Re: Tom's comments on Blaut, Frank, Sanderson et al

Thu, 06 Mar 1997 09:09:22 +1100
Bruce R. McFarling (

On Wed, 5 Mar 1997, Salvatore Babones wrote:

> But I ask: Why did non-latter-day-European capitalists never foster the
> development of a capitalist world-system in the world-systems in which
> they lived? What make these latter-day-European capitalists so much
> leaner and meaner, such that they were able to take over their own
> governments and eventually the world?

Cities and market towns. Confer _Cities in Late Imperial China_
(sic?) for the way that expansion of the Chinese state led to an expansion
of the average area under administration of Chinese administrative
centers. An advantage of this answer, as opposed to a Eurocentric answer,
is that the Tokugawa system of restricting vassals to towns, and requiring
high level vassals to spend every other year in the imperial center, was a
tremendous boost to market town development in Japan. So the parallel
development of Capitalism in Japan falls under the same explanation.
Something that Sanderson's treatment, as an example, ignores is
the impact of a high density of market towns on agrarian development, and
the necessity of an 'agrarian revolution' if there is going to be a major
expansion in urban-based activities. Focusing on the largest of urban
centers misses this dimension entirely: this impact is focused in the area
that is in reasonable transportation distance for a rural resident, so a
larger number of market towns spread across the coutnryside is more
important for this than a smaller number of large urban centers.
Of course, this is a biased answer, but then I'm a development
economist, and them's my biases.


Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW