OFFLIST Mandel on the origins of capitalism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Fri Jun 1 08:51:06 MDT 2001

Yes indeedy..

>>> lnp3 at 06/01/01 09:37AM >>>
George wrote:
>I noticed that Mandel's name did not come up in the recent debate over the
>origins of capitalism. I was trying to remember how he dealt with this
>question in Late Capitalism. perhaps it was not something he addressed.

An interesting question. While Mandel had sharp disagreements with Frank,
Amin and Wallerstein in the 1970s when 'dependency theory' was being
subjected to all sorts of critiques, his criticism never could be mistaken
for the sort of thing that Bill Warren or Colin Leys were writing. This is
from v. 2 of Marxist Economic Theory:


In the decisive formative period of the capitalist mode of production,
extending from the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century, the
creation of the world market was of crucial importance. Its main results
for the primitive accumulation of capital in Western Europe have been
examined above. But all through this period of the birth of capitalism the
two forms of surplus-value appeared at each step. On one hand, it was the
outcome of the surplus labour of the wage workers hired by the capitalists;
on the other, it was the outcome of values stolen, plundered, seized by
tricks, pressure or violence from the overseas peoples with whom the
western world had made contact. From the conquest and pillage of Mexico and
Peru by the Spaniards the sacking of Indonesia by the Portuguese and the
Dutch and the ferocious exploitation of India by the British, the history
of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is an unbroken chain of deeds of
brigandage which were so many acts of international concentration of vaIues
and capital in Western Europe, the enrichment of which was for, in the
literal sense of the word, by the impoverishment of plundered areas.

It can be stated unhesitatingly that the contribution made by this capital
was decisive for the accumulation of the commercial capital and money
capital which, between 1500 and 1750, created the conditions which proved
propitious for the industrial revolution. It is difficult to calculate the
total amount involved, but if one takes into account only the most
substantial contributions these add up to a staggering sum.

Hamilton estimates at over 500 million gold pesos the total amount gold and
silver exported from Latin America between 1503 and 1660. According to
Colenbrander, the total value of the dividends, officials' remittances and
cargoes of spices taken out of Indonesia by the Dutch East India Company
amounted to 600 million gold forms for the period 1650-1780. On the basis
of the calculations made by Father Rinchon, we know that profits from the
slave trade amounted in eighteenth-century France to nearly half a billion
livres tournois (without including the profit arising from the work done by
the slaves, which came to several billion livres).' The profits obtained
from the labour of the negroes in the British West Indies amounted to £200
to £300 million.


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