sanderson on blaut on sanderson on blaut

Wed, 26 Feb 1997 11:15:59 -0500 (EST)
s_sanderson (

This is in response to Jim Blaut's posting of a few days ago.

My argument for the rise of modern capitalism concentrates not only on Europe,
but on the parallel case of Japan. Since I am arguing that Japan experienced a
capitalist transition that was similar to the European transition, my argument
can hardly be regarded as some some of Eurocentrism. I am talking about what
made EUROPE AND JAPAN distinctive -- how they differed from the rest of the

The full argument can be found in "The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism:
The Theoretical Significance of the Japanese Case," published in REVIEW in 1994
(volume 17, I think, and pp. 15-55). Or see chapter 5 of my Social
Transformations (Blackwell 1995). I point to 5 features shared by Japan and
Europe that predisposed to more rapid and extensive capitalist development than
the rest of the world. However, my argument also relies crucially on the idea
that from about 3000 BC there has been a process of EXPANDING WORLD
COMMERCIALIZATION, and that by about AD 1500 world commercialization had been
built up to a sufficient level to trigger a capitalist explosion in those parts
of the world most hospitable to capitalism. However, I also argue that even if
there had never been a Europe or Japan, capitalism would have developed anyway,
only later.

Jim Blaut: read my whole argument, not just the little snippets of it in the
review of your book.

Blaut says that my argument for the importance of feudalism in Europe and Japan
is wrong because feudalism was found all over the world. This is a common
argument, and it usually rests on a simple definition of feudalism as a society
based on landlords and serfs. But my conception of feudalism is more precise
-- again, read my works.

What I claimed was "absurd" in Blaut's book was his claim that Africa was on a
par, economically speaking, with Europe in 1500. I see no reason to alter my

Now, finally, as to the role of colonialism, which Blaut accuses me of ignoring.
How can he say such a thing by merely inferring my views from a tiny little book
review? Colonialism contributed significantly to European capitalist
development after 1500, and I say so at some length in chapter 6 of my
aforementioned Social Transformations. Again, read my work so you'll know what
I'm really saying.

Steve Sanderson