djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Thu May 30 06:22:30 MDT 1996
Making another important point, Rahul wrote
" and the starting point is not to use categories that were evolved because
they fit the European reality so well, but to find those that fit other
There are relevant several essays in Diptendra Banerjee, ed. Marxian Theory
and the Third World (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1985). The editor of
Marx's Ethnological Notebooks Lawrence Krader contributes an essay.
Just a note: James Blaut, who argues that the 'accidental' discovery of the
Americas alone explain why capitalism emerged in Northern Europe, is
actually suggesting that Europe's succession of modes of production is
universal (I think it was in *Monthly Review* that I read a very good short
review by Joel Kovel of Blaut's work).
In other words, Blaut is basically arguing that Europe was no closer to
breaking out of feudalism than anywhere else in the world, until American
silver and gold violently shed the skin of the European feudal order.
After capitalism developed there in a rapid and historically unique way, it
then came to dominate the world and maintain it in the twilight between
feudalism and capitalism, as Paul Baran put it.
As most of the world never did experience the full revolutionary bourgeois
development of society, then social theorists began to look backwards to
see what was so distinctive about their "feudal" modes that they did not
necessarily mature into European-style capitalism. Blaut rebels against
the implication that European fedualism was somehow unique or more
advanced (for him it was the 'accident' of the American conquest that
explains why Europe first developed capitalism) and even more so against
the idea that other peoples could not have developed capitalism (a
backhanded compliment? it seems that the late Marx did not think the
capitalist stage to be inevitable, as shown in the volume edited by Teodor
Shanin on Marx's Russia writings and Marx's letters to Vera Zasulich).
Yet it does remain true, I believe, that Northern Europe was more
decentralized, with more military competition and more commodity exchange.
If this is true, perhaps this is why capitalism developed first and fully
in Europe. I don't know.
Another implication of Blaut's work is that capitalism is a necessary and
inevitable outcome of feudalism. Not surprisingly, I think he is a
supporter of bourgeois democratic national liberation struggles. More than
that, I think he actually thinks this is the principal struggle in the
world today--he wrote a book entitled the National Question in which he
tries to convince himself that the national struggle is really a form of
class struggle .
It's the kind of position that tends to be very attractive to postcolonial
middle class university students who have no concern whatsoever for an
independent working class movement in America (here Lasch was quite correct
about the revolt of the elite) or in the third world for that matter.
And this nation-building theory doesn't help much in the development of a
critical theory of, to put it flippantly, hightech postmodern high
intensity consumption industrial society:)
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