Sheep and the rise of capitalism in England

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Mon Jun 4 10:52:22 MDT 2001


Thanks for the instructive discussion of the wool and silk trade. Given the important
role of cotton in the capitalist industrial revolution, no wonder Marx used linen and
coat, weaver and tailor for his illutrative commodities in Chapt. One of _Capital_.

>>> jones118 at 06/02/01 04:28AM >>>

Wood, like Brenner, argues that in England the emergence of outwork, "free"
waged labour, and a class of rent-seeking landlords, were some of the key
prerequisites which were allegedly absent elsewhere.


CB: Notice,  for Brenner and Wood, the bourgeoisie, the feudal bourgeoisie, are not
involved in the sort of key class struggle that gives rise to the new mode of
production. The capitalists are not the direct class descendents of the bourgeoisie,
according to Brenner and Wood.

Think how much this screws up the chapter headings in _The Manifesto of the Communist
Party_, or how imprecise those headings would be according to the Brenner/Wood thesis.

What Ellen Wood is constantly trying to do, in the face of the evidence
which she herself often adduces, and which she then draws wrong or
unjustified conclusions from, is to claim that capitalism is a "wholly new",
"unprecedented" mode of production which arose uniquely in the English
countryside because of events and processes specific to England. This stands
reality on its head. English agrarian capitalism arose not because England
was isolated from the world, but because of a long prior development of
farming practice, and of rural social relations, which was moulded and
shaped by Britian's participation in an already-existing world-system


Nevertheless, there are still plenty of awkward questions for the
Brennerites to answer. To take Chris Burford's excerpt from Wood's recent
book: Wood gives the impression that agrarian capitalism arose deus ex


CB: Exactly. Brenner and Wood speak as if Merry Olde England was isolated in space
from the rest of the world and in time from history, like in a fairy tale, a Christian
shephard's story of a shooting star.   It is those who argue that capitalism has no
connection to any historically previous modes of production or social formations that
fall into the " Athena emerging fully formed from the head of Zeus" error.  To posit a
social formation without a social formation cause is to act like it just falls out of
the sky with no explanation.  It is spontaneitism in the extreme. Nothing comes from
nothing.  What's the Latin expression ?


but the problem Wood has is that England was a monetised economy
locked into a global systems of capital movements, markets and a global
division of labour, long before she seems to think was the case.


In fact, England was a monetised economy by early Norman times,


CB:  So, obviously, money was a social form  before the capitalist mode.. The money
economy comes to dominate or identify  with the whole economy of society in capitalism
more than in any previous mode of production. But the money relationship's existence
in feudalism and before makes money something that is overcome and preserved from
earlier modes in capitalism , not something never seen before.

So, Marx's logical discussion of the derivation of money in the first Part of Capital
( "Commodities and Money") is both logical and historical at the same time. It is a
discussion of precapitalist economic forms developing into capitalist forms.  It is a
demonstration of the causal connection between modes of production.

Also, all the blood , sweat and tears, especially those of American Indian peoples,
over gold and silver, the money commodities,  marks a leap in the importance of money
as the money economy comes to dominate social economy. Dominance of money is
qualitatively just as much an aspect of the capitalist economy as "doubly free labor"
. No M(oney) - C - M'(oney), "doubly money", no capitalism.  Big, bad Money is an
originally necessary aspect of capitalist accumulation, the accumulation and
concentration of the money commodities in the hands of the capitalists.

 At that time, one could not get  the biggest accumulation and concentration of the
money commodities from the English countryside. So, all the slave mining carried out
in early colonialism was as important to the origin of capitalism as the rest .


As Samir Amin indeed puts it in his article in the June 2001 Monthly Review:

>>Imperialism is not a stage, not even the highest stage, of capitalism:
from the beginning, it is inherent in capitalism's expansion.<<  What he
means is not, there's this thing, capitalism, and this other thing,
imperialism, which is a result of it. He means that imperialism has always
since early times been the formative influence in the cretaion of
contemporary world-systems and that capitalism, too, is an imperialist
world-system, and the illusion that capitalism emerged spontaneously in
England or anywhere else, and is therefore logically and historically prior
to imperialism, is just that-- a convenient illusion.

If you want socialism, you have to understand that capitalism is a
world-system which was formed by and emerged from earlier world-systems
(effacing them in the process), and that imperialism was present from the
beginning and is determinant now. But that requires a different kind of
politics, in practice.

Mark Jones


CB: Workers of the world, workers and peasants, workers and oppressed peoples, unite ,
against the Big Global Bourgeoisie.

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