Re: the usual

Mon, 17 Mar 1997 10:12:03 +1100
Bruce R. McFarling (

On Sun, 16 Mar 1997, James M. Blaut wrote:

> Bruce McFarling's posting of (?) Mar. 3.: How does
> feudalism "have a differential propensity to shift into a
> system in which capitalist relations are a predominant
> institution for the organization of production?" Forgive
> me, but I don't see either logic or evidence to support
> this scenario. Weber's argument was based on his racist
> idea of European rationality plus ignorance of feudal
> systems elsewhere. Marx's argument was based on ignorance
> of medieval systems, feudal and otherwise, elsewhere,
> leading him to think (with everyone else of his time) that
> European feudalism was the nursery bed of private property,
> class relations, etc.

The first point would be that both of the original capitalist
transitions were two of the few feudal systems that were around. The
second argument would be found in Jane Jacobs arguments and E.A.J.
Johnson's arguments regarding the role of urban centers (in part. market
towns) in promoting agrarian development.
As far as I am aware, I haven't mentioned either Weber or Marx in
this regard.

> Fourthly: you are wrong about China. In
> pre-Ming times they were amazingly progressive. In Ming
> times, the putative "authoritarian and isolationist mood"
> has been shown to be a myth. Fifthly: it is hardly true
> that Venetians, Egyptians, Malaccans, et. al., had "no
> incentive to innovate." (See above on "innovation.") Sixth:
> I, too, am a cultural-evolutionist. But I see no reason to
> think that Europe had a greater evolutionary potential than
> any other civilization. And we must avoid both teleology
> and circularity (it happened, so it had the "potential" to
> happen).

On the urban structure argument, it seems fairly clear that the
number of administrative centers in the Chinese imperial system was fairly
constant (with upsurges at the beginning of a new dynasty, but lapsing
back down) while the area and population were both increasing
dramatically. So the average area covered by each administrative center
was increasing over the centuries. That's a persistent negative trend wrt
agrarian development.


Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW