Coercive capitalism is development based on the use of force to dispossess either land or labor. Early macrosociologists, both functionalist and conflict-oriented, believed that feudal systems were based on the use of force but that capitalism is based on coercion-free free markets. Wallerstein argued that coercive capitalism exists in the periphery of world systems. We argue that coercion is endemic to all capitalism. Much of the land on which capitalism is based, including all of the Western Hemisphere, was seized from aboriginal populations. Land seizure was common in historic Europe. Forced labor existed until very recently in both bound apprenticeships and prison work crews. Coercion is used extensively in land acquisition for contemporary capitalism. It can take the form of legal sanctions exerted against the defenseless, or the use of paramilitaries and gangsters to exert pressure on the landholding poor.
Coercive Capitalism: Introduction to the Special Issue
Samuel Cohn is Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M and the Founder and First President of the American Sociological Association Section on Development. His latest book, All Societies Die: How to Keep Hope Alive (Cornell University Press, 2021), examines catastrophic societal declines. His specialty areas are the state and development, and gender and development.
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Samuel Cohn; Coercive Capitalism: Introduction to the Special Issue. Sociology of Development 1 June 2021; 7 (2): 117–126. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2021.7.2.117
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