[Marxism] Re: Pomeranz

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Oct 9 10:01:43 MDT 2005

Pomeranz's points are very interesting, but I note a peculiar phrase.
He points to Europe's "access to the abundance of the New World." The
New World was discovered by Europe because of their desire for trade
routes to India. Why did Chinese civilization not feel the same drive to
conquer the developing markets of Europe, even though they had trade
with Europe, mostly at Europe's initiative.

What denied China "access" to this wealth?  What barred them from
contending for it?
Absence of white racism? Lack of military skill?  Absence of spirit of
plunder? Were they unable to develop shipping capable of developing
shipping and sailors capable of making the trip?  Was the trip that much
longer? Were they that much further from the riches of Peru, for
example, than Spain?  Frankly, I think none of the above is a
satisfactory explanation of the lack of "access" to the New World, and
Mexico, Central America, and Peru in particular.

Did gold count for as much with the Chinese ruling classes as it did for
the hungry exploiters of FEUDAL Europe?  And if not, why?

Perhaps they had already made the trip historically? Perhaps they
already knew about the Americas.  Then why did they not feel driven to
exploit them?  Was it just cause they were nicer people than the
European racists?

I expect there is a social explanation related to the character of
Chinese feudalism, which did not arise out of the experiences of Europe
but had a deeper, long-standing relationship to a massive network of
peasant communities, was more self-reliant and expansionist in a
different way (land being more important, I suspect, than gold,
desirable though that might have been). 

I look forward to reading Pomerantz, but I suspect that he is making
legitimate denials of distinctions -- China had trade, China had
weavers, China was dynamic, China was developing technically, China had
property in land, China had a rising civilization, etc. etc. -- in order
to deny real historical difference.  Not racial differences, not
difference in level of civilization, not differences in intellectual or
technical capacity, not a difference in enterprise and creativity, not a
"lower" culture and so on.

And the difference may be related to the "Asiatic" mode of production
founded on the peasant community.

And the difference still affects politics today, I believe -- and not
primarily for the worse.
Fred Feldman

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