The anthropologist Eric Wolf was one of the most renowned scholars of agricultural societies, and his 1969 book Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century is a landmark study that emphasized the agency of rural peoples. In that book, Wolf presented a comparative study of peasant revolts in Mexico, Russia, China, Vietnam, Algeria, and Cuba. Half a century latter, anthropologists Binford (College of Staten Island, CUNY), Gill (Vanderbilt Univ.), and Striffler (Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston) return to the themes Wolf raised. They note the irony of the decline of peasant studies and the fading of the type of class analysis that Wolf advocated, even as the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people grows ever more acute. While only two of Wolf’s original case studies focused on Latin America, this volume expands on them with chapters covering Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Brazil, and Bolivia (ironically and notably, Cuba is missing). The best and most insightful chapter, by Forrest Hylton on Bolivia, is a thoughtful and stimulating discussion of the themes of class, community, and state formation, which underscored Wolf’s work.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.