The Paradox of Agrarian Change: Food Security and the Politics of Social Protection in Indonesia (Paperback)

The Paradox of Agrarian Change: Food Security and the Politics of Social Protection in Indonesia By John F. McCarthy (Editor), Andrew McWilliam (Editor), Gerben Nooteboom (Editor) Cover Image

The Paradox of Agrarian Change: Food Security and the Politics of Social Protection in Indonesia (Paperback)

By John F. McCarthy (Editor), Andrew McWilliam (Editor), Gerben Nooteboom (Editor)


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A detailed study of agrarian change, the persistence of food insecurity, and the most significant policy to address poverty in rural Indonesia.
Economic growth in the middle-income countries of Southeast Asia over the past few decades has been widely praised for reducing poverty in both absolute and relative terms. Indonesia is a prime example. But while poverty has declined in Indonesia, patterns of food poverty persist across Indonesia. What explains this troubling paradox? How does it relate to Indonesia’s enthusiastic embrace of the “entitlements revolution,” the use of direct cash transfers as a tool for reducing poverty and building social inclusion?
This book analyzes the nature and social consequences of economic development and agrarian change processes in rural Indonesia in relation to the scope and effectiveness of Indonesia’s social protection programs. The findings are based on a series of extensive ground-up case studies in Indonesian communities in a variety of eco-agrarian settings that seek to understand the drivers of food insecurity and vulnerability at a household level. The results show that while high-value farming, diversification, and migration may offer a means of economic progress for poor households, opportunities for accumulation are limited. This, the authors show, is due to the way class, gender, and power work in remote local contexts, and the fact that much surplus income is used for enhanced consumption and changing lifestyles. There are few signs of the classical structural transformation of the countryside which has historically been considered the most decisive pathway out of rural poverty. The authors conclude that social assistance is unlikely to counter the persistence of rural poverty, food insecurity, and precarity in the absence of other redistributive strategies that shift the structural drivers of inequality.
John F. McCarthy is associate professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at Australian National University.

Andrew McWilliam is professor of anthropology at Western Sydney University.

Gerben Nooteboom is associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.
Product Details ISBN: 9789813251830
ISBN-10: 9813251832
Publisher: National University of Singapore Press
Publication Date: January 4th, 2023
Pages: 464
“The book exquisitely analyses why so many people from rural Indonesia are still vulnerable to nutritional insecurity whilst poverty rates are declining simultaneously. The book is a valuable addition to the existing literature and an interesting read for everyone working in agriculture, agrarian change and food security.”
— The Journal of Peasant Studies

“This is one of the strong points of John McCarthy, McWilliam, and Nooteboom's work: sensitivity to the variety of agrarian change pathways. Another strong point can be found in the authors' conclusion, that to solve the agrarian change paradox in Indonesia there is a need to formulate 'other redistributive policy settings and strategies . . . which shift the structural driven of inequality and invest in the productive capacity of people to empower their future'... terima kasih Mas John and the authors for the excellent contribution to the agrarian study in Indonesia.”
— Indonesia

“I consider these [village-based] case studies to be the most interesting part of the book, especially those illustrating remote or unusual locations, such as East Sumba (Chapter 6) and the Sama Bajo fishing people of SE Sulawesi (Chapter 10), where the assistance of a strong community culture was especially beneficial….It was good to see so many Indonesian authors and the participation of 6 Indonesian universities, as well as 3 from Australia and 2 from the Netherlands.”
— Asia-Pacific Economic Literature

“[This edited volume] is a genuine team effort and an excellent example of the insights that can be gained through sustained research collaboration between Australian and Indonesian researchers…. The book’s strength lies in the diverse experiences of agrarian change. Its centre-piece is therefore the seven case study chapters (part 2 of the book), all of which are well written and engaging and provide insightful analyses of the diverse causes of contemporary rural poverty.”
— Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies