Rise of the Surplus Population? Land Decollectivization, Class Stratification, and Labor Precarization in Uzbekistan

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This article identifies decollectivization as one of the central policies through which the so-called "Uzbek model"mediated independent Uzbekistan's incorporation into the global economy as a cotton exporter. As such, it problematizes the way in which the dominant literature on transition framed the country's independent history since 1991 as a "paradox"of no transition and transformation. Since it theorizes the former as the application of privatization, liberalization, and macroeconomic stabilization, the literature cannot explain why, absent this standard reform package, Uzbekistan still underwent a momentous transformation from full employment and low migration to mass informalization of economic activity and rural outmigration. Instead, I contend, decollectivization entailed a process of mass expropriation of the rural population from the land - primitive accumulation in Marxian terminology - in order to put it to production for capital accumulation. As such, land use was shifted from the collective reproduction of the rural population during Soviet times to the rent-subsidization of capital accumulation after independence, particularly via import-substitution industrialization. The result has been the class stratification of Uzbek society, most evident in the rise of a vast relative surplus population of landless peasants struggling in the precarious informal economy, including as daily workers and labor migrants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-161
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Labor and Working-Class History
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • decollectivization
  • surplus population
  • labor precarization
  • class
  • Uzbekistan


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