An invitation to Yoshie

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sun Oct 29 11:28:54 MST 2000


>Yoshie:
>In my opinion, I have offered my reading of Brenner supported by
>textual evidence from his own works in question, other Marxists'
>views, historical research on slavery, etc., and I have not seen
>anyone challenge it with counter-evidence to show otherwise.
>
>LP: Well, Jim Blaut has been accumulating counter-evidence for
>32 years that was distilled into the article "Robert Brenner
>and the Tunnel of Time". You seem to think it is not worth
>responding to. I don't blame you. If I was interested in going
>to create a synthesis based on a faulty analysis of 15th century
>England, the last thing I'd want to do is get bogged down with
>replying to Brenner's most authoritative critic.

With regard to Jim Blaut's works, I find his empirical data on the
so-called "non-Western" world fascinating & important, but there is
one fundamental problem which I believe has led him to incorrectly
label Robert Brenner a "Eurocentrist":

*****   Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 18:42:38 -0400
To: pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu
From: Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu>
Subject: Re: Capitalism as slavery and colonialism
Cc: marxism at lists.panix.com
Sender: owner-marxism at lists.panix.com
Reply-To: marxism at lists.panix.com

Carrol wrote:

>Charles Brown wrote:
>
>>  CB: What is the disagreement that is being discussed at length ?
>
>Charles, that is the question Louis refuses (apparently on
>principle) to answer. Until he does answer it, I can only assume
>that his anti-capitalism is based on mere personal feeling rather
>than on an understanding of capitalism.
>
>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 racism.
>
>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.

I don't know about Charles, but Lou seems to agree with Jim Blaut
that "historical priority = historical superiority."  Jim writes: "I
try to demonstrate that our understanding of the human past will be
much improved after we have sifted out and discarded those arguments
and theories that falsely attribute historical superiority or
priority to Europeans over all other peoples" (_Eight Eurocentric
Historians_, NY: Guildord, 2000, p. xi).  While Jim uses "priority"
and "superiority" interchangeably, I don't think they mean the same
thing.

Say, suppose that someone makes an argument that capitalist social
relations first arose in a place called X (fill in your favorite
nation).  Whether he is correct or not is an empirical question.
However, regardless of whether he is empirically correct in
attributing temporal priority to the country X, he is not thereby
entitled to think that the country X is superior to all others.

Yoshie   *****

As you can see from my posts (in addition to the above), I believe it
is impossible to characterize Brenner as "Eurocentrist" if one does
not equate "priority" with "superiority."  Brenner _nowhere_ argues
that so-called "Europeans" were superior in anything to so-called
"non-Europeans."  In fact, Brenner's work can be easily used for an
"anti-Eurocentric" purpose, since he argues, through his comparison
of England, France, Holland, Poland, etc., that it was the
_contingent_ outcomes of _class struggles & class formations_ --
*not* any racial, religious, cultural, geographic, & other so-called
"attributes" which were common to all so-called "European" nations --
that were responsible for the gradual emergence of capitalist class
relations.  While you may still claim that Brenner attributes
historical priority to *Britain,* if not to all European nations, and
that therefore that Brenner is "Anglocentric" (or
"rural-Anglocentric") if not "Eurocentric," _if_ you equate priority
with superiority.  However, it is an empirical fact that Britain
first underwent the so-called Industrial Revolution (having escaped
the General Crisis of the 17th century relatively unscathed, unlike
most European nations, including old imperial hegemons) and became
the foremost empire, vanquishing both the Spanish & the Dutch.  Those
in the Eric Williams camp have not tried to disprove this empirical
fact, to my knowledge.  If any dispute exists, it only lies in the
relative weights given to causal factors: town vs. country; class
struggle vs. growth of commerce; expansion of the domestic market vs.
that of the world market; etc.  However, dispute has seldom become
significant, since the Brenner camp wants to explain the gradual
emergence of capitalist social relations _prior to_ the so-called
Industrial Revolution, whereas the Williams camp generally focuses on
the accumulation of wealth from slavery & the colonial direct &
triangular trades converted into industrial capital _during_ it
(hence their analyses are in fact complementary, as I explained in my
post on Ellen Wood & Eric Williams who does not claim that slavery &
the slave trade _caused capitalism_).

I have already written that, due to his over-reliance on
_comparative_ analysis, Brenner _does_ suffer from the "tunnel of
time" syndrome that Jim points out (as _all comparative analyses_
do), so I have argued that this problem must be empirically corrected
& supplemented by many other scholars' works in the Eric Williams
camp (and theoretically by Alan Carling, for instance).

Jim, in addition, calls Brenner a "Neo-Weberian": "Brenner differs
from [Max] Weber in believing that this rationality is not a
permanent attribute of European people but rather it descended on
Europe all at once (so to speak), arrived rather suddenly, fully
formed, at the magical moment when the class of (commerce-minded)
English yeoman-tenant-farmers began to accumulate.  Yet this is not
so far from Weber, who also fixates on the importance of capitalist
rationality and its supposed burgeoning at a magical moment (in the
Reformation)" (p. 65).  I believe Jim's argument here is off the
mark, because, as I have demonstrated time & again, neither Brenner
nor Wood claims that the emergence of capitalist social relations
"arrived fully formed."  Their emphasis is upon the gradual,
contingent *process* of class struggles & class formations that
lasted for centuries (subject to possible & actual reversals, not a
linear, uninterrupted Progress).  Besides, neither Brenner nor Wood
conceptualizes "rationality" as an exclusive attribute of the class
of yeoman-tenant-farmers; what they say is that through the
aforementioned process of class struggles & class formations, the
market became transformed into _the capitalist market with its harsh
competitive discipline_, thus exerting do-or-die,
prosper-or-go-bankrupt pressures upon all classes, forcing the
concentration of land ownership as well as _slow but eventual_ rises
in productivity, just in time for the 17th-century General Crisis
which devastated the rest of Europe except for Holland: "That
agricultural improvement was already having a significant effect on
English economic development _by the end of the seventeenth century_
can be seen in a number of ways: most immediately in the striking
pattern of relatively stable prices and (at least) maintenance of
population of the latter part of the century; in the long run in the
interrelated phenomena of continuing industrial development and
growth in the home market," thus breaking with the so-called
Malthusian pattern which still dominated much of the Continent
(Robert Brenner, "Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development
in Pre-Industrial Europe," _The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class
Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe_, eds. T.
H. Aston & C. H. E. Philpin, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987, p. 51.).

In addition, see Ellen Wood's criticism of Weber in _The Origin of
Capitalism_, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1999, p. 115; in brief, Wood
regards Weber's concept of rationalization as a part of "the
commercialization model."

Yoshie





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