Tracing the way in which the agrarian myth has emerged and re-emerged over the past century in ideology shared by populism, postmodernism and the political right, the argument in this book is that at the centre of this discourse about the cultural identity of 'otherness'/ 'difference' lies the concept of and innate 'peasant-ness'. In a variety of contextually-specific discursive forms, the 'old' populism of the 1890s and the nationalism and fascism in Europe, America and Asia during the 1920s and 1930s were all informed by the agrarian myth. The postmodern 'new' populism and the 'new' right, both of which emerged after the 1960s and consolidated during the 1990s, are also structured discursively by the agrarian myth, and with it the ideological reaffirmation of peasant essentialism. Although the economic breakdown of traditional agrarian structures in the Third World by postwar capitalist development has been accompanied by a discursive re-essentialization of the peasantry, it is argued that perceptions concerning the kind of political action (resistance-not-revolution) undertaken by peasants have changed.
Following the rediscovery of 'popular culture' by postmodern theory, there has been an analogous shift in development debate about agrarian transformation, from 'peasantness'-as-economic-alienation to 'peasantness'-as-cultural-empowerment, leading in turn to an epistemological fusion between 'new' populist and 'new' right discourse.