Re: Brenner, C. L. R. James, & José Carlos?==?iso-8859-1?Q? Mariátegui (was Re: Brenner Redux)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Oct 24 07:31:44 MDT 2000

>Specifically then, the class structure of serfdom in Poland
>determined underdevelopment by stifling the productivity of the
>direct peasant producers, thereby undercutting the home market for
>means of production and means of subsistence, and at the same time
>determining that what market there was would be largely in luxuries.
>To the degree, therefore, that Poland was 'incorporated' within the
>world market, its economy was increasingly strangled; to the degree
>to which trade (later) declined, the Polish economy stagnated.
>However, neither of these trends was determined by the rise of trade
>and the world market, but fundamentally by a class structure of
>serfdom which precluded the emergence of an 'internal' dynamic of
>development, while ensuring that any commercially induced dynamic
>from 'outside' would ultimately lead to retrogression.  (Robert
>Brenner, "The Origins of Capitalist Development: a Critique of
>Neo-Smithian Marxism," _New Left Review_ 104, July-August 1977 p. 71)

Yoshie, I am convinced that we will not get anywhere in these debates if
there is going to be such a terrible failure to communicate. I posed the
question to you whether you thought colonial Latin America was
precapitalist and you quote Mariategui and Brenner to me. In the quote
above Brenner categorically asserts that serfdom characterized the Polish
economy. In Marxist terms this is called feudalism or precapitalism.
Period. So in order to defend Brenner's sophisticated transcendence of the
law of the excluded middle, you tell us that Brenner categorized Poland as
PRECAPITALIST. Why is so hard to agree with Brenner's characterization of
every other country in the world from the 16th century to the 18th century
as PRECAPITALIST? The other member of his fan club, Ellen Meiksins Wood,
has no trouble doing so. Her "Origins of Capitalism" is filled with blanket
statements that capitalism ONLY existed in Great Britain in this period.
Even France at the time of the French Revolution LACKED capitalism, since
land was not exploited the way it was in England through competitive
pressures to maximize revenues to cover the costs of a lease. I am
terminating my involvement in this debate and look forward to you packaging
your own thoughts on the Brenner thesis instead of quoting Mariategui or
whoever in some kind of effort to hit a home run. You said that you had all
those books at your disposal. Please go ahead and write something based on
your understanding. I find it too frustrating to debate somebody who
insists on dodging the central questions everybody else for the past 30
years seems to understand are on the table.

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list