File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 416

Date: Mon, 20 Oct 1997 17:26:31 -0400
Subject: Re: M-I: bust


You: Japan was a lot poorer than Europe and the U.S. in 1904, and didn't
have much in the way of home-grown technological skill. It is now one of
the richest, most technically advanced countries in the world. Its rise is
less dramatic and rapid than S Korea's, but you can't exclude it like this.

Me: The date 1904 was symbolic. I meant that the defeat of the Russian navy
brough Japan into the community of imperialst nations which could grow rich
and famous, and could develop an empire. I suppose Japan reached
"adulthood,' particualry in respect to indusrtrialization, after WWI. Japan
was able to reach First World status precisely because Japan was able to
defeat all attempts to colonize it -- this is accepted I think by most
Marxist historians. As a geographer, I point to the fact that Japan  was
the farthest, most isolated of potentially colonizable countires, and when
Britain "opened China" in c.1830. Japan was ready to build a resistance and
then develop. 

Me:Therefore, Japan as not one of the tigers.

Me again: S. Korea and Taiwan rose mainly because of the Chinese Revolution
and the Cold War -- I thoiught We had agreed on thjis. Anyway, their
development started several decades ago: not really a contemporary boom.
Also, we agreed on the quantitative (thjough not qualitative) unimportance
of HK and S'pore: perhaps a boomlet. And I don't think you'd put China in
the same frame.

Me: So the "tigers" must be roaming Southeast Asia.
You: Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are growing in more dependent ways
than did South Korea, but there's still a lot going on in these countries
that can't be dismissed either. 

Me: Not very much, if you steer clear of meaningless statistics. Malaysia
is extremely mineral-rich and has a huge plantation economy, all of which
grows with the world market. The freeport and other maquiladora enticements
do add to what looks like development, but I don't think development
specialists of the Marxist persuasion call this real development, much less
a boom. Other such arguments apply to the otherexternal- capital-oriented
SE Asian countries.

You: And what about China? China's growth over the
last 15 years is enormously powerful. Is that an illusion too?

Me: I definitely argue that socialist development (whether or not it is
still continuing: I damn well hope so) produced amazing development: a
boom. I think that Vietnam will do the same as soon as it recovers from the
traumas of the war and the left-behind landmines.

Me (previous post): Your statistics from Korea are, of course, irrelevant.

You: "Of course"? Why? I said that SK went from Third to near First World
status on social indicators in a generation.

Me: We agreed as to the dynamics of S. Korea, which does not reflect any
independent process of development. Therefore, you are playing tricks with
statistics* when  you talk about social indicators for the "tigers" but
basically use only those from S. Korea. I don't have statistics on social
development here at hand, but, insofar as they are usable (a big insofar),
I doubrt whether they show better health, educxation, etc., for Thailand,
Burma, etc.) than other Third World countries. Ergo: no development.

>Me:What about Southeast Asia (see above?). A lot of real estate there. Are
you saying that Warren, Willoughby, et. al are wrong? I hope so. What they
are projecting is oldfasdhioned Eurocentric Diffusionism (see my book The
Colonizer;s Model of the World)*: (1) all important cultural innovations 
>(like capitalism, socialism) start in Europe, then spread outward over the
>world, to be replaced, in turn by (2) the next civilizational innovation.
I >have no problem with the fact that Marx believed this, because in his
>everyone did so. Today it is unacceptable: a prejudice.

You:. I've been arguing that a significant portion of the world has
undergone a tremendous economic boom over the last 30-50 years which has
profoundly transformed the world capitalist system. That part of the world
is also not European, or of predominantly European origin. You're trying to
deny the existence of this boom, for reasons I don't quite divine. What
does Bill Warren have to do with this?

Me: There is a moderately large school of Marxist thought, associated
mostly with free-floating Marxist economists and geograsphers (like my
buddy Neil Smith -- I'm sure you know him) and I think the I.S. tendency,
who are plainly diffusionist: they see (as Marx did) a geography of the
expansion of indutrial capitalism outward from Europe across the plaret
("to the gates of Peking"). This means expanding development. It means that
"unevenness" is disappearing. It means that imperialism is no longer a
reality. It directs the struggle away from Third World workers (there and
here). The argument that the Third World is truly developing is an artifact
of this ideology, not grounded in solid real evidence.

You: How are Thai peasants contribuitng "huge masses of capital"? By
growing rice for domestic consumption? Or does it happen when they're
displaced from the land to go to work in toy factories and brothels? If
it's the latter, then you're implicitly conceding there has been a boom,
because if there hasn't, it's hard to figure out where this SV is coming

Me: Probably no Thai peasant grows only for a local market, and most of
them grow products that are sold internationally. Add opium, etc. But if
millions upon millions of smallholders are producing, say, rice, ,for a
local market (a privately-owned rice mill which would ordinary be a
business employing perhaps 10 -50 workers), that leads to accumulation --
domestic or not (but much rice is shipped overseas -- or that used to be
the case). When  the great mass of workers are in this economy, on the
farm, that determines the center of gravity of the economy.

Me (earlier): >As to the "idiocy-of-peasant-life" (or wahtever the famous
quote). I can >attest that peasants with enough basic income and secure
tenure are very >happy to work out in the hot sun.  It is a rewarding life.
It calls for >more thought and decision-making than most other professions.
Marx and >Engels knew of only the petit-=bourgeois peasants of France and
neghboring >countries; they couldn't u nderstand peasantries on a world

You: I love it when educated, literate, and cosmopolitan people sit at
their computers and tout the virtues of the unlettered rural life.

Me: Not unlettered. And I don't think you can make this inference about me,
since I've worked with peasants in 7 countries. And what about you? A
cosmopolite? I wouldn't have thought that you'd admit to that charge.

Me agaiun: Surely you're not claiming that East Asians have some sort of
cultural or other quality which promotes their development?

No boom


Jim B

 *You folks play tricks with statistics; we do with maps: Away with
economism *and* geographism. See Monmonnier (sp?) *How To Tell Lies With

Away with all geographism.

Away with all economism.  

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