The Bernstein & Byres Prize 2021



We are pleased to announce that Muchtar Habibi has been awarded the 2021 Bernstein & Byres Prize for his article “Masters of the countryside and their enemies: class dynamics of agrarian change in Java“, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2021, 21(4): 720-746. The author is a Lecturer in the Department of Management and Public Policy, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia.

The Bernstein & Byres Prize has been awarded since 2008 by the Journal of Agrarian Change (JAC) to the best article published in that year. An award of £500 is given to the winner (donated by our publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd). Articles are judged on: (a) their quality as works of political economy; (b) their analytical power; (c) their originality; and (d) the quality of evidence presented and its deployment. Through this, we hope to reinforce the remit of the Journal in the field of agrarian political economy and to encourage scholarly work investigating the social relations and dynamics of production, property and power in agrarian formations and their processes of change, both historical and contemporary.

For the prize for 2021, a jury of five were asked to assess five articles shortlisted by the Journal’s editors. The other articles included on the shortlist were, in alphabetical order:

  • Diego Ayala-McCormick, “Colonialism, efficiency and development: Land reforms in Puerto Rico,1935-45”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2021, 21(2): 394-416.
  • Samantha Argawal, “Indebted by dispossession. Long-term impacts of a Special Economic Zone on caste inequality”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2021, 21(3): 459-484.
  • Geoff Goodwin, “Fictitious commodification and agrarian change: Indigenous peoples and land markets in Highland Ecuador”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2021, 21(1):  3-24.
  • Pedro Salgado, “The transition debate in Brazilian history: The bourgeois paradigm and its critique”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2021, 21(2): 263-284.

Muchtar Habibi is the final winner. His analysis of class dynamics of agrarian change in rural Java explores the complexity of class locations to understand class relations and politics. He argues that understanding how capitalist farmers and classes of labour negotiate wages and working conditions requires analysis of how the first may hold powerful positions in non-agricultural spheres of rural villages and how the second makes a living from various forms of wage and non-wage labour, within and outside agriculture. His study also contributes to a rich body of earlier literature on the Javanese rice economy. As one of our jury members stated, “The political economy is of a specially high order, the analytical content is particularly penetrating, and the fieldwork stands out in the tenacity with which it is pursued’. Habibi’s emphasis on agrarian and social differentiation and power relations in rural Java comes in for particular praise.

The editors of JAC would like to congratulate Muchtar Habibi on his notable achievement and especially for providing an excellent example of empirically grounded analysis of the complexities of class relations and locations in agrarian change dynamics. The Journal of Agrarian Change looks forward to welcoming submissions that engage in intellectually ambitious and empirically rigorous work in agrarian political economy.