Next Workshop: Ideology and the Making of Agrarian Capitalism in 16th and 17th Century England, with Esben Bøgh Sørensen (Aarhus)

The Center for Advanced International Theory (CAIT) and the Political Marxism Research Group will be hosting a presentation by Esben Bogh Sorensen (University of Aarhus) on “‘Ideology and the Making of Agrarian Capitalism in 16th and 17th Century England’.

The workshop will be held on Monday, 11 Feb, 3-5pm, Freeman Centre, Fre-F22, Unversity of Sussex.

Abstract: In the period between the late fifteenth and late seventeenth century, the English agricultural economy underwent significant changes. In the Political Marxist tradition, these changes have traditionally been explained with reference to the concept of politically constituted social property relations. In this paper, I argue that social property relations need to be understood as contested not only politically but ideologically and culturally as well. From the late fifteenth century, the English gentry in collaboration with a class of substantial yeomen tenant-farmers managed to develop new reproductive strategies by implementing forms of estate and farm management that would unintentionally create and consolidate capitalist social property relations. In order to understand the success of these historical agents, we need to look at their cultural and ideological innovative strategies as well. The source material used in this paper is agricultural books and manuals published from the early sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. By studying these sources using methodological approaches from cultural and intellectual history, I show how agricultural manuals not only gave advice on concrete farming practices, but also invented new cultural ideas and norms. I suggest that it was the cultural and ideological innovations of these manuals, more than their concrete farming advice, which proved useful for the gentry and their commercial tenant-farmers in creating a hegemonic culture and ideology of improvement that helped develop, spread and consolidate capitalist social property relations.