The Limits of Studies in Comparative Development of East Asia and Latin America: the case of land reform and agrarian policies

Publicado en: Third World Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 4, 2009, pp 761–777
This paper critically examines the widespread belief that the early implementation of comprehensive land reforms prior to the industrialisation process, coupled with subsequent agrarian state policies channelling the intersectoral transfer of resources, has been a central determinant of East Asia’s (mainly Taiwan’s and South Korea’s) outperformance of Latin America. We argue that, although those agrarian policies should certainly be part of any comparative investigation of the course of capitalist development in each of these two regions, they cannot explain their divergence. The paper contends that the respective scope and timing of agrarian policies has been an expression of the specific contradictions of the early industrialisation process in each region, rather than an autonomous determinant of the course of the latter. Based on insights derived from the Marxian critique of political economy, the paper shows that each region’s respective agrarian policies have expressed the differential resolution of the opposition between the rate of profit (industrial capital) and ground-rent (landed property) in the import substituting industrialisation process. In so doing, the paper takes issue with the claim that timely land reforms in Taiwan and Korea have facilitated the subsequent successful turn to an export-oriented industrialisation strategy. An alternative account of the different developmental paths in East Asia and Latin America based on the unfolding of the Marxian ‘law of value’ on a world scale is also provided.


Guido Starosta

Director de la línea de investigación Método dialéctico y categorías fundamentales en la crítica de la economía política - implicancias para la investigación de la dinámica concreta de la acumulación de capital. Doctor en Sociología (Universidad de Warwick), Master en Pensamiento Político y Social (Universidad de Warwick) y Licenciado en Economía (FCE - UBA). Docente investigador de la UNQ e investigador de carrera de CONICET con lugar de trabajo en la UNQ.