Wallerstein attributes the transition almost completely to the inflow of bullion and
fuel and food from expansion, first within Europe and later into the new world. He
sees the world in terms of economic systems. To him the feudal world was not a
economic world system, it was too isolated, though he does, because of the overriding
similarities, call it a civilisation. To him in the period before the expansion feudal
Europe was unimportant. And in fact the world systems of the Mediterranean and
Russia, or the insipient one in the Baltic was far more important. The generation of
the surplus in the feudal system to him is marginal, because it is left unused.
He explains the crisis as being the result of rise in population casing a drop in wages,
and increase in rents, the 100 years war further complicated matters and caused a
liquidity crisis which resulted in a further slowing down of the economy, and rents
being made labour rents and hoarding in response to debasement. These cause a
spiral which finally leads to stagnation.
According to him the stagnation was not really the expected out come of the situation,
because in an agricultural economy, with depopulation, only the better plots would
remain in cultivation, and so productivity would in fact increase, and since population
would be going down, demand would decrease, and surplus could be used for trade.
But demand did not decrease, and even as the system was approaching stability, the
inflow of bullion, to trade with dried up.
This period was also one of considerable change in political structures and military
structures. Because of the slow down of the economy, knights were becoming too
expensive (because the knight had to maintain himself, or had be to given new land)
and a cheaper infantry force was favoured, but this entailed a standing army,
something to muster which, only the king or the state as a whole had the resources.
With the slow down of the economy, and these changes the state was gaining more
power. Through the bureaucracy and taxation the power base of the lord was eroded.
The state finally was in a position to intercede in the conflict between the lord and the
peasant, which is the situation Brenner refers to. Wallerstein pays great attention to