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The last decade has seen a critical reassessment of the role of the state in economic development, accompanied by substantial economic restructuring of Third World economies. One of the most profound manifestations of this transformation is the process of privatization. The sale of Mexico's state-owned sugar mills to private capital marks a historical turning point for the sugar sector and provides an opportunity to analyze the impact of privatization on rural communities, as peasants adjust to the changing structure of production and renegotiate their relationship with the Mexican state and the reprivatized sugar mill. The research examines reprivatization through a political economy approach, incorporating several levels of analysis: 1) international and national policies affecting the sugar sector; 2) regional sugar mill policies; 3) collective organization of the regional cane producers' union; and 4) strategies of production and resistance utilized by peasant households.

Anthropological research was conducted in two peasant villages in the sugar-producing region of Colima, Mexico. Structured interviews with a sample of 100 peasant producers provided data on household economics, how reprivatization of the sugar mill affects peasant production, changing agricultural practices and strategies, and participation in the regional cane producers' union. Sample data were supplemented by interviews and data gathering in various agrarian offices, the sugar mill, and the producers' union. The sugar mill provided annual records (1986-1991) of costs of production, profits, and debts for all cane producers of the research villages, which were utilized to compare the pre-privatization and post-privatization periods.

Reprivatization has made a significant initial impact on the region of study. Contrary to the expectations of privatization, productive efficiency has declined due to lack of investment in the sugar mill. Cane producers face spiraling costs, increasing debts, and are abandoning cane production in substantial numbers. Given structural limitations placed on the union's collective mobilization for a price increase, producers who persevere in the production of cane select a variety of strategies of resistance as they confront reprivatization of the sugar sector.


This dissertation was accepted towards fulfillment of the requirements for PhD degree in Anthropology at Michigan State University.


Copyright by Donna Lynn Chollett 1994

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