[Marxism] Notes on David Brion Davis' review

bhandari at berkeley.edu bhandari at berkeley.edu
Thu Nov 2 09:22:53 MST 2006

Never studied the use of counterfactuals in historical reasonsing, so not
quite sure what can be proved thereby.

 But it seems likely to me that  had Muslims never, following on rabbinic
traditions,  racialized the curse of Ham, slavery would have still been
selected as the dominant labor arrangement for New World plantation
agriculture for the reason Domar gives and Africa would have been the
dominant source of slaves as a result of the cultural level of the
Africans, their healthiness in tropical climates, their cost saving
proximity and their religious difference. Of course that there was
already a slave trade in Africa organized by the Muslims also made Africa
the likely source.  So I don't think the Islamic black slave trade can be
left out of our understanding of New World slavery, and Davis is to be
commended for expanding our historical horizons. But I think it is very
misleading to characterize New World racial and commercial slavery as
continuous with Islamic slavery since the Europeans resumed the kind of
commerical plantation slavery that Muslims had shied away from since the
Zanj rebellion in the eigthh century. Europeans also did not take the
Muslims' lead in the regulation of master/slave relations! Davis simply
gives to Islamic slavery a much more important role than it had in the
development of the character of New World slavery. And such an argument
further developed by David Brion Davis in 2006 cannot be innocent at this
time!  The West seems to be free if not for the black infuence of Islam.
What more could LePen want...

I have also argued at length that it's misleading to characterize racism
as continuous with older notions. Racism is less the  inchoate or diffuse
prejudices expressed in early Chesapeake than a self conscious doctrine,
as James Flynn and Frederickson have argued.


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