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Journal article

Wage Labour Deferred: The Recreation of Unfree Labour in the US South

Date

1995

Authors

Larian Angelo

Abstract

Contrary to the mainstream economic view that unfree labour in the US ended with the Emancipation, this article argues that an unfree labour system continued to dominate southern agriculture in the post Civil War period. Part I details how the southern land tenure system, contract labour laws, and credit system combined to create a social structure of accumulation [Edwards, Gordon and Reich, 1982] that effectively trapped a majority of sharecroppers in debt peonage. However, unlike Ransom and Sutch [1977] I argue that it was the planter and not the merchant, class who were the chief architects and beneficiaries of the unfree labour system. Part II creates a model showing how this ‘unfree’ social structure of accumulation led to the limited and skewed patterns of industrial development, the low level of technological innovation in agriculture, the eventual creation of a large surplus labour pool, and the depressed wage rates that have characterised the American South up to the 1970s.

Journal title

The Journal of Peasant Studies

Volume

22

Issue

4

Page numbers

581-644

Notes

Paper copy in MWR - no pdf.

Links

Economic sectors

General relevance - all sectors

Content types

Past policies

Target groups

Researchers

Geographical focuses

United States

Spheres of activity

History

Languages

English