This is a welcome book to all interested in agrarian issues of the Peruvian sierra. The author has collected and analyzed a massive amount of quantitative and qualitative data on the agrarian economy of that region. His procedure is to describe the nature of the agrarian economy at the beginning of the 1970s, to return to the period between the War of the Pacific and the 1930s, and then to analyze the transformations that occurred between the two periods. The volume is directed to an interdisciplinary audience; while the smaller issues that divide specialists are not directly examined, positions are taken on such issues and will be clearly recognizable.

The first section opens with a discussion of the ecology and geography of the highlands used to develop a theme that continues throughout the book: sierra ecology is a limiting factor on the expansion of capitalism. The categories that organize the material in the remainder of the section contain no surprises: the nature of the land base, the degree and pattern of land concentration, supply and demand in the sierra labor force, seasonality and temporary migration, and production and income. What is refreshing is the overall high level of description and analysis. Data derive largely from the 1972 Censo Agropecuario; tabular presentations are clear, revealing, and carefully scrutinized for their limitations. Where appropriate, quantitative data are buttressed by a sensitive reading of the ethnographic literature.

While it would be difficult to list the interesting findings in this section, suffice it to say that they are lurking at every page. They range from the noteworthy, such as the contention that minifundismo is not a determining factor either in low returns per hectare or in low technological levels in the highlands (p. 203), to the controversial, in the argument that peasants do not constitute a semiproletariat (pp. 229-231), albeit salaried income is estimated to be on the average between 25 and 35 percent of the total family income (p. 220) and between 65 and 80 percent of total family income is in the form of money (p. 228).

It is in the remainder of the second section, aptly entitled “The Great Transformation,” that historically minded students of Andean rural society will discover much to whet their appetites. While Caballero finds ample evidence for capitalist destruction of traditional economy and society, he does not find capitalist construction in the form of wage levels that can reproduce the labor force and substantial increases in labor productivity through technological innovation. His explanation of this anomaly revolves around two themes: Andean agriculture is not an attractive vehicle for investment, given low returns to capital, and capitalist expansion has been largely exogenous. Caballero’s model explicitly rejects other explanations of “distorted” capitalist development and as such is sure to provoke debate. His data base is so substantial, however, and the argument so carefully constructed that the level of debate must be clearly focused.