The differential development of capitalist agriculture in patrimonial and feudal societies

McKerrow, Mark W.
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University of Guelph

This thesis deals with the role that feudalism plays in the emergence of capitalism. In contrast to explanations emphasizing the rise of capitalism after the collapse of feudalism, the emphasis here is on the development of capitalism within feudal societies. These early capitalist developments are conceived of as managed estates employing free labour. After defending and outlining the logic of the comparative method, two feudal cases--Japan (1600-1868) and England (1100-1348)--are compared to two patrimonial cases--The Ottoman Empire (1450-1700) and China (1368-1644). A neo-Weberian list of preconditions for capitalism is used to direct the comparison. It is found that all four cases possess the preconditions necessary for capitalist agricultural conceived of as managed estates. While the preconditions have not led to managed estates in the patrimonial cases to the extent they did in the feudal cases, the reasons for this do not seem to be related to the feudal-patrimonial distinction. In The Ottoman Empire managed estates are discouraged by the central government's policy of maintaining a landholding class of independent cultivators--a policy not inherent to patrimonial societies--which limits available labour for managed estates. In Ming China a combination of population pressure and the requirements of wet rice production, which made sharecropping and fixed rent tenancy economically rational, served to discourage managed estates. The comparative method is discussed in light of the findings, and is found to be a valuable approach if properly employed. The value of the use of negative cases is stressed. The necessity of introducing new cases to test existing explanations and possible caveats of comparison are discussed.

Feudalism, Capitalist agriculture, Patrimonial, Feudal societies, Managed estates