[Marxism] Creating Abundance - Cambridge University Press

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 22 16:46:34 MDT 2018

Before long, I'll be writing something about the debate taking place 
between Alan Olmstead and Paul Rohde on one side and the new historians 
of slavery like Edward Baptist, which rehashes many of the debates that 
took place over Eric Williams's "Capitalism and Slavery". Baptist et al 
generally come from a strong leftwing angle, paying their dues to 
Williams. On the other hand, I have never heard of Olmstead and Rohde 
whose main argument against Baptist is that it was new cotton seed 
varieties rather than slave-master violence that explains a rise in 
output in the years before the Civil War. Five minutes of googling shows 
where they are coming from. Not very radical, in my view. They are 
bourgeois techno-optimists apparently.


Creating Abundance
Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development
Alan L. Olmstead
University of California, Davis
Paul W. Rhode
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

This book demonstrates that American agricultural development was far 
more dynamic than generally portrayed. In the two centuries before World 
War II, a stream of biological innovations revolutionized the crop and 
livestock sectors, increasing both land and labor productivity. 
Biological innovations were essential for the movement of agriculture 
onto new lands with more extreme climates, for maintaining production in 
the face of evolving threats from pests, and for the creation of the 
modern livestock sector. These innovations established the foundation 
for the subsequent Green and Genetic Revolutions. The book challenges 
the misconceptions that, before the advent of hybrid corn, American 
farmers single-mindedly invested in laborsaving mechanical technologies 
and that biological technologies were static.

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