Agricultural Involution

by Clifford Geertz


Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia is one of the most famous of the early works of Clifford Geertz. Written for a particular US-funded project on the local developments and following the modernisation theory of Walt Whitman Rostow, Geertz examines in this book the agricultural system in Indonesia. The two dominant forms of agriculture are swidden and sawah. Swidden is also known as slash and burn and sawah is irrigated rice paddy. The geographical location of these different types is important. Sawah is the dominant form in both Java and Bali where nearly three quarters of Indonesia's population live and swidden more common in the less central regions. Having looked at the agricultural system the book turns to an examination of the systems historical development. Of particular note is Geertz's discussion of what he famously describes as the process of "agricultural involution". This is his description of the process in Java where both the external economic demands of the Dutch rulers and the internal pressures due to population growth led to intensification rather than change.

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