When small farmers engage with markets they encounter traders, processors, input suppliers, banks and so on, who usually operate at a much larger scale with much larger amounts of capital and often political influence as well. There are very different expectations of what may then happen to small farmers. This review picks out three perspectives, each with two variants that are influential in framing questions and setting policy agenda.
One of these perspectives sees markets as places where unequal relations lead to differentiation. Another perspective sees distinctive features to peasant farming, including the ability of family farms to survive bad harvests and economic shocks. A third view sees small farms as little different to any other kind of business and hence likely to thrive when economic conditions are favourable.