Capitalism as slavery and colonialism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Wed Oct 25 12:45:04 MDT 2000

>>> cbcox at 10/25/00 01:43PM >>>

>> CB: What is the disagreement that is being discussed at length ?
We are not arguing over the importance of slavery.

>We are not arguing over the importance of imperialism.

>We are not arguing over the absolute centrality in contemporary political struggle of
>the struggle against U.S. imperialism and (within the u.s.) of the struggle against

>We are not above all arguing over the importance of slave-grown cotton  And this
>leads me to a consideration of one of the most bizarre posts that has ever been
>directed to me.


CB: My impression is that one thing we are discussing are the issues in what has been
referred to as the Brenner Debate (evidently there is a book by that name ) . Months
ago, the same issues were part of a huge discussion here and on PEN-L ( which expanded
into a general discussion of the early history of capitalism), with Jim Blaut
supplying the most radical disagreement with Brenner (and others).  I understand
Brenner to favor a historical theory that capitalism's origin was caused in the main
by certain class struggles in England in the 14 and 1500's; and not in any "equal" way
by other events elsewhere. Did I misunderstand the descriptions of Brenner's thesis ?

During the earlier discussions, it occurred to me that it is legitimate to fourmulate
a definition of capitalism that is different than the classical Marxist one that it is
constituted by wage-labor or the wage-labor/capital relationship. This new formulation
would be that capitalism IS wage-labor + ( or maybe "times") racist/colonialist labor.
It is a theoretical way of treating the relationship between capitalism and a number
of the items you mention that we are not debating in a more integrated fashion, rather
having to tack racism on, so to speak.

In a certain sense, this meets Yoshie's teaching against empiricism, in that it it is
a project to develop theory. Even more, in one of my posts, I suggested a dialectical
conception of the relation of these components as an explanation of the abolition of
slavery.  So, it is an effort to get serious about dialectics, rather than only recite
them as a slogan.

I have focussed on Brenner or the reports of the Brenner debate in recent posts ,
because Brenner seems to represent an apporach that contradicts my hypotheses or
whatever above. If I misunderstand Brenner , I would like to be corrected.

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