Monday, 19 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 18

Because capitalist production in agriculture emerges only sporadically, it is fairly safe to assume that where it does emerge, it is precisely in those types of activity where these higher prices and potential profits exist, or else in those areas, or on one of those types of land, where the costs of production are lower than the average, and so where surplus profits can be generated, and a differential rent paid.

Capitalist production in agriculture emerges in the 17th century, and as the towns grew and urban demand rises, particularly in the last third of that century, agricultural prices are pushed higher, making possible surplus profits.

However, it is the introduction of capitalist production in agriculture, which creates the conditions for reducing those prices.

“... and as soon as agricultural improvement and the reduction of production costs, which necessarily accompany its development, have taken place, the balance will be restored by a reaction, a fall in the price of agricultural produce, as happened in England in the first half of the 18th century.” (p 802)

Rent then cannot be explained simply on the basis of monopoly prices, or on the basis of higher agricultural prices, relative to the prices of manufactured commodities.

“Whatever may be the existing historical circumstances at the time rent first appears, once it has struck root it cannot exist except under the modern conditions earlier described.” (p 802)

The transformation of rent in kind into money rent has other important consequences as suggested earlier. It not only hastens the process of differentiation of the peasantry, transforming some into bourgeois and others into proletarians, it also creates the conditions for turning the land itself into a commodity that can be bought and sold. That means the richer peasants can thereby not only rent additional land, they can buy it, turning themselves simultaneously into both landlords and capitalist farmers. But, by the same token, this means that the poorer peasants now sell rather than rent land to their wealthier neighbours. Together with the process of enclosure, alongside the outright theft of land that had occurred sporadically for centuries, this meant that the poorer peasants were increasingly expropriated.

“Finally, it should be noted in the transformation of rent in kind into money-rent that along with it capitalised rent, or the price of land, and thus its alienability and alienation become essential factors, and that thereby not only can the former peasant subject to payment of rent be transformed into an independent peasant proprietor, but also urban and other moneyed people can buy real estate in order to lease it either to peasants or capitalists and thus enjoy rent as a form of interest on their capital so invested; that, therefore, this circumstance likewise facilitates the transformation of the former mode of exploitation, the relation between owner and actual cultivator of the land, and of rent itself.” (p 802)

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