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Meiksins Wood, E. (2002). The origin of capitalism: A longer view. Londres: Verso Books. 
Added by: Dominique Meeùs (2016-02-21 14:05:07)   
Resource type: Book
Languages: English
ID no. (ISBN etc.): ISBN : 978-1-85984-392-5
BibTeX citation key: MeiksinsWood2002
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Categories: Économie, Histoire, Marxisme
Keywords: capital commercial, capitalisme, féodalité, matérialisme historique, noblesse, ouvrier agricole, propriétaire terrien, propriété des moyens de production, propriété foncière, rapports de production, rapports sociaux, Révolution anglaise, révolution bourgeoise, servage, surplus, surplus commercialisable
Creators: Meiksins Wood
Publisher: Verso Books (Londres)
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Attachments   URLs ... c&id=90&doc_id=695
Librairie    The Book Depository, 60 Holborn Viaduct, Londres
Added by: Dominique Meeùs  
Date d’achat    lundi 25 janvier 2016
Added by: Dominique Meeùs  
  Acknowledgements vii
  Introduction 1
 Begging the Question, 2 — Opportunity or Imperative ? 6
Part I Histories of the Transition  
1 The Commercialization Model and Its Legacy 11
 The Commercialization Model, 11 — After the Classis Commercialization Model, 17 — A Notable Exception : Karl Polanyi, 21 — Anti-Eurocentrism, 27
2 Marxist Debates 34
 Marx on the Transition, 35 — The Transition Debate, 37 — Perry Anderson on Absolutism and Capitalism, 44
3 Marxist Alternatives 50
 The Brenner Debate, 50 — Brenner and ‘Bourgeois Revolution’, 61 — E. P. Thompson, 65 — Summing Up, 69
Part II The Origin of Capitalism  
4 Commerce or Capitalism ? 73
 Towns and Trade, 74 — Commerce in Basic Necessities, 80 — Florence and the Dutch Republic, 85
5 The Agrarian Origin of Capitalism 95
 Agrarian Capitalism, 95 — The Rise of Capitalist Property and the ‘Ethic of Improvement’, 105 — Enclosure, 108 — Locke’s Theory or Property, 109 — Class Struggle and Bourgeois Revolution, 116
Part III Agrarian Capitalism and Beyond  
6 Agrarian Capitalism and Beyond 125
 The Golden Age of Agrarian Capitalism, 125 — Was Agrarian Capitalism Really Capitalist ? 129 — Market Dependence and a New Commercial System, 134 — From Agrarian Capitalism to Industrial Capitalism, 142
7 The Origin of Capitalist Imperialism 147
 Pre-capitalist Imperialism, 147 — Ireland : A New Capitalist Imperialism ? 152 — Empire and the Ideology of Improvement, 156 — From Enclosure to Empire ? 161
8 Capitalism and the Nation State 166
 The Sovereign Territorial State in Pre-capitalist Europe, 167 — The State in Capitalist England, 171 — Capitalism and International Relations, 174 — Capitalism and the Nation State, 176
9 Modernity and Postmodemity 182
 Modernity versus Capitalism : France and England, 182 — Postmodernity, 189
  Conclusion 193
  Notes 199
  Index 209

Added by: Dominique Meeùs  Last edited by: Dominique Meeùs
pp.2-3, Section Introduction   Begging the question

Capitalism is a system in which goods and services, down to the most basic necessities of life, are produced for profitable exchange, where even human labour-power is a commodity for sale in the market, and where all economic actors are dependent on the market. This is true not only of workers, who must sell their labour-power for a wage, but also of capitalists, who depend on the market to buy their inputs, including labour-power, and to sell their output for profit. Capitalism differs from other social forms because producers depend on the market for access to the means of production (unlike, for instance, peasants, who remain in direct, non-market possession of land) ; while appropriators cannot rely on ‘extra-economic’ powers of appropriation by means of direct coercion —such as the military, political, and judicial powers that enable feudal lords to extract surplus labour from peasants— but must depend on the purely ‘economic’ mechanisms of the market. This distinct system of market dependence means that the requirements of competition and profit-maximization are the fundamental rules of life. Because of those rules, capitalism is a system uniquely driven to improve the productivity of labour by technical means. Above all, it is a system in which the bulk of society’s work is done by propertyless labourers who are obliged to sell their labour-power in exchange for a wage in order to gain access to the means of life and of labour itself. In the process of supplying the needs and wants of society, workers are at the same time and inseparably creating profits for those who buy their labour-power. In fact, the production of goods and services is subordinate to the production of capital and capitalist profit. The basic objective of the capitalist system, in other words, is the production and self-expansion of capital.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   capitalism capitalisme échange exchange force de travail labour-power marché market profit
pp.3-4   … historical accounts of how this system came into being have typically treated it as the natural realization of ever-present tendencies. Since historians first began explaining the emergence of capitalism, there has scarcely existed an explanation that did not begin by assuming the very thing that needed to be explained. Almost without exception, accounts of the origin of capitalism have been circular…

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   origine du capitalisme emergence of capitalism
p.21, Section a notable exception : Karl Polanyi, Chapter 1. The Commercialization Model and Its Legacy   Even when markets were well developped, a sharp distinction must be made, he [Polanyi] said, between societies with markets, such as have existed thoughout recorded history, and a ‘market society’.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   marché market market society
p.24   This is not the place to enter into a detailed debate about the nature of medieval English land tenure, ‘mercantilism‘, the Speenhamland system, or other specific historical questions about which specialists today would have reason to take issue with Polanyi.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   Speenhamland system
Sur le Speenhamland system, voir Speenhamland system dans Wikipedia.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-02-21 15:09:05)
p.35, Section Marx on the transition, Chapter 2. Marxist Debates   Matters are not helped by the fact that there are two different narratives in Marx’s own work. One is very much like the conventional model, where history is a succession of stages in the division of labour, with a transhistorical process of technological progress, and the leading role assigned to burgher classes who seem to bring about capitalism just by being liberated from feudal chains. In fact, capitalism already exists in feudalism, in a way, in its ‘interstices,’ to use Marx’s word, and it enters the mainstream of history when it ‘bursts asunder’ the fetters of the feudal system. This is in essence the narrative of such earlier writings as The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto. There, the origin of capitalism is not so much explained as presupposed, as a new social form waiting to be released by the rising bourgeoisie when it finally throws off its feudal shackles. This is the narrative at least implicit in traditional Marxist ideas of ‘bourgeois revolution’.
 For Marx’s truly distinctive ‘Marxist’ approach, we have to look to his critique of political economy, in the Grundrisse and Capital. Although that approach was obviously much more developed in his revolutionary analysis of contemporary capitalism, he did apply his critique to the historical question of the system’s origin in his dissection of ‘the so-called primitive accumulation’ in Volume I of Capital. Here he decisively broke with the old paradigm and laid a foundation for important elaborations by later Marxist historians.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   transition du mode de production féodal au capitalisme chez Marx
pp.36-37   The essence of Marx’s critique of ‘the so-called primitive accumulation’ (and people too often miss the significance of the phrase ‘so-called’) is that no amount of accumulation, whether from outright theft, from imperialism, from commercial profit, or even from the exploitation of labour for commercial profit, by itself constitutes capital, nor will it produce capitalism. The specific precondition of capitalism is a transformation of social property relations that generates capitalist ‘laws of motion’ : the imperatives of competition and profit-maximization, a compulsion to reinvest surpluses, and a systematic and relentless need to improve labour-productivity and develop the forces of production.
 The critical transformation of social property relations, in Marx’s account, took place in the English countryside, with the expropriation of direct producers. In the new agrarian relations, landlords increasingly derived rents from the commercial profits of capitalist tenants, while many small producers were dispossessed and became wage labourers. Marx regards this rural tramfomation as the real ‘primitive accumulation’ not because it created a critical mass of wealth but because these social property relations generated new economic imperatives, especially the compulsions of competition, a systematic need to develop the productive forces, leading to new laws of motion such as the world had never seen before.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   accumulation initiale — soi-disant accumulation primitive — soi-disant capitalisme agricole en Angleterre so-called primitive accumulation soit-disant accumulation initiale soit-disant accumulation primitive agrarian capitalism in England
« people too often miss the significance of the phrase ‘so-called’ ». Dans la première édition du Livre I du Capital en 1867, c'est une subdivision « 2) Die s. g. ursprüngliche Accumulation » du chapitre 6 « Sechstes Kapitel. Der Accumulationsprozess des Kapitals ». Dans la deuxième édition (et dans les troisième et quatrième), cela devient, dans la septième section « SIEBENTER ABSCHNITT — Der Akkumulationsprozeß des Kapitals» le chapitre 24 « Vierundzwanzigstes Kapitel. Die sogenannte ursprüngliche Akkumulation ». Le mot « sogenannte » devrait être repris par les traductions de qualité.
 Cependant, dans sa traduction de 1872, que beaucoup lisent encore aujourd'hui, Roy a laissé tomber l'expression « soi-disant ». C'est chez lui la huitième section.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-02-21 22:18:05)
pp.37-38, Section The Transition Debate   In 1950, an exchange took place between the economist Paul Sweezy and the economic historian Maurice Dobb, whose Studies in the Development of Capitalism (1946) Sweezy had criticized. Their exchange expanded into a major debate among a wide range of distinguished, mainly Marxist, historians in the journal Science & Society, which was later collected and published as a book (Lefebvre, Procacci, Merrington, Hill, Hobsbawm, Dobb, Sweezy, & Takahashi, 1978). What came to be known as the ‘transition debate’, has been a central reference point for discussion of the subject among Marxists — and others — ever since.

Lefebvre, G., Procacci, G., Merrington, J., Hill, C., Hobsbawm, E., & Dobb, M., et al. (1978). The transition from feudalism to capitalism. Londres: Verso Books.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   Maurice Dobb Paul Sweezy transition debate
pp.44-49, Section perry anderson on absolutism and capitalism   For our purposes, we can begin with Anderson’s definition of feudalism as a mode of production defined by ‘an organic unity of economy and policy’, which took the form of a ‘chain of parcellized sovereignties‘, together with a hierarchical chain of conditional property. State power was fragmented among feudal lords, and lordship represented a unity of political and economic power. The fragment of the state that feudal lords possessed - their political, juridical, and military powers — at one and the same time constituted their economic power to appropriate surplus labour from dependent peasants. 'Lordship was accompanied by ‘a mechanism of surplus extraction’, serfdom, in which ‘economic exploitation and politico-legal coercion were fused’.“
 But something happened that made this feudal formation unstable. The old feudal bonds were weakened by the commutation of feudal dues into money rents, and, more particularly, by the growth of a commodity economy. ‘With the generalized commutation of dues into money rents,’ Anderson argues, ‘the cellular unity of political and economic oppression of the peasantry was gravely weakened, and threatened to become dissociated. The result was a displacement of politico-legal coercion upwards towards a centralized, militarized summit — the Absolutist State." In other words, in order to strengthen their weakened hold on the peasantry, feudal lords concentrated their formerly fragmented or parcellized coercive powers in a new kind of centralized monarchy.
 Meanwhile, in the interstices of the fragmented feudal system, in the town, an economic sphere had emerged that was not controlled by the aristocracy. At the same time, these towns became the sites of technical innovations. Anderson concludes that, while ‘the political order remained feudal … society became more and more bourgeois’.
 The emergence of absolutism represents a critical step in Anderson’s argument about the rise of capitalism. Absolutism itself was not a capitalist or prom-capitalist state. It was, if anything, essentially feudal in its basic structure, ‘a redeployed and recharged apparatus of feudal domination, designed to clamp the peasant masses back into their traditional social position’." But it was a pivotal moment in the development of capitalism.
 Ironically, the effect of this displacement upwards of feudal coercive power — at least its principal contribution to the evolution of capitalism, according to Anderson — was to fracture the unity of economy and polity that had characterized feudalism. On the one hand, political power was concentrated in the royal state. On the other hand, the economy began to achieve a certain autonomy. As politico-legal coercion was ‘displaced upwards’, the commodity economy and the ‘bourgeois society’ that had grown in the interstices of feudalism were liberated and allowed to develop on their own terms.
 Now, there is another way of looking at absolutism, which is that it represents a centralization of feudal power in a different sense : namely that the monarchical state itself becomes a form of property, an instrument of appropriation, in ways analogous to feudal lordship. Economic and political power are still fused, but the lord appropriates rents while the state and its officeholders appropriate peasant surpluses in the form of tax.
 Sometimes Anderson does seem to think of absolutism in these terms, as still a unity of economic and political spheres. But his whole argument that absolutism plays a pivotal role in the transition to capitalism depends on the essential function of the absolutist state in separating political and economic spheres. He is at great pains to emphasize that what gets ‘centralized upwards’ in the absolutist state is not the feudal fusion of political and economic spheres but rather the politico-legal or coercive moment of feudalism as distinct from the moment of economic exploitation. The absolutist state simply represents for him the politico-legal coercive power that enforces the economic exploitation that takes place on a different plane.
 There are certain serious empirical problems in this treatment of absolutism as an apparently essential phase in the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Not the least of these problems is the fact that English capitalism did not enjoy the benefit of absolutism, while French absolutism did not give rise to capitalism (about which more in Part II). If that is so, then it may be more plausible to argue that absolutism was not a transitional phase between feudalism and capitalism, but was, on the contrary, an alternative route out of feudalism. At any rate, it should at least be clear that in many fundamental ways, Anderson’s account, like earlier explanations of the transition to capitalism, relies above al on the removal of fetters from a social form that already existed — more or less unexplained — within the interstices of feudalism.
 For all the sophisticated complexity of Anderson’s argument, it is a refinement — fascinating and in many ways illuminating, but no less a refinement — of the commercialization model.

 His argument, in other words, suffers from the very circularity that has always afflicted the commercialization model.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   Perry Anderson absolutism monarchie absolutiste
Classiquement, on considère la féodalité comme une manière politique, et non économique, d'extorsion du surplus. Je ne peux me défaire de l'impression qu'Anderson ne remplace la coercition politique par une « unité organique de l'économique et du politique » que pour pouvoir ensuite prétendre en détacher la soi-disant composante économique et lui conférer une autonomie. Tout ça me semble éminemment métaphysique.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-02-21 22:55:19)
p.73, Chapter 4. Commerce or Capitalism ?   The autonomous city-states that prospered in medieval and Renaissance Italy, for example, or the absolutist state in France, were distinct formations, each with its own internal logic of process that need not have given rise to capitalism. Where and when they did issue in capitalism, it was only as they came within the orbit of an already existing capitalist system and the competitive pressures it was able to impose on its political, military, or commercial rivals. No entry into the capitalist economy could thereafter be the same as earlier ones, as they all became subject to a larger and increasingly international capitalist system (Meiksins Wood, 1991).

Meiksins Wood, E. (1991). The pristine culture of capitalism: An historical essay on old regimes and modern states. Londres: Verso Books.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   city-state ville-État transition au capitalisme
p.75, Section Towns and Trade   Nor was the autonomy of cities the decisive factor. Free urban communes in Europe may have provided fertile ground for trade, prosperous burghers, and urban patriciates, but there is no obvious correlation between the success of such autonomous commercial centres and the rise of capitalism. Vastly successful commercial city-states like Florence did not give rise to capitalism, while capitalism did emerge in England, whose cities, in the context of a precociously centralized monarchical state, were arguably among the least autonomous in Europe.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   autonomie communale liberté communale
p.95, Section Agrarian Capitalism, Chapter 4. The Agrarian Origin of Capitalism   For millennia, human beings have provided for their material needs by working the land. And probably for nearly as long as they have engaged in agriculture they have been divided into classes, between those who worked the land and those who appropriated the labour of others. That division between appropriators and producers has taken many forms, but one common characteristic is that the direct producers have typically been peasants. These peasant producers have generally had direct access to the means of their own reproduction and to the land itself. This has meant that when their surplus labour has been appropriated by exploiters, it has been done by what Marx called ‘extra-economic’ means — that is, by means of direct coercion, exercised by landlords or states employing their superior force, their privileged access to military, judicial, and political power.
 Here, then, is the basic difference between all pre-capitalist societies and capitalism. It has nothing to do with whether production is urban or rural and everything to do with the particular property relations between producers and appropriators, whether in industry or agriculture.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   appropriation du surplus par la force surplus — appropriation par la force surplus appropriated by coercion
p.98   […] In the previous chapter, we considered the nature of pre-capitalist trade and the development of great commercial powers that flourished by availing themselves of market, opportunities without being systematically subjected to market imperatives. Within the pre-capitalist European economy, there was one major exception to the general rule. England, by the sixteenth century, was developing in wholly new directions.
 We can begin to see the differences by starting with the nature of the English state and what that reveals about the relation between political and economic power. Although there were other relatively strong monarchical states in Europe, more or less unified under monarchy, such as Spain and France, none was as effectively unified as England (and the emphasis here is on England, not other parts of the British Isles). In the eleventh century (if not before), when the Norman ruling class established itself on the island as a fairly cohesive military and political entity, England already became more unified than most countries. In the sixteenth century. England went a long way toward eliminating the fragmentation of the state, the ‘parcellized sovereignty’, inherited from feudalism. The autonomous powers held by lords, municipal bodies, and other corporate entities in other European states were, in England, increasingly concentrated in the central state. This was in contrast to other European states, where powerful monarchies continued for a long time to live uneasily alongside other post-feudal military powers, fragmented legal systems, and corporate privileges whose possessors insisted on their autonomy against the centralizing power of the state — and which continued to serve not only ‘extra-economic’ purposes but also as primary means of extracting surpluses from direct producers.
 The distinctive political centralization of the English state had material foundations and corollaries. Already in the sixteenth century, England had an impressive network of roads and water transport that unified the nation to a degree unusual for the period. London, becoming disproportionately large in relation to other English towns and to the total population of England (and eventually the largest city in Europe), was also becoming the hub of a developing national market.
 The material foundation on which this emerging national economy rested was English agriculture, which was unique in several ways. First, the English ruling class was distinctive in two related respects. On the one hand, demilitarized before any other aristocracy in Europe, it was part of the increasingly centralized state, in alliance with a centralizing monarchy, without the parcellization of sovereignty characteristic of feudalism and its successor states. While the state served the ruling class as an instrument of order and protector of property, the aristocracy did not possess autonomous ‘extra-economic’ powers or ‘politically constituted property’ to the same degree as their continental counterparts.
 On the other hand, there was what might be called a trade-off between the centralization of state power and the aristocracy’s control of land. Land in England had for a long time been unusually concentrated, with big landlords holding an unusually large proportion, in conditions that enabled them to use their property in new ways. What they lacked in ‘extra-economic’ powers of surplus extraction they more than made up for with 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’, and was in contrast, for example, to France, where a larger proportion of land remained, and would long continue to remain, in the hands of peasants.
 On the other hand, the relatively weak extra-economic powers of landlords meant that they depended less on their ability to squeeze more rents out of their tenants by direct, coercive means than on their tenants’ success in competitive production. Agrarian landlords in this arrangement had a strong incentive to encourage — and, wherever possible, to compel — their tenants to find ways of reducing costs by increasing labour-productivity.
 In this respect, they were fundamentally different from rentier aristocrats, who throughout history have depended for their wealth on squeezing surpluses out of peasants by means of simple coercion, enhancing their powers of surplus extraction not by increasing the productivity of the direct producers but rather by improving their own coercive powers — military, judicial, and

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   agrarian capitalism exception anglaise origin of capitalism
Ceci est le cœur de la thèse de Meiksins :
— Suite à la conquête normande, l'État anglais est plus centralisé [même si la monarchie française est plus absolue]. Le mode d'appropriation féodal du surplus —appropriation par coercition du surplus de paysans disposant de leurs moyens de production— se trouve plus entre les mains de l'État [taxes ?] que des nobles.
— Les nobles ne peuvent pas de leur propre initiative intensifier l'extorsion de surplus de leurs paysans. Ils doivent donc chercher des moyens économiques.
— La terre est moins divisée en Angleterre. Les nobles ont donc un domaine plus important, avec une partie productive. [Les nobles sont seigneurs d'une terre qu'on peut diviser en deux : (1) la terre dont les paysans disposent (sous l'autorité de l'État et du seigneur, à qui ils doivent céder un surplus sous forme de travail, d'une partie de la récolte, ou de rente en argent) ; (2) le domaine du manoir (demesne en anglais de l'époque et encore aujourd'hui quand il s'agit du domaine d'un manoir). Le domaine (demesne) du manoir peut lui-même se diviser en deux : (2a) le domaine d'agrément : jardin, parc, potager et verger pour la consommation du manoir, bois et forêts pour la chasse ; (2b) un éventuel domaine cultivable, productif, sans doute plus important en Angleterre qu'ailleurs.]
— [Un noble pourrait faire cultiver le domaine productif (2b) de la manière traditionnelle, en mettant en œuvre le travail que les paysans lui doivent.] En Angleterre, l'exploitation du domaine est de plus en plus sous-traitée à un fermier qui utilise du travail salarié, donc un fermier capitaliste.
— La situation économique et politique de l'Angleterre impose aux nobles et aux fermiers de rechercher un rendement maximum de la ferme capitaliste, au profit des seconds et pour assurer la rente des premiers.
— Ce processus est cumulatif. Les nobles tentent de s'approprier la terre des paysans [enclosures…] pour étendre le domaine productif qu'ils afferment, ce qui fait plus de prolétaires à disposition de leurs fermiers capitalistes et plus de prolétaires aboutissant dans les villes pour permettre dans un deuxième temps l'apparition d'un capitalisme industriel.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-02-21 21:51:46)
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