Two Cents

Michael Hoover hoov at
Thu Nov 2 14:23:17 MST 2000

> I don't think that Brenner rejects the idea that the logic of capital
> accumulation has historically involved underdevelopment of large
> parts of the world.  What he rejects is the thesis that capital
> accumulation at the core _automatically_ involves underdevelopment in
> the the rest through the process of unequal exchange, for it deflects
> attention from concrete investigations of class struggles & class
> formations in the periphery.  That said, Brenner does ignore "concept
> of surplus capital seeking outlets and role of political state in
> that activity" in his article in New Left Review.  Hence the
> necessity of the synthesis that I have advocated (Brenner, Eric
> Williams, Jose Carlos Mariategui, C. L. R. James, Samir Amin, Jim
> Blaut, Perry Anderson, Alan Carling, etc.).  I think we should take
> Brenner's explanation of the _origins_ of capitalist social relations
> while taking insights from the dependency theory camp on how
> capitalism, once it arose, has _developed_.
> Yoshie

I'm sure you're more up to speed on Brenner than I am since, as with many
other topics, I haven't read development/dependency literature for years
(and I no longer have either RB's NLR article or earlier piece on
agrarian class structures nor have I read his more recent work on merchant

Didn't/Doesn't Brenner hold that it's not capitalism per se but environment
that capitalism encounters on its expansion path that makes process of
expansion of uneven?  That particular capitalists/corporations may be able
to exploit conditions existing in any given region at particular point in
process but system as whole has no stake in ensuring uneven development?
And that convergence and reversals in different regions are possible?

I'm not anti-Brenner per se re. early modern Europe.  He, Dobb, Rodney
Hilton, Wallerstein (I'm, no doubt, leaving folks off list but lists,
like e-mail discussion, are necessarily incomplete) have made important
contributions to understanding transition to capitalism in Western
Europe.  That neither means they're entirely correct (as Yoshie has
pointed out several times re. Brenner), although criticisms of ommission
don't convey much except to indicate that critic thinks differently,
nor does it mean that they necessarily have anything useful to say about
other matters. I doubt, for example, that any of these guys have ever
examined (as Margaret Villanueva has done) how colonial economy could serve
capital accumulation even when social relations of production were not
themselves yet capitalist via articulation between commercial-colonial
& community-subsistence sectors.  But then, why should they be expected
to have checked out such matters?  It's gonna be up to other folks to look
into whether or not there is possibility of articulation between likes of
RB and MV (or any of folks Yoshie cites above).      Michael Hoover

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