File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 450


Subject: M-I: Re: Why Europe achieved domination
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 1997 22:17:31 +0100


> Of crucial importance is the fact that the "Fall of the East" preceded
the
> "Rise of the West," and it was the devolution of the preexisting system
> that facilitated Europe's easy conquest. It would be wrong, therefore, to
> view the "Rise of the West" as either a simple "takeover" of a prior
> functioning system or an event whose outcome was attributable exclusively
> to the internal characteristics of European society. Rather, two
> paradoxical forces were at work.
> 
> First, pathways and routes developed by the thirteenth century were later
> "conquered" and adapted by a succession of European powers. Europe did
not
> need to *invent* the system, since the basic groundwork was already in
> place by the thirteenth century when Europe was still only a peripheral
and
> recent participant. In this sense, the rise of the west was facilitated
by
> the preexisting world economy that it restructured.
> 

Janet L. Abu-Lughod's picture of european expansion is correct (as
summarized by L.
Proyects' excerpt), as an overview, but it forgets one thing: why have they
done it? 

The fact is, by late XIV century, Europe allready had something that was
lacking anywhere else: big manufacturing, banking, a shrewd and decided
class of enterpreneurs hooked on this new game of accumulating capital for
its own sake. The seeds of a completely new mode of production were in
place. This, in turn, created the expansionist drive. There were lots of
plundering empires before. But plunder alone doesn't create anything new,
except a vast pile of ressources for the idle consumption of the ruling
classes. This was plunder of an entirely new kind. It fed into a social
mechanism capable of exponential growth.

This social mechanism, the embryo of the capitalist relations of
production, appeared, quite by accident as James Heartfield puts it, out of
the debris of the crumbling european feudalism. It's like a mutating gene
in the social fabric. It appeared out of chance, it reproduced itself and
it so happened that it proved to have a devastating competitive advantage.


Joćo Paulo Monteiro
Porto 

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