James C. Scott. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press. Chapter 1 (“Introduction”).
The subsistence ethic is placed at the center of the analysis of peasant politics. The "safety-first" principle underpins many of the technical, social, and moral arrangements of precapitalist agrarian orders. Redistributive mechanisms in villages are a form of insurance where starvation is a real and present danger to all. Subsistence security and the subsistence ethic were socially experienced as patterns of moral rights or expectations; peasants should care more about what is left of their agricultural yields than what is taken.
The imposition of capitalism led land-owners to claim harvest based on what the market would bear rather than what the tenants needed. The total absence of any provision for the maintenance of a minimal income incited peasant protests.