The Bernstein & Byres Prize in Agrarian Change 2020



We are pleased to announce that Martín Arboleda has been awarded the 2020 Bernstein & Byres Prize for his article ‘Towards an agrarian question of circulation: Walmart’s expansion in Chile and the agrarian political economy of supply chain capitalism’, Journal of Agrarian Change, 2020, vol. 20:  no. 3, 345-363. The author is Assistant Professor in the School of Sociology, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile.

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 2020, a jury of five were asked to assess four articles shortlisted by the Journal’s editors. The other articles included on the shortlist were, in alphabetical order:

  • Noaman G. Ali, ‘Agrarian class struggle and state formation in post-colonial Pakistan, 1959–1974: Contingencies of Mazdoor Kisan Raj’, Journal of Agrarian Change, July, 2019, vol. 20, no. 2,  270-288.
  • Chen Yiyuan, ‘Land outsourcing and labour contracting: Labour management in China’s capitalist farms’,  Journal of Agrarian Change, vol. 20, no. 2,  238-254.
  • R.P. Fenton Jr. ‘Cacao capitalism in coastal Ecuador: Production processes and accumulation in non-transitionary agrarian capitalism during the long 19th century’, Journal of Agrarian Change, vol. 20, no. 4,  618-636

The jury consists of three members of the International Advisory Board, who vary annually, and the Journal’s founders and editors emeriti – Henry Bernstein and Terence J. Byres. The jury members produced detailed reports for which the editorial team thank them immensely. The jury regarded these papers as solid and thought-provoking works of agrarian political economy.

Martin Arboleda is the final winner. He argues that contemporary movements for agrarian transformation must pay special attention to circulation, bringing production into dialectical unity with circulation, distribution and consumption. He emphasises the importance of the fact that commodities do not exchange at their value, which he illustrates with Walmart’s rapid expansion of agrarian involvement in Chile. As one of our jury emphasised ‘Arboleda explores the imbrications of agrarian capitalism well beyond the confines of rural space. He follows the lives of commodities originated in the countryside as they manifest in relationships built around logistical hubs, digital platforms, supermarkets, and a variety of connections informing what he rightly calls “supply chain capitalism”.’ In doing so, Arboleda urges us to probe contemporary conditions of class-struggle in new ways. The editors of JAC would like to congratulate Martín Arboleda for the debates his article should promote and will continue to welcome such contributions to the field of agrarian change.