The Oil Drum has an interesting explanation on ‘peasant’ behaviour and mindset. Some excerpts:
“We often think that we have a problem of scarcity of resources. It is not so: scarcity is not absolute. Whether we have enough of something or not depends on our perception of what we need. And, because we seem to think that we never have enough, we tend to use what we have faster than it can be replaced.
But human beings haven’t always been like this. Ancient peasants lived, mostly, in a "zero growth" world and, perhaps, in the future we'll return to a condition in which the finiteness of resources is an obvious fact of life.
Why is it, we may wonder, that the peasants do nothing to better themselves? Some scholars have concluded that they are too desperately poor to have time for social cooperation or for political agitation. Others have attributed the inaction to their being as impassive as their donkeys and oxen. Still others explain that the peasants have been exploited for so long by the upper classes that they would never join their social superiors in any venture, for fear of being cheated. Each of these statements is true to some extent, but none by itself can account for the peasants' disregard of their own welfare.
Peasants view their total environment as one in which all the good things of life-land, wealth, power, friendship, sex, health, and honor-exist in only limited quantities. As they see it, the limitation exists for two reasons: 'There are more of themselves than there are of good things, and they consider themselves powerless to increase the quantities available. Peasants have unconsciously extended a truth about the limited nature of their arable land to include all aspects of life. Like the land itself, good things can be divided and their ownership changed-but they cannot be increased.
Because not enough good exists to go around, a peasant family can improve its position only at the expense of other families in the community. A family that actively works to improve its lot thus represents a threat; whatever extra good it obtains must inevitably be taken from someone else. Peasants consequently regard modern farming techniques as ways to deprive others of their rightful share of wealth rather than as ways to increase productivity and thus to create new wealth.”