Latent Agrarian Overpopulation

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Latent Agrarian Overpopulation


a form of relative overpopulation under capitalism (seeINDUSTRIAL RESERVE ARMY). As capital penetrates agriculture, labor power becomes relatively “superfluous” in this sector of the economy as well. “Part of the agricultural population is therefore constantly on the point of passing over into an urban or manufacturing proletariat, and remains on the lookout for circumstances favorable to this transformation” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 657).

An increase in the organic composition of capital is associated with an absolute and relative decrease in demand for agricultural workers, and manual labor is increasingly “pushed out” of agricultural production. With the scientific and technological revolution and agriculture’s transition to the machine stage of production, not only hired workers are forced to join the ranks of the urban proletariat but also small commodity producers and landowners, who in fact become hired workers with allotments of land.

In the developed capitalist countries, the industrialization of agriculture is associated with large-scale impoverishment of middle peasants and farmers. Agrarian overpopulation is latent in the sense that impoverished peasants and small and middle farmers, although nominally still independent landowners, are in fact forced to join the army of hired labor in the city, thereby broadening the sphere of capitalist exploitation. Latent agrarian overpopulation assumes especially significant dimensions in the developing countries.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.