Andean Rural Proletarians: Thomas Greaves

Anthropologist Thomas Greaves’ 1972 article, “The Andean Rural Proletarians” examined the critical role played by labor syndicates in the organization of regional peasant movements in the Ecuadorian highlands during the twentieth century. Greaves applies Sidney Mintz’s concept of the “rural proletarian” to the Andes to narrow what was then thought to constitute the so-called peasant class. Greaves argued that by the twentieth century many Andean workers were what he referred to as “post-peasants,” people whose landless status and dependency on wages differentiated them from other types of peasants who still lived off the land (65).

However, in a break from earlier scholarship, Greaves also claimed rural proletarians engaged with broader national politics, albeit on their own terms, a theoretical challenge at a time when peasants were still assumed by many to be apolitical by nature (74–75). Despite this research and others like it, scholars would still be debating the subject of peasant political conscious decades later.

Greaves, Thomas C. “The Andean Rural Proletarians.” Anthropological Quarterly 45, no. 2 (1972): 65–83.

Greaves, Thomas C. The Andean Rural Proletarians. (Washington: Catholic University of America Press), 1972.

By N. H. Gill
Quito, 2020

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