[Marxism] The transition to capitalism: is it in our genes?

Sayan Bhattacharyya ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com
Wed Aug 8 07:05:13 MDT 2007

On 8/8/07, Lajany Otum <lajany_otum at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

> Does it occur to Sayan to ask himself why there are no
> socio-biological explanations proffered for the existence
> of, say, stateless societies, or feudalism, but that bourgeois
> ideologues readily dig such "explanations" up to put a
> plausible gloss on capitalism as a "natural" phenomenon?

I don't see him offering the hypothesis as a "natural" phenomenon at
all. Let's re-read the relevant part of the NYT article (emphasis

"Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California,
Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic
growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because
of a *change in the nature* of the human population. The change was
one in which people gradually developed the *strange new behaviors*
required to make a modern economy work."

Clearly, he's calling the capitalist behavior "strange" and "new":
hardly natural or timeless.

And nowhere is he ruling out similar explanations for feudalism,
stateless societies, etc, either. In fact, it's clear that he believes
there are likely to be such explanations. The rise of capitalism is
rather spectacular, however,  because it happened very quickly (within
two hundred years), and so it usually commands our attention more.

> In fact I've heard it said that there are genetic explanations
> that account for colonialism -- thus putting on a biological
> footing the historical fact that India was under the British
> boot for more than two centuries, since the social position
> of the coloniser and the colonised are both genetic outcomes,

This would not be an explanation, but a tautology.

> not socio-historical ones as the obtuse marxists whom Sayan
> is desperately trying to educate here would have it.

You're forgetting that I am a Marxist, myself.

> In the end this is why the marxists should stop complaining
> about imperialism and exploitation -- after all these are
> plausibly/largely/mostly biologically determined.

Where was/is  the determinism in Clark's hypothesis? This is a straw man.

I don't subscribe to Clark's  hypothesis myself. I am uneasy, however,
that a Marxist would want to dismiss it out of hand *because it is
counter to our wishes about what biology ought to be like*.  That
would  not Marxism, that would be religious dogma or fundamentalism.

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