Stability of the Family Farm, Theory of the

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Stability of the Family Farm, Theory of the


a variation of the theory of the stability of the small peasant farm. The theory of the stability of the family farm gained currency in the bourgeois political economy of the advanced capitalist countries, particularly in Europe, chiefly after World War II. Its leading proponents have been the West German agricultural specialists H. Priebe and H. Niehaus and the American economist P. Samuelson. The Social Democrats of Austria, Belgium, West Germany, and Scandinavia subscribe to the theory in their agrarian programs.

The industrialization of agriculture brought about a rapid increase in labor productivity and resulted in a sharp drop in the number of people employed in that sector of the economy; the decrease in the number of hired laborers was particularly marked. Consequently, there emerged a large new stratum of agricultural commodity producers who do not use hired labor, or do so only partly, but who make extensive use of agricultural machinery. Bourgeois economists consider such producers to be family farms.

The supporters of the theory of the stability of the family farm argue that the primary productive unit in industrialized agriculture is the highly mechanized enterprise that is operated without hired labor and uses only the labor of the owner and his family. For this reason, they maintain, agriculture is losing its capitalist character, and the antagonism of class interests and the contradictions between small and large enterprises are disappearing.

This argument ignores the fact that the family farms that came into being in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s were established through the impoverishment and absorption of millions of peasant holdings and small farms. The owners of family farms are, for the most part, former small-scale capitalist commodity producers (seePEASANTRY). Some family farms are purely capitalist farms that rely on hired labor. Official American agricultural statistics regard as family farms those farms that use 1.5 hired laborers, a hired laborer being calculated on the basis of the full-time work of one person throughout the year. West German economists consider family farms to be those in which 30–50 percent of the total annual labor input comes from hired labor.

The majority of family farms, which do not, on the whole, use hired labor, are economically unstable. The share of market output that they deliver is steadily declining in comparison to the large capitalist farms. Unable to guarantee the rate of capital accumulation dictated by capitalist competition, increasing numbers of intensively operated, small-scale capitalist farms are falling into the category of small-scale production and going bankrupt. Many of these farms manage to survive only by becoming production units of monopolistic agrarian and industrial conglomerates, which operate on the principle of vertical integration. In this case small-scale capitalist farmers essentially become specialized workers in a vertical monopolistic conglomerate. The trend of development in contemporary capitalist agriculture, therefore, refutes this variation of the theory of the stability of the small peasant farm.


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