[Marxism] on the Lincoln debate - my two cents worth
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 2 15:21:26 MST 2012
On 12/2/12 5:14 PM, Graham Milner wrote:
> I don't believe that many historians would
> hold that France was 'feudal' before 1789 (if that is what is implied by
> the claim that there was no 'capitalism' in that country before the
> Revolution). Doesn't such a position deny Marx's and Engels' own view of
> the genesis and evolution of capitalism through its various phases?
> Mercantile capitalism was clearly well established in France centuries
> before the Great Revolution broke out in 1789. What about Louis IV and
> Colbert, his economics minister? What about Dupleix and the French
> East India Company in the Indian subcontinent?
Well, they don't use the term "feudal". Instead they use
"precapitalist", which is what I would call a weasel-deal.
> If by 'capitalism', the writers you mention mean industrial capitalism,
> that might fit. But industrialism is one phase of capitalist
Clearly 16th century Britain had no "industrial capitalism" but what the
Brennerites are all about is the profit-seeking logic that is a
precondition for industrial capitalism. In other words, gold stolen from
Peru is less important than large tenant farms.
Here is how they put it:
The material foundation on which this emerging national economy rested
was English agriculture, which was unique in several ways. The English
ruling class was distinctive in two major and related respects: on the
one hand, as part of an increasingly centralized state, in alliance with
a centralizing monarchy, they did not possess to the same degree as
their Continental counterparts the more or less autonomous
“extra-economic” powers on which other ruling classes could rely to
extract surplus labor from direct producers. On the other hand, land in
England had for a long time been unusually concentrated, with big
landlords holding an unusually large proportion of land. This
concentrated landownership meant that English landlords were able to use
their property in new and distinctive ways. What they lacked in
“extra-economic” powers of surplus extraction they more than made up for
by their increasing “economic” powers.
This distinctive combination had significant consequences. On the one
hand, the concentration of English landholding meant that an unusually
large proportion of land was worked not by peasant-proprietors but by
tenants (the word “farmer,” incidentally, literally means “tenant”—a
usage suggested by phrases familiar today, such as “farming out”). This
was true even before the waves of dispossession, especially in the
sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, conventionally associated with
“enclosure” (about which more in a moment), in contrast, for example, to
France, where a larger proportion of land remained, and long continued
to remain, in the hands of peasants.
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