peasant societysmall-scale social organization in which PEASANTS predominate with features distinctive from other social groupings. While sometimes the term is used to refer to a large SOCIETY in which peasants are the majority, most usages would limit the term to a narrower meaning approximating to COMMUNITY. Peasants live in various societies, mainly AGRARIAN SOCIETIES, within which there are other social groups, so that it is not possible to characterize the whole society by referring to one of those groups. However, within a village or region, peasant social relationships may dominate. Characteristically these may be centred around kin and family ties, the importance of access to land, a distrust of outsiders and a cyclical view of time. An area of debate is whether such commonalities can be easily distinguished given the wide range of locations it has been claimed that peasants have occupied for most of human history.
In any peasant community there will be people who are not analytically defined as peasants. These may be traders, truckers, moneylenders, labourers without land, craftspeople, who may command a similar income to peasants and who may have close social and economic links to peasants. People who are analytically defined as ‘peasants’ will often engage in some of these activities for part of their time. In the modern world in particular, there will also be people who may be more economically and socially distant from the peasantry. Most importantly these will be state functionaries, representatives of national or foreign corporations selling anything from tractors to pharmaceuticals, and there may be independent professionals: lawyers, physicians, etc. Some of these may be identified as brokers who mediate between the peasant village and the wider society. The larger the village, the more likely that these will be present, and even villages without them will have strong links with provincial towns where these nonpeasant groups are located. Thus, while definitions of the peasantry sometimes rest on the functioning of the household, it is essential to see how this is firmly integrated into a wider social, political and economic network. see also PEASANT POLITICS.