Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism

Paul Saba psaba at
Wed Oct 25 13:51:46 MDT 2000

>> CB: What is the disagreement that is being discussed at length ?

Excuse me, but as someone who just joined this list, and doesn't know all the
players or their history, I must say I am a little astonished by this whole
discussion. I have yet to see anyone place the discussion in its historical
context. Back in the late 1940s (I think, I'm at work, so I don't have the books
with me) Maurice Dobb wrote a book called Studies in the Development of
Capitalism. After it came out, it was followed by a very lively debate among
Marxist historians and economists about when, where and how capitalism emerged
in Europe, and the relative weight to be given to internal vs. external factors.
The debate took place in a variety of journals; Science & Society in this
country brought out a pamphlet with the various positions in the late 1960s.
Sometime in the 1970s or 1980s an updated edition of the pamphlet with new
contributions was published by Verso. The Brenner debate is just the latest
phase of a discussion that has been going on for 50 years, with a considerable
variety of nuanced positions having been presented. Given that history, I just
don't see how people on this list can weigh in with THE ANSWER to these problems
without having at least reviewed a fair sample of the various carefully
articulated positions of other Marxists, or giving due weight to the fact that
after half a century a clear consensus of Marxist opinion still has not emerged. 
Of course, we may end up disagreeing with all of them, but at least we will do
so from an informed position. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I never
subscribed to the view that considering oneself a Marxist was a license to
express a categorical opinion on any subject, regardless of the extent of one's
knowledge of it. 

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