State practice and rural smallholder production : late-colonialism and the agrarian doctrine in Papua New Guinea, 1942-1969 : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
This study shows why and how late-colonial state practice in Papua New Guinea became synonymous with the development of a centrally regulated scheme of rural household production. It is suggested that the origins of the scheme lie not in its supposed pre-adaptiveness to previously existing ('non-capitalist') social relations, nor in its external, 'subsidising' effect on capital accumulation. Rather, its origins lie in the changing politico-economic realities of post-Second World War global capitalism and the corresponding shift to social trusteeship which, in transmitting metropolitan ideas on 'full employment' to the colonies, sought to reconcile indigenous welfare with expanded rural commodity production. Key objects of analysis include the late-colonial state, the household labour process and the agrarian doctrine of development. It is argued that a serious weakness in much of the literature on Papua New Guinea is the tendency to conflate the distinction between immanent and intentional development, so that the negative dimension implicit in the latter is excluded from discussion. Whereas the immanent implies an unintentional process, unfolding outside the regulatory capacity of the colonial state, the intentional refers to the conscious application of state power to ameliorate the negative consequences explicit in the former - poverty and the emergence of a relative surplus population. The present study seeks to recapture the negative dimension of the late-colonial intent to develop in Papua New Guinea. It is argued that the post-war ascendancy of household production is given in the formation of an agrarian doctrine which, in positing the middle peasant as a developmental ideal, sought to use state policy to check landlessness by recasting the capital-labour relation in agriculture. The intent was to regenerate the 'old' within a welfarist agenda defined in opposition to the "landless proletariat". Securing this process was a fundamental shift in the relationship between the colonial state and international capital. In the period 1919-1939 the movement of capital was essentially spontaneous, albeit subject to regulatory controls on land and labour. However, for the period under consideration the "order of intervention was reversed". Reflecting a major increase in power and capacity, the colonial state "assembled capital" to be superintended as part of the Administration's plan for expanding indigenous commodity production. It is in this recasting of late-colonial state practice that the dominance of household production is situated.
Rural development, Colonies, Administration, Economic policy, Australia, Papua New Guinea