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Transition from feudalism to capitalism in europe

Among these are 1 the "transition from feudalism to capitalism," 2 the "transition from capitalisnm to socialism," 3 the process of "transition" itself, 4 the notion of feudal, capitalist and socialist "modes of production," and 5 and the hegemonic rise and decline of Europe and the West in the modern world capitalist system. The question arises whether any or all of the above are based on scientific analytical categories, or whether they are only derived from fond ideological beliefs.

  1. That failure was caused by systemic disincentives to capital accumulation and technological innovation, and peasant over-exploitation, which in turn gave rise to a class conflict between peasants and feudal lords. Dobb completely attributed the growth trade and money economy per say for the breakdown of feudalism by laying lesser importance to the growth of towns and by characterizing the latter as an external process.
  2. The solution to the puzzle of the four simultaneous and cumulative collapses and to the "crisis of feudalism in Europe" itself was to be found outside the limited and optically illusory framework of "Feudal Europe. Perhaps it is only the Weltanschauung of capitalism itself by Smith and Marx then, and Wallerstein and Amin now, as well as by most others, which retrospectively sees a qualitative break around 1500 where historically there was none.
  3. Monthly Review Press, and London.
  4. The advent of most of the colonialism taking place across the glove in late sixteenth-seventeenth century. And, furthermore, that land is the only condition of labour which confronts the direct producer as alien property, independent of him and personified by the landlord…this rent in kind, in its pure form, while it may drag fragments along into more high developed modes of production and production relation, still presupposes for its existence, a natural economy, i.
  5. There was Weltanschauungen consonant with capitalism. Monthly Review Press, and London.

Perhaps both contemporary political reality and available historical evidence should now lead us to abandon some or even all of these positions. My tentative conclusion will be that ideological blinkers - or worse, mindset - have too long prevented us from seeing that the world political economic system long predated the rise of capitalism in Europe and its hegemony in the world. The rise of Europe represented a hegemonic shift from East to West within a pre-existing system.

If there was any transition then, it was this hegemonic shift within the system rather than the formation of a new system. We are again in one of the alternating periods of hegemony and rivalry in the world system now, which portends a renewed westward shift of hegemony across the Pacific. To identify the system with its dominant mode of production is a mistake.

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There was no transition from feudalism to capitalism as such. Nor was there to be an analogous transition from capitalism to socialism. If these analytical categories of "modes of production" prevent us from seeing the real world political economic system, it would be better to abandon them altogether.

These categories of "transition" and "modes" are not essential or even useful tools, but rather obstacles to the scientific study of the underlying continuity and essential properties of the world system in the past. They also shackle our political struggle and ability to confront and manage the development of this same system in the present and future.

A number of recent academic publications offer a good opportunity for such a re-examination of the un?

Andre Gunder Frank

Structures of the World-Economy then and now by Christopher Chase-Dunn, and other works on hegemonial changes. Several recent articles by Wallerstein also offer a particularly revealing opportunity to re-examine all of the issues posed in my opening paragraphs.

Wallerstein 1989 a looked back on the last, and forward to the next, fifteen years of "World-System Analysis: In two further articles cited below, Wallerstein 1988, 1989c hones down the definition of his modern-capitalist-world system and its differentia specifica from all others.

These articles also offer a good occasion for us to re-examine these issues of transitions and modes, as well as those of origins of and hegemony in the modern world capitalist system. I will do so in this essay from an historical perspective on a world system history in which Europe was only a Johnny come lately and temporary hegemon. Wallerstein 1989b asks what is distinctive about the modern world-system, the capitalist world-system, and capitalism, which are the same for him.

Others might quarrel with him about these identities, but I will accept them for now. Examination of Wallerstein's argument about this distinctiveness will show that it is internally self contradictory and externally contradicted by the historical evidence. My argument will be that Wallerstein's interpretation is too limited, indeed, self-limiting; because he fails to take sufficient account of the world system.

I made a similar argument about feudalism and capitalism already in a transition from feudalism to capitalism in europe debate. I now argue that the same imperative also applies to the problematique of transition between feudal and capitalist modes of production in Europe.

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In the last generation, all sides of the Dobb-Sweezy recently reprinted in Hilton 19xx and Brenner 19xx debates, like generations of "national frame" and other Eurocentric scholars before them, have sought the answer through a change in the mode of production within Europe. Yet if we are to understand this apparently European problematique we must also "begin with the world system that creates it" and abandon the "self-imposed optical and mental illusion of the [European] or national frame. The single most important and defining differentia specifica is: It is this ceaseless accumulation of capital that may be said to be its most central activity and to constitute its differentia specifica.

No previous historical system seems to have had any comparable mot d'ordre of social limitlessness. At the level of this central defining activity of ceaseless growth, the ceaseless accumulation of capital.

The one thing that seems unquestionable, and unquestioned, is the hyperbolic growth curves--in production, population, and the accumulation of capital--that have been a continuing reality from the sixteenth century. There was the genesis of a radically new system. However, accumulation has played a, if not the, central role in the world system far beyond Europe and long before 1500, as Gills and Frank 1990 emphasize under the title "The Cumulation of Accumulation.

A small sample of the vast evidence in support of earlier world system accumulation is presented below. Perhaps the differences become grater if we compare Wallerstein's modern-capitalist-world-system with alternatives on more counts than just one. Elsewhere, Wallerstein distinguishes three different characteristics that supposedly set his system apart: Its origin was precisely in the late fifteenth century Wallerstein 1988: Certainly Chase-Dunn 1986Abu-Lughod 1989Wilkinson 1987,1989 among others have also found these same features earlier and elsewhere.

Wallerstein 1989 a himself recognizes this and said so in his above cited review at the American Sociological Association meetings. So perhaps we should go into more detail still. The two exceptions of one word each are under 6 the origins.

Of course, I do not expect the reader to accept this statement only on my say so. He must undertake these comparisons himself. Fortunately however, in doing so he will find an excellent guide, no doubt better than me, in Wallerstein himself.

For he now has some doubts about his own position and finds "an uncomfortable blurring of the distinctiveness of the patterns of the European medieval and modern world" 1989b: Indeed, Wallerstein himself is among those who chips away at, and de facto questions, his own "unquestionable" faith in various ways. Many of these [previous] historical systems had what we might call proto-capitalist elements.

That is, there often was extensive commodity production. There existed producers and traders who sought profit. There was investment of capital. There was Weltanschauungen consonant with capitalism. Transition from feudalism to capitalism in europe none had quite crossed the threshold of creating a system whose primary driving force was the incessant accumulation of capital 1989b: It seems unlikely that the answer is an insufficient technological base.

It is unlikely that the answer is an absence of an entrepreneurial spirit. Something was preventing it [capitalism]. For they did have the money and energy at their disposition, and we have seen in the modern world how powerful these weapons can be 1989b: Moreover, Wallerstein also negates the uniqueness of his "modern- world-capitalist-system" in numerous other passages and ways.

Since it would be tedious to dissect all these instances, I will limit myself to citing a representative few. It is of course a matter of degree" 1989 b: So are the relation and relative "political control" and "extra-economic coercion" to the "free" market here and there, then and now 1989 b: After Wallerstein's own recount of proto capitalist "elements" and matters of degree far and wide, long before 1500, it would be even more tedious for me to repeat my own as set out in Frank 1990 and even more in Gills and Frank 1990.

Suffice it to observe here that transition from feudalism to capitalism in europe Wallerstein will readily admit that "hyperbolic growth curves in production, population and accumulation of capital" have been cyclical since 1500; and 2 Wallerstein and others must also recognize that in many times and places rapid and massive growth of production, population and accumulation occurred for much more than "brief" moments long before 1500.

Wallerstein himself helps us observe below that this was true for instance during the period 1050-1250 in Europe. The same only much more so also ocurred at the same time in Sung China. Some centuries earlier, capital accumulation accelerated in Tang China, then in the Islamic Caliphate and previously in Gupta India and Sassanian Iran, among many other instances. However, the economy and polity of the ancient and even the archaic world system were also characterized by the whole lot of Wallerstein's "elements" of proto capitalism capital, money, profit, merchants, wage-labor, entrepreneurship, investment, technology, etc.

Simply recall the examples best known transition from feudalism to capitalism in europe Westerners: Rome, China Great canals and wallsEgypt and Mesopotamia irrigation systems and monuments. What is more important for world system analysislong cyclical ups and subsequent downs in accumulation may be said to have been world systemic if not world system wide.

The important reasons is that they were systemically and systematically related to each other, eg. That is, the historical evidence also meets the more difficult test of the specificity of capitalism posed by Maurice Godelier 1990.

Godelier makes a fourfold classification of characteristics similar to those of Wallerstein. Godelier's position is even further from mine than Wallerstein's. Yet even Godelier remarks that the four characteristics of capitalism he identifies did not begin with capitalism.

However, he argued, that the necessary and sufficient conditions of a new capitalist economic structure are their their "combination in a new relation" and their "mutual connection" with each other manuscript pp 9-10. Yet the historical evieence shows that even the combination and mutual relation of Godelier's four, or Wallerstein's three, six or twelve characteristics did not begin with capitalism in 1500.

Significantly however, Wallerstein and the others, excepting Wilkinson, are only talking about some similarities with other "world" systems. Following them so far, I am only arguing from the old adage that "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck [and demonstrably exhibits 9 other descriptive realities besides, which Wallerstein summarizes for his world- system].

Even Wallerstein might admit this comparison, though the similarities might make him uncomfortable. So what is this invisible and still unspecified "something" that distinguishes the modern world capitalist system? Perhaps it is only the Weltanschauung of capitalism itself by Smith and Marx then, and Wallerstein and Amin now, as well as by most others, which retrospectively sees a qualitative break around 1500 where historically there was none.

  • Certainly Chase-Dunn 1986 , Abu-Lughod 1989 , Wilkinson 1987,1989 among others have also found these same features earlier and elsewhere;
  • A transition is a transition between a transition and a transition, as I already learned In Allende's Chile;
  • While men is involved in the creation and production of his subsistence, the relations of production remain very important because man is not only interacting with the nature to extract and produce material goods out of it but also with other men;
  • That is, the systemic relations extended far beyond Europe;
  • The producer becomes a merchant and capitalist, in contradiction from agricultural natural economy and the guild- encircled handicrafts of medieval town industry;
  • The American Economic Review, Vol.

We will observe below that the essential something in this Weltanschauung they all share turns out to be the supposed identity of the capitalist mode of production and system.

According to Smith and Marx who led me astray in writing my own book two decades ago, the discovery of America and of the passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope were the greatest events in the history of mankind and opened up new ground for the bourgeoisie.

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That is from a European point of view, of course. But from a wider world perspective these two events, as well as others within Europe, were only developments in the unfolding of world history itself. Why were these two new passages to the East and West Indies important, even for Europeans, and why did they want to get there better in the first place, if it was not because of what was going on there -- and what was to be gotten there -- before 1500?

The West gathered up part of this legacy and received from it the leaven which was to make possible its own development. The transmission was favored by the crusades of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the expansion of the Mongol empire in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. There is transition from feudalism to capitalism in europe surprising about this Western backwardness: The upsurge of the West, which was only to emerge from its relative isolation thanks to its maritime expansion, occurred at a time when the two great civilizations of Asia [China and Islam] were threatened.

In other words, the real issue is not just whether there were other world system ducks earlier and elsewhere that had the same one, three, six, or twelve characteristics as Wallerstein's world system duck. Nor is the issue one of transition between one and the other such ducks or systems. The real questions are whether there really was a transition to the birth of this world system around 1500, or whether the real historical development of this same ugly world system duckling reaches further back in time, and whether this system and the motive forces for its "transitions" were based in Europe or elsewhere in the wider world.

I believe that what Jacques Hamel and Mohammed Sfiaa 1990 call a "continuist" perspective is appropriate in answer to these questions. From that perspective, the historical record suggests that this same historical world economic and interstate system is at least five thousand years old.

There was more continuity than discontinuity or even transition of this world capitalist economy as a historical system across the supposed divide of the world around 1500.

More detailed support for this continuity is presented in Frank 1990 and Gills and Frank 1990.