| For millennia, human beings have provided for their material needs by working the land. And probably for nearly as long as they have engaged in agriculture they have been divided into classes, between those who worked the land and those who appropriated the labour of others. That division between appropriators and producers has taken many forms, but one common characteristic is that the direct producers have typically been peasants. These peasant producers have generally had direct access to the means of their own reproduction and to the land itself. This has meant that when their surplus labour has been appropriated by exploiters, it has been done by what Marx called ‘extra-economic’ means — that is, by means of direct coercion, exercised by landlords or states employing their superior force, their privileged access to military, judicial, and political power.
Here, then, is the basic difference between all pre-capitalist societies and capitalism. It has nothing to do with whether production is urban or rural and everything to do with the particular property relations between producers and appropriators, whether in industry or agriculture.