In This Review

The Egalitarian Moment: Asia and Africa 1950-1980
The Egalitarian Moment: Asia and Africa 1950-1980
By D. A. Low
Cambridge University Press, 1996, 131 pp

One theme is explored in this lively series of lectures by a noted British historian: the near-universal failure of African and Asian political reformers in the third quarter of the twentieth century to implement programs of rural egalitarianism. Inspired to one degree or another by the rapid modernization of the Soviet Union under Stalin, or by the desire to end or preempt landlordism of all kinds, reformers from India to Tanzania, Indonesia to Iran, Egypt to Ethiopia set out to equalize and in some cases collectivize peasant farmers, only to end up instead, almost everywhere, with markedly stratified rural societies dominated by an upper strata of relatively large farmers on whom the would-be reformers and their successors had become dependent for vital political support. Though stronger drawing out the historical similarities between the 14 countries examined than probing the deeper economic and political forces at work, this pithy little book bodes fair to become a classic among Third World studies.