasant”) sector, where alone the “subsistence goods,” in relatively inferior technical and economic conditions, are produced. This duality, on the other hand, is related to the region’s plantation-dominated agrarian structure, in a contribution to the problem of agrarian reform in Brazil.

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