I was reading a few articles about population growth and famines and thereby discovered that some of the recent famines where caused by government policies, among which I read at least twice (USSR and China) that collectivisation played a major role in decreasing farming/labour efficiency or at least crop distribution efficiency.

So here comes my question: are there instances where collective farming has actually brought benefit to the population of an area (not necessarily in terms of crops throughput, but more in terms of wellbeing)?

Also, have there been instances where communal dining has brought a increased efficiency of food usage, as opposed to the over consumption induced by this policy in the mid 20th century china?

I thought maybe rural societies or at least more decentralised (maybe more primitive?) communities might have had a better chance to benefit from such measures, but i have found little information in regard to farming and cooking policies of, let's say, the Amish people for example.

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    Please define your measure of well being, as Mao's definition, and Fidel's definition, and my definition may be dramatically different. Might I suggest that median gross domestic product, for example, is far more suitable than mean gross domestic product for a start. Mar 18, 2014 at 3:47
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    Also, famines artificially created by the expropriation without adequate payment of farm produce from peasants to feed the urban poor and middle class, as happened in 1920's Ukraine, is a world of difference from what you describe in your question. Mar 18, 2014 at 3:51
  • indeed, the Soviets concluded that for the well being of the revolution the kulaks had to be starved into submission...
    – jwenting
    Mar 18, 2014 at 8:07
  • @PieterGeerkens: true, i may have been a bit vague. What i meant was, if there was any instance where it has helped distribute the food more evenly, i.e. prevent people from starving instead of leading them to starvation. If the throughput of crops increases, but only a few benefit from it, it defeats the point of it all, in my opinion; that's why, as you pointed out, i had to clarify what i meant if i expect a useful answer.
    – Matthaeus
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:33
  • oceanspray.coop this company calls it self a cooperative, in my book that means that all assets (including farming land) are owned collectivly by the workers. I'm however not sure inhowfar that applies here still. Also AFAIK Mike Davies 'City of Quarz' mentioned collective farms beeing started early 20th cen in the LA area (of which Ocean spray may be one), maybe look that up. Which begs the question: At what scale are you looking, do indiviaul farms count?
    – mart
    Jun 26, 2015 at 9:30

2 Answers 2


From what I've gathered from books (e.g. Joseph Baratz' A Village By the Jordan: The Story of Degania and Daniel Gavron's The Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia) kibbutzim were of critical importance to Israel prior to and in the immediate period after of the state's foundation. They were both collective and agricultural enterprises, they also offered local protection to early settlers. As the Israeli society matured and modernized and the local industrial economy grew to strength they tended to loose in overall importance in the decades since.

  • The Kibbutzim were a major factor in the first Israeli-Arab war of 1948: they constitued fortess against which Arab armies focused, especially Syrian and Egyptian ones, which allowed Israelian composite military forces to barely stop Jordanian forces and keep major cities under control. Later, Kibbutzim constitued points of logistic for Israelian forces on offensive stance Today kibbutzim are still agricultural center, and some try to convert into rural tech centers Dec 21, 2019 at 9:33
  • @totalMongot If you had further book recommendations about the topic, I'd be interested.
    – Drux
    Dec 23, 2019 at 2:55
  • Sorry I don't have these sort of recommendations :/ Dec 23, 2019 at 10:55

Are there instances where collective farming has actually brought benefit to the population of an area

Yes. The shift towards peasant collective farming, generally involving strip rotation of shares, from enslaved farming brought widespread improvements to the standard of living of medieval peasants in England. Collective farming of this nature was the initial mode of farming on illegal waste settlements. Collective farming under monastic control was highly popular, and the destruction of monasteries as economic units was highly resented.

Similarly the destruction of the remnant collective spaces of the modern English village brought penury, forced unemployment, effective enslavement (through the poor law) and massive caloric and dietary variety decline to the remnants of the British peasantry. [Hammond & Hammond, The Village Labourer] The throughput went up. The only beneficiaries of this were the beneficiaries of the Enclosures act.

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    Feudalism isn't collectivism. It's a pretty "classed" system...
    – Razie Mah
    Mar 18, 2014 at 3:31
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    Actual references would be valuable for what appears to be a lot of opinion more suited to a comment than an answer. Mar 18, 2014 at 3:45
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    Hammond & Hammond are pretty adequate for my second paragraph. The first can be found in the research project around Posten into Saxon and Norman land use; excepting the monasteries, which is patently obvious from resistance to Henry VIII. Mar 18, 2014 at 10:18
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    @RazieMah it's however a very good comparison with the Soviet and communist Chinese collective farms, which were state owned with the farmers working there as employees/(de facto) slaves.
    – jwenting
    Mar 18, 2014 at 11:18
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    @RazieMah Both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China were heavily classed systems. I'm not sure of your point. Your failure to gesture at the theory informing your opinion of what "is" and "isn't" collectivisation leaves the term open. I believe it can apply to feudal production relations where distribution is relatively more vigorous, like monastery or waste strip farming which I'm sufficiently familiar to comment on. There is no "pure" social formation. Mar 19, 2014 at 4:23

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