Forwarded from Jurriaan Bendien (reply to Richard)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Feb 8 14:28:27 MST 2001


Jurriaan:
>Europe. Which is a good question - why the breakthrough in Europe ? Mandel
>argues, because the more advanced agriculture in the East led to a bigger
>population growth; to feed this population, large-scale irrigation works
>happened to be necessary there, and consequently a centralisation of the
>agrarian surplus-product was required (by the state presumably).

Actually, this business about irrigation and large-scale state support for
such ventures runs like a red thread through all of the Eurocentric
historians critiqued by Jim Blaut. It is of course related to Marx's views
on Oriental despotism which were accepted widely in the 19th century, but
no longer stand up to recent scholarship. I can't get into it any depth,
but in reality there was all kinds of agriculture east of Europe, from
irrigation based to rainfall based. Furthermore, there is evidence that the
precapitalist Chinese state was much less intrusive than understood by Marx
and his contemporaries, either with respect to the peasantry or to the
emerging bourgeoisie. For a good treatment of these subjects, I recommend
Kenneth Pomeranz's recently published "The Great Divergence: China And The
Making Of The Modern World Economy".


Louis Proyect
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