[Marxism] Re: Pomeranz

rrubinelli rrubinelli at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 9 12:03:09 MDT 2005

Pomeranz has a number of contentions:  agricultural productivity in the
Yangzi delta roughly matched that of England's into the 18th century;
general economic development of the two is on parallel and even
coincident paths; that the driver of economic development is the growing
division of labor, a division that is exchange driven, and that exchange
in turn is drivine by population increase.  Population density is not
the "sole determinant," but is the essential, necessary determinant.
Economic history for Pomeranz is essentially the history of the
translation of population growth into demand increase, into supply
increase, into increased division of labor.  Specific relations of
property, specific property determined organization of labor is NOT the
essential, determining factor in economic "development" (read expansion
in output, increased productivity of labor).

Brenner opposes this with a subtle, specific, and IMO accurate analysis
of the destructive dialectic between population growth and property
formations, where the property formation is inadequate, via its
economic, class organization, of sustaining its own reproduction along
with expanding population. So you get, instead of expanded reproduction,
a "fractalization" of the economic formations, reductions in size and
capability of the units of the property formations, thus setting the
stage for and determining "Malthusian" pressures of population on the
production capacity of the system as a whole.

Pomeranz sees an identity, and rejects a contrast, in the the responses
of England and China, East and West, to such pressures, arguing that all
over Europe and Asia the response was to turn more and more to more and
more labor intensive techniques.

Pomeranz then states that the divergence between the Yangzi delta and
England is found in the great expansion of English mercantilism which
was not matched anywhere in Asia.  Pomeranz claims that joint stock
companies, licensed monopolies, mercantile competition between the
nation-states of Europe produced export-oriented colonies for England
that relieved the ultimate Malthusian scarcities of land and energy.

Brenner and Isett base their refutation on Pomeranz's claims.

Actually, the issue of coal is one reproduced, and IMO reproduced
incorrectly by Engels when, in discussion the subjugation of Ireland by
England, points to that subjugation being [almost] pre-determined by the
existence of coal reserves in England, and the absence of such reserves
in Ireland.  So...so look at Wales and Scotland with their extensive
coal reserves and go figure, no?

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
> >
> >I think Robert Brenner and Christoper Isett in their work  "England's
> >Divergence from China's Yangzi Delta:  Property Relations,
> >Microeconomics and Patterns of Development," answer and rebut
> ><The Great Divergence>.  Pomeranz's central assertion that the
> >divergence is contingent upon England's mercantilism is pretty well
> >refuted.
> >
> >rr
> I thought that Pomeranz's central assertion is that England
> China because it had coal.
> In any case, the main problem with the Brenner thesis is that it has
> to answer Blaut's main criticism, namely that the rise of European
> capitalism was intimately linked with the massive transfer of value
> the Americas after 1492, a point made by Marx in "Genesis of the
> Capitalist" for that matter.
> I have been too busy with other matters to keep up with the
> Pomeranz-Brenner controversy (I should add that Pomeranz's business
> coal seems a bit too ecological deterministic to me, but not as bad as
> Jared Diamond), but found this reply to Brenner by R. Bin Wong to be
> some interest:
> http://www.aasianst.org/catalog/wong.pdf

More information about the Marxism mailing list