Redistribution within a Democratic society : the 'finished business' of he Italian agrarian reform
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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The experience of the Italian agrarian reform defies the dominant view in today's development literature that the redistribution of agricultural land to the rural poor is not feasible under democratic regimes. This pessimistic view is based on the slowness and inefficiency of many expropriation and settlement schemes in the developing world, which have fallen victim of the undue influence of the landowners and of the technical complexities of implementation. This bleak generalization ignores the case of the Italian agrarian reform of the 1950s, which took place in the context of a newly restored democracy, and yet has effectively expropriated and redistributed hundreds of thousands of hectares to the rural poor in only three years. Despite its limited geographical coverage, agrarian reform has been able to end to a decades- long rural conflict; to eliminate the backward production system based on absentee latifundia; has re-vitalized land markets and promoted family farming. The following factors explain the unexpected effectiveness of the Italian agrarian reform. First, the concessions that the government chose to make to the landowning class - necessary within a democratic power-sharing system - consisted in a reduction of the territorial area covered by the program, but not in the relaxation of the expropriation procedure, whose automatism and objectiveness left few chances to the landowners to influence the process at the implementation stage.(cont.) Second, the mobilization of the landless against the government, that the international experience recognizes as key to the formation of a redistributive political will, in the Italian case also helped the reform's implementation, thanks to the role of an advocate for the rural poor and of a watchdog of the program's performance that the Communist party played. Third, the agronomists employed in the reform administration have protected it against the abuse of the reform benefits by the forces in power for the pursuit of rent-seeking and patronage. These agronomists' strong professional bond and shared technical values contributed to the independence of the reform administration from segments of society interested in stopping the progress of redistribution.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2002.Includes bibliographical references (p. 219-237).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.