Robert Brenner, “Agrarian structures and economic development in pre-industrial Europe”, Past and Present (1976), pp. 30-75

Summary:  Demonstrates that economic analyses done without examining class structures and class relationships are flawed because the changes that occur (and are well captured by the economic theory, i.e. demographic and cultural changes) are mediated through the prevailing class structure.
== Notes ==
* Attempts at economic model building to explain economic development are doomed from the start because “it is the structure of class
relations, of class power, which will determine the manner and degree to which particular demographic and cultural changes will affect long-run trends in the distribution of income and economic growth – and not vice versa.
* Two aspects of class analysis
** 1) The relations of the direct producers to one another, their tools, and to the land in the immediate process of production
** 2) The inherently conflictive relations of property by which an unpaid for part of the product is extracted from the direct producers by a class of non-producers – the surplus extraction relationship
* Class relationships must first be specified in order to adequately analyse economic growth
* Two models of economic change:
=== The Demographic Model ===
* Secular Malthusianism – decreased food yields leads to social change
==== a) Demography, Income Distribution and Economic Growth ====
* Argument: The malthusian cycle of long-term stagnation, as well as other forms of economic backwardness, can only be fully understood as the product of established structures of class relations (particularly ‘surplus extraction relations’), just as economic development can only be fully understood as the outcome of the emergence of new class relations more favourable to new organizations of production, technical innovations, and increasing levels of productive investment. These new class relations were themselves the result of previous, relatively autonomous processes of class conflict.
==== b) The Demographic Model in Comparative Perspective ====
* Demographic changes occurred in different ways across the continent, but the same result occurred
=== The Commercialization Model
* Alternative to the demographic model, but follows from it
==== a) Trade and Serfdom ====
* Serfdom was the order of the day, landlords had every intention of enforcing it
* Question was whether or not they’d be able to
==== b) Commercialization and Agricultural Capitalism ====
* It was the predominance of petty proprietorship in France in the early modern period which ensured long-term agricultural backwardness.
* This was because peasant proprietorship in France came to be historically bound up with the development of an overall property or surplus-extraction structure which tended to discourage agricultural investment and development; in particular, the heavy taxation by the monarchical state; the ‘squeezing’ of peasant tenants (leaseholders) by the landlords; and, finally, the subdivision of holdings by the peasants themselves.
=== Class Conflict and Economic Development ===
==== a) The Decline of Serfdom ====
* Given existing property / surplus-extraction relationships in the medieval economy, productivity crisis leading to demographic crisis was more or less to be expected, sooner or later. (50)
* See p. 52 for a summary of the argument
* “In sum, economic backwardness cannot be regarded as economically determined, arising from ‘dependence’ upon trade in primary products to the West, as is sometimes asserted. Indeed, it would be more correct to state that dependence upon grain exports was a result of backwardness; of the failure of the home market – the terribly reduced purchasing power of the mass of the population – which was the result of the dismal productivity and the vastly unequal distribution of income in agriculture, rooted in the last analysis in the class structure of serfdom.” (60)
==== b) The Emergence and Check of Agrarian Capitalism ====
* Discussion of the difference between France and England, and how the class structure in France made possible the continuation of a low-degree of growth in agriculture (and thus economic development), whereas the absence of this structure and a more co-operative arrangement in England facilitated real economic development