Some aspects of the political economy of agricultural societies
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This paper is a study of the various social and political systems which have been imposed on traditional agricultural economies in the past. Traditional agricultural is characterised by underemployment of the labor force except during harvest periods, and this has serious implications not only for the wage rate but also for labor's social and political freedom. Maximization of rent in an economy in which both land and labor are scarce brings strong pressures to bind labor to the farm through the crop year. Such restrictions have often taken the social and political form of feudalism. In a land surplus economy agricultural slavery may be practised in order to create a surplus for the propertied class. Modern agriculture differs from traditional agriculture in employing its labor force fully, or almost fully, throughout the year. This requires an increase in the productivity of harvest labor made possible by technological advance and an increase in the ratio of capital to labor in harvesting. In the end, agricultural labor becomes more prosperous, and the problems of the seasonal variation in employment are transferred from labor to capital.