On the thought of the poor

I just finished reading James C Scott's Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, a book looking at the reactions of Malaysian rice farmers in the 1970s to an agricultural revolution taking place there, looking at the the societal changes occurring there. Usually I like to weave quite a few books in parallel, allowing me to spend more time meditating over each. Annoyingly, though, I had to finish this one in a week due to it getting recalled by the library. The book gave lots of stuff to think about, but for now I wanted to excerpt a couple of brief portions.

Here's an excerpt highlighting how the poor may be may not be aware of certain academic terms (which - I'd say - themselves may vary a bit from discipline) yet they're understanding is often adequate:

If the poor dwell upon the local and personal causes of their distress, it is thus not because they are particularly "mystified" or ignorant of the larger context of agrarian capitalism in which they live. They do not, of course, use the abstract, desiccated terminology of social science -proletarianization, differentiation, accumulation, marginalization - to describe their situation. But their own folk descriptions of what is happening: being made into coolies, the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer, and being "pushed aside" -are adequate and, at the same time, far richer in emotive meaning than anything academic political-economy could possibly provide. (p. 182)

Then later in the book, looking at behind-the-scenes conversations, the poor might not come up with a lengthy treatise yet may still develop some notions that you might find in places like Marx's magnum opus:

Except for those rare instances when the curtain is momentarily parted, the relatively uncensored subculture of subordinate classes must be sought in those locales, behind the scenes, where it is created-in all those social situations outside the immediate surveillance of the dominant class. Given its shadowy but palpable existence in informal discourse, this subculture is unlikely to be a systematic refutation of the dominant ideology. One does not expect Das Kapital to come from working-class pubs, although one may get something quite close to the labor theory of value! Unless the curtains are parted by open revolt, political freedoms, or a revolution that allows the subculture to take on a public, institutionalized life, it will remain elusive and masked. What is certain, how ever, is that, while domination may be inevitable as a social fact, it is unlikely .. also to be hegemonic as an ideology within that small social sphere where the powerless may speak freely. (p. 329 / 330)

Will note that I don't think that the labour theory of value works in practice, yet I'm not surprised that such an idea would arise in the context of poor rice farmers. I'd see something like a minimum basis income as a better approach to addressing concerns there, but I think that it's important to note that such notions might make the poor there vulnerable to being drawn up into a larger revolution were one to appear on the horizon.