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Re: Capitalism Conundrums [Re: Ricardo Duchesne on Ellen Meiksins Wood]
by Charles Jannuzi
26 September 2003 02:07 UTC
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LR writes:

>>If we don't keep these areas straight &#12539;not
surprisingly &#12539;the discussions we have, such as
what it is being considered in the post below, become
I hate to keep beating the same dead horse, but we may
be required to consider new, better terminology to
distinguish these areas.  
However, let me make my point another way.  What have
we to gain, analytically or theoretically, by
conceptualizing/ considering/talking about this thing
we call CAPITALISM in the first place and applying to
all the three areas I've presented?<<

I would be glad if simple things like inverted commas
translated clearly across all pc's and e-mail
programs. This is why I try to stick to things like >>
and << to show beginning and end of quotes, because
scholarly article format doesn't work well in e-mail

But to get to the substance of what you write. Let's
take a real world, modern day problem for example. If
you asked most Americans, they would say that their
political economy (though they would avoid or be
unaware of that term)is capitalist or at least a mixed
system that favors 'markets'. At least the types who
read Forbes and Business Week and watch Lou Dobbs.
Europeans might agree with the Americans without
realizing that the extent of government and non-profit
cooperative organizations in their social welfare
bears little resemblance to the social conditions
which prevail in the US.  

But is it capitalism when, for example, a clique go to
the top of the federal government and award federal
contracts to the companies associated with their
cliques? Americans critiquing Korea or Japan or
Baathist Iraq say this is 'crony capitalism' or worse.
But why isn't it something aberrant at least in their
own consciousness of things when it happens in the
US--such as a Bush government awarding contracts to
Bechtel and Halliburton to run the civilian side of
the US occupation of Iraq. Or a Bush government
setting monetary policy that favors the global
expansion of largely unregulated private equity groups
(linked to US pension funds, Warren Buffett, but also
the Bush family, with such strange entities as the
Carlyle Group, which is an arms supplier, a holding
company for federal service companies, and an
unregulated financial investment firm).

To an Iraqi, who just went from a country in part
being run by a Tikriti clan system with extensive
patronage, to a Bush family one with extensive
patronage going back to the US and not Tikrit, I
suppose the experience is more like corporatist
imperialism, or somewhat parallel to the Indian
experience of the British Empire, its mercantilist
business interests, and the military forces that
backed it up. 

Getting back to something that was in what Louis
Proyect posted but historian Duchesne wrote:

>>"The major drawback of Wood's Origins is its
Eurocentric presumption that explaining the transition
to capitalism is simply a matter of looking for those
'unique' traits that set Europe or England apart from
the rest of the world. Marxists can no longer rest
comfortably with the story that England and Europe
emerged from the Middle Ages with an internally
generated advantage over the rest of Asia."<<

It seems parallel to the anti-Marxist 'Stages of
Economic Growth' (Rostow, 1960), which gives us
basically tautology for explanation(e.g., it was an
innate sense of nation that propelled the British
forward to conquer the world). I don't necessarily
think Marxists ever rested comfortably with that story
of England. 

I thought many Marxists following Marx denied the
country-specific, isolated view of development, hence
the Marxist critiques of late 19th century and 20th
century imperialism, the accumulation of capital on a
world scale, permanent states of unequal development
and underdevelopment and the dependency relationships
that underlie them. 

Charles Jannuzi


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