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Re: Ricardo Duchesne on Ellen Meiksins Wood
by Charles Jannuzi
25 September 2003 01:24 UTC
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 >>But I believe that Charles Jannuzi has misunderstood the core (no pun
intended) of Louis Proyect's post.

Jannuzi critiques this quote that appears in Proyect's post:

> >>Obviously the notion that European capitalism
> developed as a result of the exploitation of the Third
> World has been so roundly refuted I need not elaborate
> this here. Just a handy, if incomplete, stats: At most
> 2% of Europe's GNP at the end of 18th century
> took the form of profits derived from commerce with
> Americas, Asia, Africa! (I think source is
> K.O'Brien)."
But a careful reading of Proyect's quote indicates that he too was
critiquing that post. It seems to have been included in order to refute it,
rather than to support it.<<

I don't think I understood anything in Proyect's post. Was it a quote? If it
was, where are the quote marks? I was simply asking him to clarify, and now
I have to ask you. To what post are you referring? Perhaps this is the
problem of carrying on a discussion on three or more lists at the same time?

What Proyect needs to do is post a summary of his thesis instead of links to
rather rambling essays that do not cohere as one piece. It's one thing to
undercut theory-driven superstructures about history writ large, it's
another thing to have a coherent theory oneself. I don't undestand Proyect's
theory and must ask for a summary if he wishes to discuss it rationally.
And is his theory specific to the 19th century US or is he trying to
contribute to the philosophy of history too?

>>By the way, this discussion is not arcane and irrelevant as some might
argue. It goes to the heart of most theories of history--the tension between
unpredictable contingencies and somewhat predictable patterns that
emerge.......in other words, to what degree certain things that happened
were "inevitable". (By the way, I realize that one should not consider that
"inevitability" is something that can happen in "degrees". ) Most serious
scientists are past the false dichotomy that completely separates "accident"
from "total determinism" and instead use probabilistic analysis which
changes somewhat as new evidence is considered. <<

Yes, but one of the problems is that writing history is this art of knowing
what is relevant and what is not. The history presented has to be extracted
from the mass of data, and what data are attended to and what is
extracted--and worked up into theory--can itself be largely theoretically
and ideologically determined. Proyect didn't much discuss this but limited
his own sociological observations about the left and history as some sort of
tension between vanguardist pamphleteers and ivory tower academics, with the
resolution somewhere in the area where he stands, at least self-apparently.

>>The debates over the origins of capitalism and the role of the peasantry,
for example, are relevant to debates today as to whether peasants can become
part of an anti-capitalist movement on its own terms, or whether they have
to be promised their own plots of land. In any case, these discussions do
deepen our ways of thinking about these questions, especially that of
"contingency" and "overdeterminism".<<

I have questions over Wal Mart and McDonald's workers myself. But any
enlightenment about peasantry is also, well, enlightening.

Charles Jannuzi
University of Fukui (as of 1 October the name changes from Fukui University)

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