This book is the result of the first phase of a French-Mexican program for scientific cooperation begun in 1983 with the Colegio de Michoacán. The research objectives are to understand rural development, to develop a theoretical framework and a methodology, and to design and implement development projects. The authors analyze campesino and ejido fanning operations in the context of a larger regional agricultural system, evaluating production relations, social cooperation, and agrosystems in the context of the natural environment. This approach differs from the traditional one in that it neither analyzes a farm unit in isolation nor relies on sample surveys of large numbers of farmers. Rather, it uses case studies to examine the production relations of farms in the context of social systems, markets, and natural surroundings. The authors argue that their unconventional theoretical framework and methodology allow a better understanding of how agricultural systems work and provide more useful information, compared to the traditional approach, for policy makers who design development projects.

They apply their approach to seven distinct microregions in the state of Michoacán. In each case one or more of the authors heads a small team that thoroughly studies the region, drawing upon records and oral history to develop a history of its agricultural development, particularly in the twentieth century. The case studies trace the evolution of the agricultural activities in each region as they were affected by land reform, the U.S. bracero program, the introduction of new crops or livestock enterprises, and government agricultural policy. They also provide a detailed profile and analyses of the interactions of the various types of actors or persons involved in the agricultural setting: large landholders, landlords, peones, ejidatarios, small farmers, renters, and day workers. Production relations are described in depth in order to examine how they are conditioned by climate, availability of resources, and government programs. Their systems approach enables the authors to identify linkages between the different actors as well as obstacles to development not apparent in the traditional approach.

The book is fascinating reading for someone interested in the evolution of campesino farming systems in Mexico or Latin America. The descriptive case studies for microregions allow the reader to grasp the agricultural development of the region quickly, particularly as it was changed by land reform. The seasonal patterns of climate and their effects on crop production and land use are carefully documented for each region. The hook does not rely on hard economic analysis, and the critique of government policies is interesting, hut debatable.

In general, the book tells an intriguing story. The seven case studies are enlightening from the perspective of historical development, the interaction of the farms within the context of the microregion, and the detail on changing production relations.