.. nt an involution whereby traditional technology, organisation and administration increased in complexity, became more rigid and inflexible, but did not alter in any significant way. Traditional means of operation were constantly reified and labour effort intensified in an effort to extract the most surplus out of a decadent system. This intensification met little resistance: [n]ot living on the land and even physically separated from it by fixed residence in agro-towns, the peasants could less easily lay claim to it and thereby challenge large landownership. Eugen Weber even goes on to question whether such radical action would have any appeal for the peasantry, to whom innovation was almost inconceivable.
Routine ruled: the structural balance attained by a long process of trial and error, reinforced by isolation and physical circumstances. Such routine connoted not mindless labour but precious experience, what had worked and hence would work again, the accumulated wisdom without which life could not be maintained. A similar argument is put forth by James Scott in The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Scott suggests that in opposition to the accumulative preference of urban capitalist society, the primary concern of the peasantry is subsistence. Because of a tendency towards leisure preference and the sheer lack of economic security, Scott explains the peasants reverence of custom and tradition as reflections of an ingrained risk-aversiveness developed over the ages. The safety-first maxim, a logical consequence of the econlogical dependence of peasant livelihood, embodies a relative preference for subsistence security over high average income. Scott further argues that this security mindedness make[s] abstract economic sense [and] finds expression in a wide array of actual choices, institutions and values in peasant society.
It is therefore a vast break from tradition and custom for the peasants to collectivise and attempt to resist the landlord; such instances of organised revolt, as suggested by Scott, are few and far between. With oppressor and oppressed buying into the structure, it is hardly surprising that the economic involution of the latifondo was closely accompanied by a social involution, which exhibited similar trends towards complexity and inflexibility. Feder argues: Besides being complex, the social structure of the estate tends to be rigid from the point of view of economic development. . .
. An autocratic organisation is well adapted to having orders from above carried out efficiently . . . However, this efficiency is the highest when matters go their usual way, in a routine manner.
. . . [W]hile the landed elite has no interest in the peasants aspirations and keeps aloof from their world, it is still keenly aware of its obligations to keep the peasants in check and subservient. It can achieve this simply through inactionas the social structure automatically ensures obedience up to a pointor actively, through coercion, sanctions and total hostility to any peasant organisation.
The peasants obedience of tradition thus made the landlords job easier; where grievances did arise, they could be ignored, or at worst suppressed, without having to significantly alter the social structure. Blok, for example, suggests that the fragmented occupational structure of the peasant class . . . stifled the emergence of class consciousness and enduring interest groups among the labour force.
This lack of desire and ability to organise collective action was reinforced through the evolution of an entire culture of violence, deriving its roots from the criteria underlying the process of administrator selection. As a rule, strong men were recruited for this post, from those who were able to make themselves respectedinspire fearamong the people of the state as well as outsiders. The overseers authority was reinforced by strong-arm men, a private police force. The post of overseer was sought after by most, because it was permanent, came with various benefits and allowed for tremendous social power. As the ability to inspire fear was a prerequisite to attaining this post, dominating and violent behaviour began to be perceived as desirable. This resulted in the evolution of a social code of honour that laid down strict rules and criteria for the functioning of society; in Sicilian society, this code was known as the mafia. Blok asserts: mafia provided the large estate with its mainstay.
. . . [P]hysical violence dominated the social relationships through which the large estates were exploited. In this way mafiosi kept restive peasants in submission, while opening up avenues for upwardly mobile peasants who qualified in the use of violence.
It is important to note that this social code evolved in response to a need to maintain the status quo, and was subsequently complicated and institutionalised till it came to dominate all spheres of life in Sicilian society. This was the social involution associated with the latifondoinward elaboration of detail of an established social need, making it rigid and codifying it in social norms. Although the social rules by which the mafia operated remained for the large part unwritten, similar processes of social involution elsewhere went to the extent of actually transcribing these laws. Scott Andersons study of Albania, for example, reveals such a codified set of social norms: [T]he traditional laws and loyalties of the village . . . are spelled out in the kanun .
. ., a book of rules and oaths. By the dictates of the kanun . . . ones primary alliance is to clan and community, not to the state.
The implications of such socioeconomic involution are manifold. At an economic level, it appears that one reason why rural areas appear hesitant to adopt new technology is because of the involutionary administrative structure and organisationnew technology means change and change is unpopular with the adminstration; consequently, the enterprise is so structured as to prevent change. Social codes evolve to complement this process of involution, becoming codified in the culture of the society and forming a rigid institution which embeds itself firmly in the social structure and becomes more and more elaborate with time. The socioeconomic institutions resulting from this involution thereby display increasing complexity and inflexibility, and become extremely resistant to outside pressures. This further implies that nothing short of revolutionary and committed intervention would be able to significantly alter these institutions. If such intervention is attempted in a half-hearted manner by the state, which is at the best of times completely alien to rural society, it is bound to have only limited success.
Blok describes various attempts by the Fascist government to introduce new agrarian technologies and to implement agrarian reform; as may be expected, the new techniques of cultivation were applied on a small scale, the Fascist agrarian policy did not promote the development of more intensive methods of cultivation and inhibited the expansion of a more balanced agriculture, and even after the post-Fascist agrarian reform law of 1950, the type of agriculture that had always characterised the inland region did not substantially change . . ., even though huge funds were allocated for improvement. It is testament to the longevity of involutionary enterprises that the latifondismo of Sicily manage to survive to date. Of Albania, Anderson similarly concludes: Communism never actually modernised Albania, but merely put the old ways, the village ways, in a kind of deep freezemuch as Tito did in Yugoslavia following World War II.
The collapse of the state and the national economy has led many Albanians to once again openly embrace the . . . kanun. We may therefore conclude that such socioeconomic structures, which at first glance appear to be anachronistic in the extreme and anomalous in the context of contemporary modes of production and social organisation, appear to defiantly face the challenge presented by modern society by undergoing a process of involutionary change.
This process involves the rigidification and complication of existing structures and a strengthening of the implicit social relationships, making these structures less vulnerable to the advent of commercialisation and state intervention. Enterprises based on these structures constitute a subculture in the larger society, and codes of social conduct evolve that present an opposition to prevailing legal and social organisation. Attempts by the state to enforce institutional change are unlikely to succeed in the absence of radical and committed reform and a breaking-down of such involuted codestill such institutional reform occurs, it is unlikely that rural society will modernise per se. Bibliography Blok, p. 72. Blok, p.
73. Blok, p. 79. albeit due to State patronage of the owners. Blok, p. 84. Anderson, p.