A reading list for Anthony

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at SPAMarnet.com.ar
Sat Nov 25 05:53:02 MST 2000

En relación a Re: A reading list for Anthony,
el 24 Nov 00, a las 14:11, snedeker dijo:

> there is also the problem of trying to locate the origins
> of capitalism within a social formation rather than as a global formation.
> both models can be found in Marx's Capital

In fact, it is the interrelation between both models that answers the question of
origins. I somehow find the whole debate -acrimonious mood particularly included- a
bit senseless. Commercial capital does not engender capitalism by itself. Thus,
_something_ must have happened within the social formation(s) which became the core
that allowed them to become _that_ core. Plunder certainly helped Europe to step
ahead of Asia (1), and geographical proximity was adamant in concentrating plunder
into Europe. Our late Jim B was absolutely right here, and he has demonstrated this
fact out of any doubt for me, at least.

But the question still remains, and I feel Yoshie is right on this point, that the
organization of chattel slavery and outright plunder in America did NOT by
themselves put the engine into motion. A fertile soil was needed at what was to
become the core, and we are not predicating against the essential unity of the human
race (one of Jim's basic criticisms of Eurocentric historians, please see his "Where
was capitalism born") if we say that developments that were internal to some parcels
of the Old World, which were not reduced to Britain or Holland but certainly
included them, provided the fertile ground for the system  to begin working.

There have been merchants and (in this limited sense) commercial capitalists in the
"Old World" for a good score of centuries. They have many times tapped large sources
of surplus and have even been able to profit from the fact that the value of
products from different origins was unknown at each terminal of their long seafaring
trips (since I belong to the Western World, I will give the examples of the
Phoenicians and the Athenians, but I am convinced that there must be dozens of
similar examples the world over). They did not generate capitalism, however. One of
the important issues with the Roman Empire is that in that formation slavery in fact
did not foster, but hindered, the transformation of those merchants into the core of
a new capitalist economy. And please keep in mind that we are not necessarily
speaking of a _technical_ problem. There was an English historian (Harrington?) who
demonstrated that the amount of scientific investigation that had been accumulated
by the Ancient World included, among others, the basic skills necessary to build
rudimentary steam engines (Hero's experience in Alexandria, for example, is an
almost obvious proof).  But widespread slavery did not generate the conditions for
the transformation of commercial capital into industrial capital.

The question still remains, then, as to "where did, exactly, the industrial
capitalist appear, and why?".  Large overseas trading companies, monopoly on rare
goods, chattel slavery, and so on, were not, and could NOT be, the starter. The
starter must have existed within Europe, and this is the only side of the Brenner
thesis worth attending to IMHO. As to Dobb's studies, well, they are much more
serious than those of Brenner, also IMHO.



(1) as to similarities between levels of social and historical development between
the great Andean and Mexican civilizations, and their "Old World" counterparts,
there would still be something to be said, but I prefer to leave it aside

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar

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