Robert P. Brenner (born November 28, 1943, in New York) is a professor of history and director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA, editor of the socialist journal Against the Current, and editorial committee member of New Left Review. His research interests are Early Modern European History; economic, social and religious history; agrarian history; social theory/Marxism; and Tudor–Stuart England.
He has contributed to a debate among Marxists on the "Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism," emphasizing the importance of the transformation of agricultural production in Europe, especially in the English countryside, rather than the rise of international trade as the main cause of the transition. His influential 1976 article on "Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe" set forth the controversial "Brenner thesis." He argued that smallholding peasants had strong property rights and had little incentive to give up traditional technology or go beyond local markets, and thus no incentive toward capitalism.
Later he attacked Paul Sweezy and Immanuel Wallerstein, who had emphasized the importance of rise of Europe dominated international trade as "Neo-Smithian Marxists." In recent years, however, he has concentrated on the global economy since 1945.