[Marxism] Capitalism and Slavery and the Civil War

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 15 08:02:54 MDT 2016


> Capitalism and Slavery and the Civil War
> James Oakes
> The Graduate Center, City University of New York
> Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton
> Kingdom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. 561 pp. $35.00.
> Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of
> American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 2014. 528 pp. $35.00.
> Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
> 2014. 640 pp. $35.00.
> Calvin Schermerhorn, The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American
> Capitalism, 1815–1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 352
> pp. $65.00.
> They push in different directions, these two great debates. The first, on the relationship
> between capitalism and slavery, invites us to consider how closely the
> two systems were connected, to the point where more and more scholars
> argue that slavery itself was a form of capitalism. The second, on the origins
> of the American Civil War, highlights the fundamental difference and
> growing divergence between the free labor system of the North and the slave
> society of the South, to the point where some scholars see an irreconcilable con-
> flict between the two. Can these competing tendencies be reconciled? Is it possible
> to define southern slavery as essentially “capitalist” without losing sight of
> the crucial distinctions between free and enslaved labor? A number of recent
> books suggest that scholars have begun to recognize the problem but have
> not quite figured out how to solve it.
> There are actually two distinct debates about capitalism and slavery, one
> over whether the slave trade and the profits of plantation slavery played a significant
> role in the Industrial Revolution, and the other about whether plantation
> slavery itself was or was not capitalist.

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