Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



International Migration and the “Moral” Economy of the ‘Barani’Peasantry

For James Scott, the cornerstone of the ‘moral’ economy was anattitude of a subsistence and basically risk-averse-peasantry which waselementally geared towards enhancing safety and the reliability of itssubsistence [Scott (1976)]. It was the need to be secure and the fear ofpoverty, he submitted, which explained ” … many otherwise anomolous,technical and moral arrangements in peasanl society” [op.cit: vii].Commensurately, all coping strategies were noted to fundamentallyincorporate these arrangements. Though Scott’s affirmations are based onthe analysis of rural Indo-China they also, to a great extent, ring trueof many peasant societies of South Asia. The peasantry inhabiting the’bar ani’ (rainfed agricUltural) areas of northern Pakistan provide uswith one such example. In the course of ascertaining the impact of therecently massive out -country mov~ments of labour from the region to theoil-producing countries of the Middle East, it was found that here too asimilar, and integral, subsistence ethic held sway over the “manyotherwise anomolous” structural arrangements of life. The >examination, in general, of the out-migrations from “barani” areas[which historically have constituted perhaps, the most effective elementof coping strategies of the inhabitants see Darling (1945); Naseem(1981)], and specifically the recent movements to the oil-producingeconomies is with a view to assessing their ability to ‘nurture astructural transformation in the sending areas. In so doing this paperwill attempt to illustrate the attributes of the subsistence ethic inthe ‘harani’ lands. It is more in the vein of a conceptual presentationalthough the affirmations are based on surveys of two villages; one inthe Punjab and the other in the NWFP.

Azfar F. Khan

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