The establishment of new labour-intensive plantation systems in tropical lowland or piedmont areas, where the supply of local labour was insufficient to meet the increased demand, led to a search for new sources of labour, especially seasonal labour, and in many cases this resulted in the recruitment of Indian or mestizo peasants from the adjacent highland areas. In the case studied by Ian Rutledge, varying degrees of direct coercion were involved in the process of labour mobilization.
Ultimately, the increased susceptibility of the Indian agricultural labourer to a system of material incentives, combined with demographic growth in the highlands, made the early modes of labour organization irrelevant to the needs and conditions of the time. The process of agrarian change (as exemplified by the replacement of debt peonage by a national system of mandamiento) and the reluctance of the planter oligarchy to allow the emergence of free wage labour and a pure plantation proletariat are eloquent indices of the economic and political distortions induced by the dominance of a system of plantation monoculture, developed under conditions of dependent capitalism.
Rutledge's paper also deals with the general theoretical question of the relationship between the expansion of capitalist forms of agricultural production and pre-capitalist modes of labour recruitment, but the particular form of labour coercion described in this paper owed more to a deliberate policy of land monopolization in the highlands than to direct coercion by the state. However, given the immense power of the provincial oligarchy in the region studied by Rutledge, the line between direct and indirect coercion of labour (i.e. the distinction between the use of political and economic measures) is a difficult one to draw.