EVSEY DOMAR SERFDOM MODEL: THE LAND-LABOR RATIO

March 1, 2011 at 2:23 am | Posted in Economics, Financial, History, Research, Russia, World-system | Leave a comment

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Domar serfdom model

The Domar serfdom model is an economic model, first presented by the Russian economist Evsey Domar in 1970, which seeks to explain why some historical societies adopted slavery or serfdom while others relied on free labor markets. Domar first presented the model in his paper “The causes of slavery or serfdom: a hypothesis”, in the journal Economic History Review. Domar’s model is based on a hypothesis advanced by the 19th century Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky and is in some ways a generalization of his ideas.

A key variable in Domar’s analysis is the land-labor ratio.

According to the model a high land-labor ratio would normally entail competition among landlords for workers, which would in turn drive up the wage rate and lower land rents. On the other hand, if land-labor ratio is low then the price of labor would be close to the subsistence level that would have to be paid by landlords even to their slaves or serfs. As a result, only if the land-labor ratio is high do landlords have a significant economic incentive to organize themselves politically and force the institutions of serfdom or outright slavery on the laborers.

A missing element of Domar’s analysis is exactly how this kind of political organization comes about.

According to Domar, the model explains why serfdom disappeared on its own in Western Europe by the 13th century, why it emerged in Russia in the 16th century (as more land became available driving up workers wages), and why slavery became the dominant economic arrangement in the American South prior to the Civil War. However, an empirical puzzle resulting from Domar’s work concerns why serfdom was not re-instituted in Western Europe after the Black Death, and the resulting increase in the land labor ratio. This aspect has been the subject of the so-called Brenner Debate.

References

Vasily Klyuchevsky

Born January 28, 1841(1841-01-28)
Penza Governorate
, Russia

Died May 25, 1911(1911-05-25) (aged 70)
Moscow
, Russia

Vasily Osipovich Klyuchevsky (January 28 [O.S. January 16] 1841 in Voskresnskoye Village, Penza Governorate, Russia – May 25 [O.S. 12 May] 1911, Moscow) dominated Russian historiography at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is still regarded as one of three most reputable Russian historians, alongside Nikolay Karamzin and Sergey Solovyov.

A village priest’s son, Klyuchevsky, of Mordvinian ethnicity, studied in the Moscow University under Sergey Solovyov, to whose chair he succeeded in 1879. His first important publications were an article on economic activities of the Solovetsky Monastery near the old Russian town of Belozersk (1867) and a thesis on medieval Russian hagiography (1871).

Kluchevsky was one of the first Russian historians to shift attention away from political and social issues to geographical and economical forces. He was particularly interested in the process of Russian peaceful colonisation of Siberia and the Far East. In 1882, he published his landmark study of the Boyar Duma, whereby he asserted his view of a state as a result of collaboration of diverse classes of society.

In 1889, Klyuchevsky was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences. Although his lectures were highly popular, he published but a handful of biographies of “representative men”, including Andrei Kurbsky, Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin, Feodor Rtishchev, Vasily Galitzine, and Nikolay Novikov.

The last decade of his life was spent preparing the printed version of his lectures. He also became interested in politics, and joined the Constitutional Democratic party.

Further reading

  • Mazour, Anatole G. “V.O. Kliuchevsky: The Making of a Historian”, Russian Review, Vol. 31, No. 4. (Oct., 1972), pp. 345–359.
  • Mazour, Anatole G. “V.O. Kliuchevsky: The Scholar and Teacher”, Russian Review, Vol. 32, No. 1. (Jan., 1973), pp. 15–27.
  • Vasily Klyuchevsky. “The course of the Russian history”, ISBN 5-244-00072-1, [1] (in Russian)

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