Cover of Poverty as Subsistence by Mihai Varga
Poverty as Subsistence
The World Bank and Pro-Poor Land Reform in Eurasia
Mihai Varga


February 2023
216 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503633049


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Poverty as Subsistence explores the 'propertizing' land reform policy that the World Bank advocated throughout the transitioning countries of Eurasia, expecting poverty reduction to result from distributing property titles over agricultural land to local (rural) populations. China's early 1980s land reform offered support for this expectation, but while the spread of propertizing reform to post-communist Eurasia created numerous "subsistence" smallholders, it failed to stimulate entrepreneurship or market-based production among the rural poor. Varga argues that the World Bank advocated a simplified version of China's land reform that ignored a key element of successful reforms: the smallholders' immediate environment, the structure of actors and institutions determining whether smallholders survive and grow in their communities. With concrete insights from analysis of the land reform program throughout post-communist Eurasia and multisited fieldwork in Romania and Ukraine, this book details how and why land reform led to subsistence and the mechanisms underpinning informal commercialization.

About the author

Mihai Varga is a Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow in Sociology at the Eastern Europe Institute, Freie Universität Berlin. He was a Max Weber Fellow in 2011-2012 and his research focuses on economic crises and their political and socioeconomic consequences.