AW: Stephan Sanderson's query

Mon, 3 Mar 1997 21:52:24 +-100
barendse (

A remark on S.Sanderson's query of 3 march:
Part of Gunder's argument is that the same basic institutions -- dare I =
CAPITALIST institutions? -- prevailed in Asia and Europe during early =
times. I would then raise the following question: Was there anything =
in Asia
even remotely resembling the Amsterdam stock exchange of the seventeenth

Yes and No
No - was there anything in Europe resembling the large-scale manufactur =
of porcelain in China ?
But that's really a stupid answer,
As with technology dare I say), the organization of Asian capitalism or =
rather commercial capital was not so much backward as different from the =
European organization (and European solutions would not have fitted the =
circumstances in India or China or Iran anyway)..=20
Thus in the two Asian stapple-towns which I know best, New Julfa near =
Isfahan and Surat, there was no stock-exchange but what did exist was an =
intricate interlocking system of assemblies of bankers and merchants =
which served most of the functions of the Amsterdam stock exchange, =
thus, e.g. for gathering information, trading goods in bulk, for =
handling insurance of goods and ships and, indeed, for allotting credit =
to Mughal nobles but not to the Mughal state. Something like a =
consolidated state-debt did not exist in Islamic empires, largely I =
think, because of Islamic prohibitions on interest. This would also have =
forestalled the rise of joint-stock companies on the European pattern.

However, what did exist were temples and islamic shrines which disposed =
of almost inexhaustable amounts of funds -anybody who has visited the =
awesome temple complex at Mount Abu for example can testify to this- =
now it appears that -and I'm here on somewhat shacky ground- that the =
funds of the temples were endowed by bankers partly to serve as a =
reserve-fund for their operations. While in Europe th
merchants would invest part of their funds safely in joint-stock =
companies in India (and the same in Iran) temples and shrines fulfilled =
something like the same function. Those temples, however, did not invest =
their money only in buildings and brahmnins they also invested in land; =
most of the land being granted -or bought- in main morte property; thus, =
a pursuit which might be called typically feudal wwas dovetailing with =
the pursuit of commercial gain (and it seems from what we know of =
their accounts that the temples were also collecting land- revenues to =
make profit.).

So - in some ways- Yes, in India they had temples.
Dr. R.J. Barendse
Leiden University

Finally: I hope I won't be blamed for one self-indulgent rambling: =
since I have to undergo a major operation on wednesday, I won't be in =
contact for a while: I have always enjoyed reading the often fascinating =
discussions on this list and it has been a big relief during the very =
severe pains I've been going through the last months.

Cheers and best to you all.