Examines the case for and against collective farms in developing countries in light of China's post-Mao rural economic reforms. Discusses Bukharinism and Stalinism as contrasting paths in the political economy of development. Presents theoretical arguments concerning collective farms. Analyzes the record of China's rural economy under Mao and attributes the collapse of farm output in 1959-62 primarily to policy errors by central leaders. Discusses the series of massive reforms of China's rural economy that began in 1978 and accelerated through 1982-83, and which culminated in the contracting out of collective farmland for operation by individual households. Outlines the transformation of the rural economy that accompanied and followed the reforms, and considers some problems that have been alleged to have appeared following the reform. Concludes that collective farms are usually not a useful institutional form for poor countries. Nolan is Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics and Politics, and Fellow of Jesus College, University of Cambridge. Bibliography; index.