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Wikipedia claims that "capitalism is an economic system and an ideology based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit".

And then, the land used for agriculture is a mean of production? Are the farmers capitalists?

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  • $\begingroup$ The answer: yes. $\endgroup$ – M3RS Oct 24 '17 at 11:24
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Yes.

Anyone who utilizes their privately owned property or assets as a means of production for the sake of profit is a capitalist.

In this case the farmer's capital is the land which they use for agricultural production.

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Agricultural land is certainly one means of production.

A farmer is usually taken to mean someone who uses or manages land for agriculture. If they also own the land and seek to make a profit from their agriculture, then they could be described as a capitalist. But some farmers rent land from its owner. Other arrangements are possible, eg farmers may enjoy usufructuary rights to land which they do not own. In mediaeval Europe, many people farmed land granted to them under the feudal system in return for services to a lord. So not all farmers are, or were, capitalists.

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Both classical and marxian schools assume the (cultivated) land to be means of production. The differentiation between land and shovel for example is that the land is considered natural resource (subject of labor) while the shovel is an instrument of labor.
Subjects + instruments together = means of production.

Owning the means of production is a necessary but not sufficient factor for a capitalist to exist. There is an umbrella of conditions and pre-conditions (i.e. ownership of labor-power, ownership of capital, capitalistic mode of production in society, advanced credit/banking system etc. ) that need to occur.

For example, big land owners in Medieval times were feudal lords but not capitalists, since capitalistic mode hadn't emerged yet. A small peasant who owns a small piece of land and uses it to feed his family nowadays or sells some part of the crops in the local market, is not a capitalist, since he lacks capital and doesn't have ownership of other labor but his own.

PS. That was the analysis for the question, bearing in mind that we are talking about land used for farming. Using it for other purposes (ex. rent) needs a more elaborate analysis.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yet those feudal lords had private properties and made profits. That makes them capitalists, according to the definition of capitalism. The small subsistence farmer can go to lend money from the bank and get capital and improve his productivity and then make very good profits, can that make him a capitalist? $\endgroup$ – Joe Jobs Oct 24 '17 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ He still would need to own labor power, i.e. to have farmers work for him (the capitalist) in his land. Even is such a case, switching to the capitalist class is not an automated process. There are intermediate classes (small-scale capitalists). $\endgroup$ – koita_pisw_sou Oct 25 '17 at 8:36
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    $\begingroup$ I accepted the other answer but yours is also very instructive. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Joe Jobs Oct 26 '17 at 9:26

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