Brenner thesis

Rakesh Bhandari rakeshb at
Tue Sep 9 12:03:28 MDT 2003

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>The Brenner thesis revolves around the notion of labor based on market
>relations and the absence of *extra-economic* coercion such as slavery,
>indenture, debt peonage, convict leasing, etc.

Not true. As Ellen Wood has clarified, Brenner thesis focuses on the
landlord-capitalist tenant relation as it evolved in England. Ellen
Wood has allowed for servants in husbandry to be capital positing
workers despite the extra economic coercion to which they were
subject.  Moreover, Brenner thesis does not deny importance of
slavery. As Wood and DMS have often emphasized the English merchant
fortunes built on the basis of the New World plantations (England's
and others') could only be invested as capital (rather than
dissipated as revenue) as a result of the internal changes in
England. Morever, one could argue on the basis of the Brenner thesis
that only because England developed a deep market as a result of its
singular achievement of an agrarian capitalism could its New World
colonies be focused on commercial export and emerge as quasi
capitalist. There is no real reason why Brenner thesis would have to
deny the at least quasi capitalist or transitional nature of the mode
of production in say 18th century Barbados.  There is a real dispute
about the causes, timing and magnitude of the internal agrarian
changes at the heart of the Brenner thesis and the causal role of
agrarian capitalism in the emergence of industrial capitalism. The
criticisms are often direct, sometimes implicit. See for example
Robert Albritton's review of Wood in latest Journal of Peasant
Studies, Duchense's review of Wood in Rethinking Marxism, Bin Wong's
and Jack Goldstone's response to Duchense in latest Science and
Society, Kenneth Pomeranz's response to Philip Huang in the Journal
of Asian Studies, and Brenner's and Isset's rejoinder to Pomeranz
there. This is a very important debate, and it's best to try to be
careful about what people are saying.


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