Part of the problem I have with attempts to identify capitalism with market/exchange relations rather than with those concerning production is that the implication of that view is that basically every Eurasian settled society would then have been capitalist for centuries
Arbitrage, exchange, markets, bazaars, trading networks, private property, taxes, and complex credit networks existed in the Arab Peninsula & Levant, China, along the Silk Road, among the Jewish diaspora, North Africa, the straits of Malacca etc
The Europeans were relatively late to this game. The Commercial revolution began around the 1100s, and took about 500 years to come to fruition. Enclosure began en masse the 13th century. The Venetian innovations took place in the 15th century.
Ibn Khaldun prefigured Smith inasmuch as he proposed that in the presence of strong, fair institutions, shared metrics, weights & measures, low taxes, social services, & property, arbitrage & exchange achieved social harmony. That was in the 1300s in what’s now Tunisia
Meiskins Wood argues that arbitrage & long term exchange are nearly universal in settled societies history. What made capitalism distinctive was how it organized production, the division labor, property, the development of capital, and so on.
The commercial revolution brought to fruition long term exchange relations in Europe. Enclosure created private property in land & a class of landless but legally free laborers. The Venetians pioneered finance, insurance, accounting & long term trade.
The compass in the 1200s allowed novel navigation. The printing press in the 1400s generated new communicative possibilities.
The Black Death came after a long growth of population, infrastructure, trade networks, proto-capital accumulation & institutions. It radically destabilized the system, and by vastly reducing population it drove up wages, and eroded the aristocracy.
In the late 1500s began colonialism. This created a massive demand for ships, armies, capital & labor. It required state enforcement, and the creation of corporations, joint stock companies and other such arrangements.
Through massive theft of land, goods, and labor, through taxation, servitude & slavery, it created unprecedented capacity for primitive accumulation, extraction & forced toil, while vastly augmenting the factor supply of labor, land & commodities for European conquest & use.
It also dumped a ton of gold bullion on European markets, which, in combination with the stolen land, prior capital accumulation, and the previous population decline rapidly drove up the cost of peasant, skilled, & other labor.
As such, to the extent that the extra land, commodities, and blood rents could not satisfy the rising costs of peasant, free, and artisan labor, labor saving investment & innovation came at a premium.
The European imperialism, colonialism & monopoly played a huge role, but the settler colonization of the Americas was the real turning point, as it vastly augmented the above. Slavery was born to cruelly satisfy the demands for labor saving & to soften the costs of enclosure.
In the crucible of enclosure, the commercial revolution, colonialism, imperialism, monopoly, financial innovation, accounting, innovation in printing & navigation, the rise of militarism, the Black Death & the inflow of bullion came the state driven policy of mercantilism.
Whether or not mercantilism can be called capitalism is an interesting question, it’s earlier forms resembled the feudal relations with exchange relations, finance, statism, militarism & colonialism grafted onto it. Its later forms were all but capitalist in name.
Suffice it to say, calling the exchange relations before mercantilism capitalism is problematic as it requires what I said above (calling Eurasian, North African, Muslim & Jewish societies capitalist).
As such, we can say that whether or not mercantilism is capitalism, that capitalism could not exist until mercantilism. The period of 1450/1500 to 1750s/1800 is thus the key period of change in question.
Whether or not mercantilism is capitalism, we thus see that colonialism, commercial revolution, statism, militarism, long term finance, slavery, technological change, and enclosure had to precede the existence of capitalism, & brought it into being.
Slavery, colonialism, and indigenous dispossession abroad, religious conflicts with nearby Muslim societies, antisemitism, religious schism, linguistic differentiation & conflict & rising states in Europe all collided.
While there was religious conflict in Europe, the key innovation was that now ‘Christendom’ came to be seen as opposed to Islamic society & the non Christian ‘barbarians’ valid for colonialization, dispossession enslavement & murder.
Combining with notions of the great chain of being, of civilization, of the state, and with novel philosophical ideas was born the idea of the Occident. Internally it was differentiated wrt non Christian others, especially Jews.
Antisemitism played a unique role as it was, with Islamophobia, one of the key ways that religion, ethnicity, civilization & nationhood came to take on concrete reified character.
But a key intellectual innovation emerged inasmuch as non Christian populations, Jews, Muslims, Roma, etc, could partake within the European conceit IF they assisted in the settler colonial project—‘if you leave Europe you can become provisionally European’
Thus, 'whiteness' could emerge. 'Whiteness' as a project was basically the notion that divisions of religion, language & nation within European Christendom, and divisions against it with Jews, Muslims & 'barbarians' could be elided in the Americas & elsewhere.
As such, whiteness was fundamentally a way to unify Europeans across divisions in their conquest, dispossession & settlement of the Americas, and to justify enslavement of Africans, and the genocide of Indigenous persons.
As such, whiteness, race, European Christendom, Protestantism, the nation state, modern antisemitism, modern Islamophobia, and so on, all emerged together in the settler colonial project, contemporary with mercantiism, but prior to modern capitalism.
If one considers mercantilism to be capitalism, then the most one can say is that imperialism, the modern state & statism, colonialism, white supremacy, race, enclosure, finance, monopoly & incorporation rose side by side with capitalism, otherwise they preceded it.
The idea therefore that white supremacy solely exists as a post hoc retroactive justificatory handmaiden to capitalism can be flatly rejected. It was an entire ideological, cultural, social, psychological, material, institutional, intellectual & economic project beforehand.
While enclosure created a mass of (varying degrees of) legally free, but landless workers, and while antisemitism, Christendom, & 'barbarism' had already located extra juridical others, valid for dispossession, expulsion, conquest & murder, white supremacy was a novel innovation.
As such, Mbembe argues that slavery & blackness became the model for the wage worker, rather than the other way around. Wilderson argues blackness & indigeneity are constitutive antagonisms which precede & condition the possibility of the disposesed wage worker.
Enclosure, the black death, & financial innovations created the material conditions for wage earning in Eur. Antisemitism, patriarchy/womanhood, Christendom & 'barbarism' created the cultural, social, intellectual & institutional conditions in Europe.
Settler colonialism, imperialism, monopoly, militarism, & slavery created the material conditions & necessary accumulated resources abroad. They drove the organizational, political & military conditions in Europe. They catalyzed the technological & economic aspects.
Herein emerged white supremacy, race, blackness, indigeneity, and slavery which became the cultural, ideological, psychological, intellectual, social, material, institutional conditions abroad.
Between these 3 sets of historical structures & events, emerges both the formal & substantive conditions of possibility, catalysts & causes for wage labor & alienated labor. This process became self reinforcing.
1. We can reject the idea that exchange & markets alone define capitalism, as they were widespread, especially among non Europeans, prior to mercantilism & then the rise of capitalism.
2. We can reject the idea that white supremacy, colonialism, imperialism, militarism, the modern state, & financialization are the outcome of, rather than the condition, catalyst & contemporary of mercantilism & then capitalism
3. We can reject the idea that technological, economic, geographic, ecological, and/or demographic causes are the primary causes of mercantilism, capitalism & social change in general, while also acknowledging they played a condition of possibility for the above
4. We can reject the notion that cultural, ideological, social, institutional, organizational, psychological, and intellectual causes are impotent & unimportant--we see they are real, material & embodied in practice & relations, not just reflection let alone solely post hoc
5. We can reject the idea that antisemitism, Christendom, Islamophobia, patriarchy, and 'civilization' are benign ideologies & structures, or lacked historical reality before capitalism.
The late 1700s represent another epochal shift. Here we see the beginning, intellectual, of what's called the Coepernican shift, inasmuch as we see the rise of the subject/object division, the notion of objectivity, and the beginning of institutionalized natural science.
It also represents the height of colonialism, as evidenced in the apogee of colonial settler states becoming juridically independent from their European controllers, doing so on the backs of subjugated, enslaved & dispossessed black, indigenous, women & propertyless persons.
It also represents the rise of steam power, of novel modes of navigation & ship building, and so on. It saw the coalescence of the modes of creating capital goods, of metalwork, of construction, of factory organization, of machine labor, and so on.
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