The paradox of the peasantry in management and organization studies

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Burrell (2020) challenged management and organization studies (MOS) scholars to pay attention to a topic they have mostly ignored: the peasantry, those 2 billion people that work in the rural primary sector. This paper aims to address the topic to expand Burrell’s challenge by indicating that the peasantry offers a unique context to study a paradoxical condition: the coexistence of persistent poverty and vanguardist innovation. Design/methodology/approach: The authors advance conceptual arguments that complement the reasons why researchers should pay more attention to the peasantry. They argue that continuation of past research into field laborers, transitioning from feudalism to industrial capitalism, still has currency, not just because of the good reasons listed by Burrell (enduring relevance of the phenomenon in developing countries; sustainability concerns; acknowledgment of common heritage) but also because some seemingly archaic practices are evident in the economically developed countries where most management and organizations scholars live. Findings: The authors show that in advanced economies, the peasantry has not disappeared, and it is manifested in contradictory forms, as positive force contributing to sustainable productivity (in the case of digitized agriculture) and as a negative legacy of social inequality and exploitation (as a form of modern slavery). Originality/value: The authors discuss contrasting themes confronting management of the peasantry, namely, modern slavery and digital farming, and propose that a paradox view may help overcome unnecessary dualisms, which may promote social exclusion rather than integrated development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1802-1813
JournalInternational Journal of Organizational Analysis
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2023


  • Digitized agriculture
  • Management and farming
  • Modern slavery
  • New space industry
  • Peasantry


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