Extraeconomic Constraint

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Extraeconomic Constraint


a form of coercion to work based on relations of direct rule and submission, of personal dependence by the working masses on exploiters. It is characteristic of slaveholding and feudal society. Extraeconomic constraint as a form of exploitation is conditioned by the low level of development of productive forces in a slaveholding and feudal structure. The ownership by slaveholders and feudal lords of the direct producer is the condition and prerequisite of their appropriation of the surplus labor of slaves and enserfed peasants.

Elements of extraeconomic constraint arose in the primitive-communal social structure when all communal residents capable of work were forcibly enlisted in certain social projects (building of roads, irrigation systems, military fortifications, and other works). Extraeconomic compulsion emerged in its crudest and barest forms within the slaveholding social structure, and this was particularly characteristic of ancient Greece and Rome. Slave labor was used mainly for the building of palaces, temples, and the luxurious tombs of pharaohs and emperors. Slaves were actually turned into draft animals and were subjected to the most merciless exploitation. Along with forms of absolute slavery, other forms of dependency with varying degrees of extraeconomic constraint existed in slaveholding societies (for instance, the dependence of helots in ancient Sparta, who were considered state property, had their own economy, and paid a quitrent in kind; the dependence of the laoi in Hellenistic Egypt, who worked mainly on imperial lands and preserved vestiges of a communal arrangement).

Under feudalism, extraeconomic constraint was conditioned by the nature of the relations of production: the enserfed peasant had his allotment of land and labor implements and was constrained to work on the feudal lord’s (fief holder’s) farm because he was personally dependent on the lord. Feudal landed property could be economically realized in the form of rent for the benefit of the landowner only with the assistance of extraeconomic constraint. The most clearly defined forms of extraeconomic constraint emerged in the period of the dominance of labor rent and gradually weakened with the transition to rent in kind and in money. When money rent predominated, personal dependence took second place to dependence on the land. However, relations between serfs and lords did not lose their coercive character. The lords preserved their total patrimonial judicial and administrative powers, and the social inferiority of peasants continued. In the countries that experienced “the second edition of serfdom” (F. Engels)—Germany, the Czech lands, Hungary, Poland, and Russia—an intensification of serf dependency took place from the 16th century to the 18th, and this dependency acquired features close to slavery.

Capitalism as a system of wage slavery is based on economic constraint. It presupposes the worker’s personal liberty but at the same time deprives him in one way or another of the means of production. Therefore, in order not to die of hunger, the proletariat is forced to sell the capitalist its labor power and experiences the oppression of exploitation.


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Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2, ch. 47.
Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Ibid., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Engels, F. “K istorii drevnikh germantsev.” Ibid., vol. 19.
Lenin, V. I. “Razvitie kapitalizma v Rossii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 3.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.