[Marxism] Fwd: Shackles and Dollars - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 8 16:59:17 MST 2016

Baptist’s language is extreme, and he has been criticized for stretching 
sources to the point of putting words in slaves’ mouths. But his 
principal concerns are of a piece with the growing literature on 
"Slavery’s Capitalism," to borrow the title of a new essay collection. 
Recent scholarship has stressed slavery’s modernity, its profitability, 
and its centrality to national development, as Harvard’s Sven Beckert 
wrote in a 2014 Chronicle Review survey of this research. Cotton 
accounted for more than half of U.S. exports. Planters drew on global 
markets to finance slave agriculture. Northern mills spun slave-grown 
cotton. "The slave economy of the Southern states had ripple effects 
throughout the economy," Beckert wrote, "not just shaping but dominating 

If this doesn’t seem novel, in some ways it isn’t. Earlier scholars, 
from black Marxists like C.L.R. James and Eric Williams to neoclassical 
economists like Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, dealt with 
related themes. But what is important to understand is how much the new 
work departs from the paradigm that shaped historians’ views for 
decades. Slavery, as Eugene D. Genovese presented it in his 1974 book 
Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (Pantheon), was a unique 
constellation of labor relations that was in the capitalist world, but 
not of it. Genovese saw the institution as a self-contained system 
marked by frequent bargaining between master and slave over the limits 
of slaveowners’ authority.


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