Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism


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- Document - Alexander Anievas (ed.): Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism

Gilpin R The richness of the tradition of political realism. In: Keohane R ed. Neorealism and its Critics. Harvey D The New Imperialism. Lacher H Making sense of the international system: The promises and pitfalls of contem- porary Marxist theories of international relations. London: Penguin. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Matin K Uneven and combined development in world history: The international relations of state-formation in premodern Iran.

Morton AD a Disputing the geopolitics of the states system and global capitalism.

Pozo-Martin G Autonomous or materialist geopolitics? Try again later. Citations per year. Duplicate citations.

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New articles by this author. By contrast, in France the ability of freed peasants to retain their land was bound up with the development of a centralized monarchical state that came to take on a class-like character as an independent extractor of surpluses via the taxing of land. The French absolutist state thus had an interest in securing and protecting peasant landowning as a source of taxation against the re-encroachments of the lordly classes.


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The ability of the peasants to hold onto the land, in turn, prevented the systematic emergence of wage-labor in France, thus hampering the transition to capitalism. These divergences explain both the coherence and unity of the landowning lordly classes and their relationship to their respective states. Yet, in spite of the extensive and informative historical explanation conducted by Brenner, the above formulation is conceptually too narrow and too simple ; Brenner ultimately tries to explain too much with too little.

Yet this essentially stretches the concept of relations of production too far as it seeks to incorporate under the logic of class struggle all military, political, and economic factors, while reducing military, political, and legal relations—conceptualized as political accumulation by Brenner—to functions of this singular relation.

Spatially, the genesis of capitalism is confined to a single geographical region—the English countryside—immune from wider intersocietal developments. Yet such tunneling cannot account for why the extensive presence of formally free wage labor prior to the sixteenth century both inside and outside England did not give rise to capitalism elsewhere.

The poverty of Political Marxism

In a famous passage, Marx wrote:. The discovery of gold and silver in America, the expiration, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of black skins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production.

These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation. The different moments of primitive accumulation can be assigned in particular to Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and England, in more or less chronological order. These moments are systematically combined together at the end of the seventeenth century in England; the combination embraces the colonies, the national debt, the modern tax system, and the system of protection.

Similarly excluded are the numerous technological, cultural, institutional, and social-relational discoveries and developments originating outside of Europe that were appropriated and adopted by Europe in the course of its capitalist development. Consequently, within this spatiotemporal tunneling there emerges a particularly problematic form of Eurocentrism. In turn, temporal tunneling gives rise to the notion of historical priority as Europe is thereby conceived as the permanent core and prime mover of history.

This methodologically internalist mode of theoretical analysis is, however, contradicted by the intersocietal determinants that Brenner evokes in actually explaining why agrarian capitalism first developed in England. Yet the appearance of the Normans in this manner is wholly problematic. Instead, the Norman invasion appears as an ad-hoc international addendum to an otherwise wholly internalist theoretical analysis. Without theorizing the international, Brenner finds no trouble tracing English nobility-state relations in the sixteenth century to an eleventh century cause.

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Spatial tunneling in theory thus leads to temporal tunneling of history, where historical conjunctures are explained by phenomena half a millennia apart. This leaves numerous questions over how far this picture of intra-lordly unity going back to the eleventh century stands up when tested against the evidence of the intervening years. What, for example, explains the fits of English intra-lordly struggle during the Hundred Years War or the War of the Roses?

The development of capitalism in England was thus structurally conditioned by the geopolitics of Europe, and cannot be understood without reference to this wider intersocietal environment in which it formed a part.

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If Wallerstein and World Systems theorists work with too broad a conception of capitalism, Political Marxists work with much too narrow a conception. As we have seen, for Brenner and his followers the origin of capitalism in the English countryside is explained by the unintended, contingent outcomes of the class struggle. For the Political Marxists, capitalism can be said to have emerged only when the direct producers have lost their means of subsistence and production and have become entirely dependent on the market.

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Political Marxists thus draw a sharp distinction between noncapitalist extra-economic forms of surplus extraction and capitalist noncoercive forms of surplus extraction mediated by the market. Any mode of surplus extraction that does not conform to the latter market-dependent form is therefore considered noncapitalist. The expansion of slavery in the colonies and free wage labor in the imperial metropole were two sides of the same coin.

Politically, there is much at stake in this. The externalization of extra-economic forms of exploitation and oppression from capitalism ultimately leads Political Marxists to exclude the histories of colonialism and slavery from the inner workings of the capitalist mode of production, arguing instead that such practices were rooted in the feudal logic of geopolitical accumulation. Equally, it is possible to point to the continuing prevalence of racial, gender, and sexual hierarchies, often reproduced via non-market as well as market mechanisms, and ask how far these forms of oppression can be included in the Political Marxist critique of capitalism.

These are difficult claims to sustain empirically. A variety of authors from traditions as diverse as Marxism, 31 feminism, 32 and subaltern studies 33 have convincingly demonstrated that the origins of capitalism were heavily circumscribed by coercive, non-market forms of exploitation. Others have noted how inequalities based on gender 34 and race 35 continue to be inscribed in the very logic of capital accumulation.

Such claims strike an especially discordant note when considered in light of recent debates on the left. A major point for Political Marxists is that the market dependence of economic units conceived as constitutive of capitalist social property relations is something that must be imposed from without. Under no circumstances, would people willingly choose to be capitalists or subject themselves to the systematic imperatives of the market.

This conception of the origins of capitalism does have the great merit of denaturalizing the emergence of capitalism. Yet, historical evidence does seem to support the contention that, under certain circumstances, people will willingly enter the marketplace, which may over time have the unforeseen consequence of making them market-dependent. Where did this class emerge from? It emerged from the prolonged process of differentiation among the peasantry themselves.

The flip side of this equation of peasant differentiation was the development of a stratum of peasant wage laborers compelled to work as tenant farmers. The breakthrough from below by the yeomanry on the basis of petty capitalist accumulation was a crucial intervening stage in the later development of large-scale capitalist farming.

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How else is it possible to explain the unique triadic pattern of English agrarian capitalism?

Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism
Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism
Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism
Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism
Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism
Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism

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