The concept of property has long occupied a central place in Western political and economic theory, but it has had a chequered history in social anthropology, and has not figured strongly in recent work in the discipline. This article draws on fieldwork carried out in rural Hungary since 1976 and concentrates on a specific type of property right, the ownership of agricultural land. Recent moves to decollectivize farmland pose dilemmas for many villagers, particularly as the wider economic climate is presently very unfavourable to agriculture. The evidence suggests pessimism concerning the prospects for the restoration of capitalist property relations in the countryside, an important part of the programme of post-socialist policy makers. The article makes a case for the practical significance of anthropological research in a period of social transformation, as well as for the continued significance of earlier theoretical agendas in economic anthropology. It also engages debates concerning the character of peasantry, with special reference to the limitations of archival sources, and the validity of neo-marxist approaches
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