The Birth of Capitalism: A 21st Century Perspective (The Future of World Capitalism)
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In the light of the deepening crisis of capitalism and continued non-Western capitalist accumulation, Henry Heller re-examines the debates surrounding the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe and elsewhere.
Focusing on arguments about the origin, nature and sustainability of capitalism, Heller offers a new reading of the historical evidence and a critical interrogation of the transition debate. He advances the idea that capitalism must be understood as a political as well as an economic entity. This book breathes new life into the scholarship, taking issue with the excessively economistic approach of Robert Brenner, which has gained increasing support over the last ten years. It concludes that the future of capitalism is more threatened than ever before.
The new insights in this book make it essential reading for engaged students and scholars of political economy and history.
has recently written that ‘he was undoubtedly one of the outstanding political economists of this [twentieth] century.’1 Dobb justified his intrusion into history by suggesting that economists could put interesting questions to historical data; that the facts of concrete history could be illuminated by economic theory. At the same time he argued that economic analysis makes sense and is fruitful only if tied to the study of historical development.2 His Studies in the Development of Capitalism,
in England in the late Middle Ages, it not only destroyed feudalism but created a path leading directly to the emergence of capitalism. In taking this view Brenner largely abolished the conceptual and chronological divide between the decline of feudalism and the origins of capitalism.72 Brenner is a historian at UCLA who began his scholarly career as a student of early modern England. With roots in a radical family, he became politically active in the 1960s in the Trotskyist movement in the
Brenner over-emphasizes the extraction of relative surplus value at the expense of the overall accumulation process, whereas it is necessary to keep in sight the dialectical historical and economic relationship between capital accumulation and the development of relative surplus value. As capitalism advances the growth of the productivity of social labour leads to the devaluation of all existing capital, as the value of commodities is determined not by the labour time taken by their production
Brenner, it was the rural and urban middle class who held the initiative both economically and politically in Holland. Finally, Brenner’s view of Dutch capitalism tends to undercut his earlier insistence on the exclusive importance of the increase in the extraction of relative surplus value or gains in labour productivity to capitalist development. As he clearly acknowledges, the advance towards capitalism in Holland was heavily dependent on the availability of cheap grain from the periphery of
in North America by access to cheap land. We can question whether it applies to Ireland at all. Marx noted that under colonialism Irish agriculture was organized along similar lines to English capitalist agriculture. He furthermore recognized the capitalist aspirations of Irish tenant farmers. But, contrary to Wood, he stressed that both the labour and capital of such farmers, rather than going toward the creation of more relative surplus value and further accumulation, were for the most part