This thesis analyses the development of economic and ideological forms of domination of the state over the exploited classes, Indians, African slaves and poor whites, in colonial Spanish America.
Agriculture was throughout the colonial period the main economic activity both in terms of the labour force employed and its economic value. The initial control of the productive process by the Indian communities was slowly replaced by the increasing production of the big landed estates owned by Spaniards. The expansion of Spanish production was more rapid in those regions where urban centres and mining production created substantial markets for agricultural production.
Gold and especially silver mining was the main export economic activity during the period. It used a relatively small labour force but its value was high and it stimulated commodity production in agriculture and industry. Industry was of little importance, both in terms of its economic value and the labour force employed, and was limited by both European imports and domestic production.
The forms of labour used by Spanish enterprises were determined mainly by the existence or absence of an abundant and politically organised aboriginal population, the impact of the regional or world market, and political factors including the pressure of the colonists, the resistance of the exploited and the regulating action of the state.
The Catholic church was the main state ideological apparatus in colonial Spanish America. It had control over education and health care and during the 16th century it legitimised the Spanish conquest, regulated Indian-Spanish relations and gave ideological support to the process of conquest. The importance of these functions decreased as the civil state apparatuses developed, the process of conquest receded and the church developed sources of income which created interests in common with the colonists.