¿Campesinos u obreros? : un estudio actual sobre la llamada población campesina de Santiago del Estero, 2009-2012


Sartelli, Eduardo

Temporal Coverage





388 p.


Atribución-NoComercial-SinDerivadas 2.0 Genérica (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)




Santiago del Estero (province)


Most researchers who study the rural population of Santiago del Estero characterize it as a “peasantry.” They argue that a double economic structure exists in Argentina, with developed capitalism limited to the region of the pampas, and another backward structure in the northwest region, where “peasants” can be found. However, the empirical data found by these academics in reality seems to recognize subjects specific to modern society. The idea of a “peasantry,” then, hides and blurs together different social subjects: the working class, semi-proletariat or petite bourgeoisie.

The presumed presence of “peasants” in fully developed capitalist societies has been the subject of intense debate that began at the start of the twentieth century and acted upon in the 1970s. However, even in our own day, this debate has not lost relevancy. In the case of Santiago del Estero “peasant” positions predominate, without studies that, from other theoretical perspectives, put them into question. Taking up the positions of the “decampesinista” authors again, this thesis seeks to revise the predominant characterization of this social subject.

The extant literature shows that the history of the so-called peasant population of Santiago del Estero is intimately linked to the exploitation of the forests in that province. Lumber workers, as a result of the ups and downs of that activity, occupied parcels of land near the lumberyards. Following the vicissitudes of this activity, these workers maintained their parcels of land and designed new strategies for survival, linked to seasonal, salaried rural labor. These incomes were, in turn, complemented by subsistence land production. In the last 20 years, the lands occupied by this population began to be coveted by the farming bourgeoisie, which sought to expel the inhabitants by seeking help from the public authorities. This has provoked multiple conflicts that initiated the formation of social organizations that fight against the evictions and that come together behind a peasant “identity.”

The overarching question that guided this research was: what social subject is hidden behind the so-called “peasantry” of Santiago del Estero? From this question emerged several specific questions: What level of importance do land incomes and non-land incomes represent in the total family income? In what non-land rural activities is the subject employed? What are the most important ones and in what do they consist? What are the social organizations that bring together the demands of this sector? What is the political program of those entities? Why do they organize as peasants if that does not seem to be their social nature? These questions contemplate the two dimensions that make up the constitution of social subjects. One of these dimensions is objective and refers to the place they occupy in the social system as a whole and the relations that they establish with other subjects in order to guarantee their reproduction. The other is subjective, which refers to the degree of consciousness those subjects have of themselves, of the place they occupy in the social system as a whole and of their interests; what they can achieve, or not, through confrontation and social conflict, through organization and through struggle.

We plant the following hypotheses: 1. The rural population of Santiago del Estero, generally characterized as peasants, sustains itself principally on the basis of salaried work and the transfers of state monies. As such, it is a working-class population; 2. Lacking alternative sources of employment, that population it acts as a light infantry of capital; 3. The recent valorization of marginal lands for the production of soy has provoked the expulsion of these rural workers, who have joined together in organizations for the defense of their lands, since they constitute means of subsistence; 4. The organizations that led these struggles have in turn brought to the sector a peasant program that, as such, does not contemplate their condition as salaried workers. We argue that this is not only because of the development of a partial consciousness of the subject discussed, but also because of the influence that historically has had on our country campesinista ideology, spread by different institutions.

In order to carry out the objectives detailed above, we used diverse sources: quantitative data, compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Subsecretary of Rural Development and Family Agriculture of the Nation; in-depth interviews; observations; field notes; official statistics and secondary sources.

The conclusions that we reached can be summed up in the following way: 1. Behind the idea of the peasant is hidden, mainly, a rural working class with land and, to a lesser degree, the rural semi-proletariat and petite bourgeoisie. The former sector of the working class fulfills the function of the “light infantry of capital” as part of a relative overpopulation. 2. The formation of “peasant” groups brought together in the Peasant Movement of Santiago del Estero responds to the need to defend an important resource for the existence of the families: land. It is important because it allows them to reproduce themselves as rural workers, even though it does not provide the principal sustenance for that reproduction. On the other hand, the “peasant identity” does not come spontaneously from the experience of the subject, but rather it is partially constructed by the intervention of different intellectuals, from the Catholic Church above all, removed from the sector, that address it and contribute to organizing it according to this secondary interest as “peasants.”

Título obtenido

Doctora de la Universidad de Buenos Aires en Ciencias Sociales

Institución otorgante

Universidad de Buenos Aires. Facultad de Ciencias Sociales

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