Agrarian class structure: exclusion and dual closure
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For both Marx and Weber, property and lack of property are ‘the basic characteristics of all class situations’. Property rights function as a form of social exclusion in the sense that, unlike the ownership of possessions (such as a toothbrush), the ownership of property (such as a factory) involves ‘the right to deny men access to the means of life and labour’. Murphy has insisted on the need to distinguish private property from the forms of property to be found in state-socialist societies. Yet even private property is too broad a concept to be of much use for the analysis of any particular society. After all, the existence of private property as a major rule of social exclusion is quite compatible with a wide variety of class relations and different social structures including slavery, feudalism and capitalism. Such differences can, however, be more precisely specified in terms of the Marxist concept of ‘relations of production’, which allows a more historically nuanced typology of the specific ways in which people obtain access to the means of life and labour, i.e. of their class structure. It is with the property rights and relations of production of medieval England as a form of social exclusion that Part I of this book is concerned. Here, Marx’s approach can be subsumed into that of closure theory.1
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