By Karl Kautsky
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Extra resources for The Agrarian Question
It remains true that Kautsky's general conception of capitalist development, of historical materialism, was substantively reductionist, a deterministic and linear vision in which the economic logic of capital accumulation moved inexorably to the final goal of socialism. Human agency and questions about organised political intervention were devalued in that vision, for politics, ideology and culture were merely epiphenomenal superstructures that were but a reflection of the economic base whose logic unfolds with inevitable necessity.
Apart from stubble and fallow, fodder for animals came from meadows, permanent pasture and forestland: the labour of the animals, their manure, milk and meat were all of equal importance for the peasant economy. This agricultural system became dominant wherever Germanic peoples settled, irrespective of whether peasants were successful in obtaining their complete freedom, whether they were tenants on a lord's land, whether they surrendered their independence to obtain the protection of a powerful lord, or whether they were forced into dependency.
Militarism, which drew peasant sons into the towns and kitted them out with urban tastes, made a major contribution to this development: it certainly provides the main explanation for the spread of tobacco and brandy consumption. Lastly, the superiority of urban industry was so great in certain spheres that peasant products became luxury articles, which the thrifty peasant could no longer afford to consume - and which they therefore ceased to make. The development of the cotton industry, for example, allowed such cheap calicoes to be made that flax cultivation for the peasant's own use declined everywhere, and in many areas died out completely.