[Marxism] What were original capitalism's economic imperatives ?
cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Wed Nov 2 10:43:52 MST 2005
Lou Proyect: When Europeans obeyed economic imperatives to find an
alternative route to Asia and bypass Middle Eastern merchants, they
happened on the New World.
Charles Brown :
What were these _economic imperatives_ of original capitalism ? A la RR and
Carrol, what constitutes an economic imperative is determined historically,
is a historical specific, as well as biologically. The imperative ( what
they believed they _had_ to do) doesn't just flow simply from a "natural" or
biological characteristic of having a larger population. Changes in a mode
of production are not simple reflexes of biological ecology, though changes
in ecological or biological circumstance , especially crisis, can trigger a
change in the mode , acting through the "prism" of the existing specific
history ( or culture). Europeans responded to the crisis of plague or
population growth in a European ,historically specific way.
A population growth hypothesis would go something like this: The new thing
seemed to have been alienating English peasants from the land as their
natural laboratory ( the socalled primitive accumulation). Moving many into
cities. Capitalist agriculture increases food supply, causing population
growth (did it?) Population growth crowds cities ? (Crowd problem includes
things like plagues) "Crowded cities problem solved by shipping the growing
population to "colonies" ?
( By the way, more productive agriculture due to new captalist relations of
production would also _relieve_ pressure for territorial expansion to locate
population; this would imply more weight to cause of emulating Romans and
Greeks. Also, generalized "greed" is not a new ideology arising with
capitalism. Greed was known to the classicals).
So,population growth and crowding into cities may have been a factor in
causing the establishment of colonies. But the specific European response of
the 13-1400's to establish colonies ( and a new slave system) was also
caused by resurrecting classical Graeco-Roman ideology. These two components
are the "historical" ( resurrect Graeco-Roman slavery and colonialism) and
"materialist" population pressure aspects of an explanation.
It is a bit of a stretch to consider that identification with the ancient
imperialists by the new imperialists was just a coincidence.That's taking
historical contingency too far. ( Discovery of the "New" World was a
historical contingency or coincidence that enters in as a partial
determinattion). That the British identified themselves with the Romans as
an afterthought to establishing their empire is possible , but not
plausible. Bourgeois Hellenophilia and Romanticism are not just decorative
ideology for the political economy of the rosy dawn of capitalism. They are
functional ideologies. There exactly is your infrastructure determining
superstructure, social being determining social consciousness. Integrating
the new wage-labor/capital ideology with the ancient slave/colonial ideology
enhances profiteering. That's all infrastructure demands of superstructure.
Biological or ecological determinism is primarily negative. It determines
what cannot be the superstructure, but does not affirmatively "fill out"
ideology. Historical specifics affirmatively determine ideology.
Contrast with the Chinese poltical economy of the period also makes the
point. The Chinese didn't solve population growth problems, if any, by
establishing colonies in the way Europeans did. Didn't actually consider
them problems in the way Europeans did. Idea that a certain level of
population growth is a problem is a historically specific idea ( in RR and
Carrol's sense of historicity or historical specificity). Difference
between "economic imperatives" is _historical_. European history, as they
construe their history, links new English and Spanish , etc. , to classical
Rome and Greece, not to other historical areas.
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