The Tudor revolution
May 2023 › Forums › General discussion › The Tudor revolution
Tagged: tudor threshold rev
- This topic has 313 replies, 14 voices, and was last updated 1 year, 6 months ago by LBird.
October 8, 2020 at 10:26 am #207949DJPParticipant
“every Marxist I’ve ever read or met uses the term bourgeois and capitalist interchangeably.”
Well that only says something about what you’ve read. When talking about the modern era perhaps the distinction isn’t so pressing. But in the works on the origins of capitalism, the distinction is useful since it helps us in explaining why capitalism proper first appeared in rural England and not somewhere else with a fully developed bourgeois merchant class, such as Holland.
Also when we are talking about the origins of capitalism we are going to be talking about more than two classes, it’s only with fully developed capitalism that the landowning and the former middle class get absorbed into each other.October 8, 2020 at 10:52 am #207957AnonymousInactive
Maybe i’m a papist plant. :bOctober 8, 2020 at 12:42 pm #207958
‘capitalism proper first appeared in rural England’
DJP – my understanding is that much of the land sold by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries was bought by members of the bourgeois merchant class who turned the farms into capitalist enterprises. So they were already ‘bourgeois’ and did not represent a different type of capitalism. Is this incorrect?October 8, 2020 at 12:57 pm #207960DJPParticipant
Wez. If you’re interested read the article in the Standard that I wrote, ALB shared the link earlier in the thread or read Ellen Meiksins Woods book, it’s a very good read.
I don’t really know what you mean about representing “a different type of capitalism”. The interesting group of capitalists to look at in that period are the tenant farmers, they were the ones purchasing labour-power. It was the nature of the rents that compelled them to operate in a way that is the same as capitalism operates today.
October 8, 2020 at 1:02 pm #207962AnonymousInactive
- This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by DJP.
Wez: my understanding is that much of the land sold by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries was bought by members of the bourgeois merchant class who turned the farms into capitalist enterprises. So they were already ‘bourgeois’ and did not represent a different type of capitalism. Is this incorrect?
So you admit the landowners were bourgeois after all?October 8, 2020 at 1:20 pm #207964ALBKeymaster
“Maybe i’m a papist plant”
Would that be a shamrock?October 8, 2020 at 1:22 pm #207965ALBKeymaster
DJP wrote: “Also when we are talking about the origins of capitalism we are going to be talking about more than two classes, it’s only with fully developed capitalism that the landowning and the former middle class get absorbed into each other“
That was a point I have been trying to make but neither side will have it. The one wants to say that the landlords of the tine were feudal and the other that they were “bourgeois”.
Marx of course worked with a three-class analysis, as far as Britain was concerned, in both his economic and political writings. Working class exploited for surplus value by the capitalist class who were forced by the landowners to share some of this with them as ground-rent.October 8, 2020 at 4:29 pm #207978Young Master SmeetParticipant
Maybe it helps to look at the modern world.
The Gulf monarchies: now, these are very much embedded in a world capitalist system, and they are very much defined by their take of absolute rent (and I think the difference between absolute and differential is useful on this debate, btw) they extract from capitalist enterprises. Now, they get their income partly through that rent, and partly through their ability to get nominated to important jobs.
The personal relations, most significantly to the monarch, predominate. Where, for us, hiring your idiot nephew is considered an outrage and immoral, in feudal situations it is immoral to prefer someone competent to your idiot nephew (or, more specifically, the idiot nephew of your patron).
Even where a gulf aristocrat runs a capitalist business, they do so because and through that network of personal relations.October 8, 2020 at 5:32 pm #207979
As I’ve made clear on innumerable occasions I, along with C. Hill, believe that the merchant class bought up a lot of land to convert it into a capitalist enterprise – this was much resented by the conservative landowners. Some of them converted their own land into capitalist farms but those who did not still relied on feudal tenure and joined the king’s cause. DJP seems to think that there’s something different about ‘rural’ capitalists whereas I thought, as merchants, financiers, pirates and slavers they were the same old bourgeoisie. I don’t know where ALB gets the idea that I want all landlords of the time to be feudal – just ridiculous. As far as I understand it the proto working class were merely cannon-fodder.October 9, 2020 at 2:01 am #208001AnonymousInactive
“Are you sure you’re not a CIA plant?”
Has it really got that bad?
I have seen several infiltrated insides of several organizations and several have been very versed on socialism and communism. I am always in alert, I don’t throw the towel. In this epoch, the right-wingers are gaining too much power again and I am very carefulOctober 9, 2020 at 7:27 am #208013LBirdParticipant
Wez wrote: “As I’ve made clear on innumerable occasions I, along with C. Hill, believe that the merchant class bought up a lot of land to convert it into a capitalist enterprise – this was much resented by the conservative landowners. Some of them converted their own land into capitalist farms but those who did not still relied on feudal tenure and joined the king’s cause. DJP seems to think that there’s something different about ‘rural’ capitalists whereas I thought, as merchants, financiers, pirates and slavers they were the same old bourgeoisie.”
As I and others have recommended, Wez, you should read E. M. Wood’s book.
It seems to me that you regard ‘merchants’ as the source of ‘capitalist’ relations, and so their buying of land produced those social relations in the English countryside.
On the contrary, Wood (and Brenner originally) argue that ‘capitalist’ social relations emerged in the English countryside, amongst very large landowners and tenant farmers (because of very specific, long term, political and socio-historical reasons, dating back to the pre-Norman period, and developed by the Normans, and exacerbated by the Black Death). That is, the ‘commercial bourgeoisie’ were not the source of ‘capitalism’.October 9, 2020 at 8:42 am #208022robbo203Participant
On the contrary, Wood (and Brenner originally) argue that ‘capitalist’ social relations emerged in the English countryside, amongst very large landowners and tenant farmers (because of very specific, long term, political and socio-historical reasons, dating back to the pre-Norman period, and developed by the Normans, and exacerbated by the Black Death). That is, the ‘commercial bourgeoisie’ were not the source of ‘capitalism’.
Yes I for one would go along with this. Ellen Meiksins Wood & Brenner’s “agrarian-origins-of -capitalism” seems to me to be the most plausible explanation for the rise of capitalism
The big question, however is why did this process first make itself felt in England? Alan MacFarlane provides us with some useful clues by flagging up those basic preconditions that would need to be met in order to effect a transition from feudalism to capitalism.
Firstly , citing Maine’s view that Feudalism “mixed up or confounded property and sovereignty“, he notes that in classical feudalism “Political power and economic power were both delegated down the same chain” and were embodied in the person of the feudal lord vis-a-vis his subjects. However, for capitalism to emerge, a first precondition that needs to be met is that the economy needed to be granted significant autonomy from the political sphere. As MacFarlane puts it: “It must be set free. If economic relations are merely a sub-aspect of devolved power, capitalism cannot emerge” (Alan Macfarlane, <u>Europe and the Rise of Capitalism</u>).
A second precondition for capitalism to emerge is that the political system has to be reasonably integrated and centralised – though this may well offend the sensibilities of market libertarians who dogmatically insist on counter-posing markets to states. The modern centralised state, contends MacFarlane “is a necessary concomitant to capitalism” (op cit) in the sense that it was only through the actions of such a state that the necessary structural changes could be pushed through to bring about, or expedite, the emergence of capitalism.
As many commentators have noted, England was significantly more centralised and uniformly administered than any of its continental counterparts at this time – a legacy, no doubt, of the Norman Conquest. Thus, Marc Bloch notes: ‘England was a truly unified state much earlier than any continental kingdom’ (Bloch, M. 1965: <u>Feudal Society</u>, 2nd edn). By contrast, France, for instance, around this same time, was still comparatively variegated and regionalised in its form of administration.
According to Brenner, it is this significant difference in ruling class organisation between England and the rest of Europe that proved decisive and allows us to see why capitalism first took root in the former. It was precisely because there was a relatively centralised state in England, to begin with, that the English Lords, paradoxically were able to “take their surplus individually, in a decentralised manner, from the peasantry in a highly effective way, where, by contrast, in both western and eastern Europe, lords, politically organised on only a local basis, remained weak and vulnerable” (<u>http://www.marxists.org/archive/harman/2006/xx/wbrenner.htm</u>). Meaning the English Lords enjoyed the support of the central state in taking the course of action they took.
This helps to explain the differential outcome of the “Feudal crisis” of the 14th century following the Black Death which decimated the labour force throughout Europe:
The response in most of western Europe was to strengthen embryonic absolutist states, which integrated an ever greater part of the ruling class into highly organised systems of centralised taxation and officeholding. The response in eastern Europe, over a long period, was to reorganise what had been exceedingly loosely organised feudal classes into provincial and national estates. These provided the intra-lordly cohesion to make it possible for eastern European lords to impose a new tighter serfdom on their peasants. So in both western and eastern Europe, due to earlier developments in each region, the lordly response to feudal crisis was to restructure so as restrengthen surplus extraction by extra economic means, in England lords did not have that option. They could, however, secure their positions if they could take over the land of their now free tenants – and this is what they did. (Brenner, op cit).
To put it differently, the English lords were driven by circumstances to respond to the feudal crisis in a manner quite different to their continental counterparts (and were enabled to do so by their relationship with the central state) by taking the initiative in introducing new kinds of enforceable contractual relationships with the peasants which were more purely economic in form. In this they had the support of the central state that stood to benefit from such move.
The agrarian-origins-of-capitalism school has often been contrasted with the trade-based or “commercialisation” school represented by the likes of Paul Sweezy, James Blaut and others who focus on such things as the huge profits derived from slave trade some of which went to finance early industrial development and also conspicuous consumption in the form of stately homes etc. I dont think this latter school of thought provides a sufficiently convincing explanation as to how capitalism got off the ground but I wouldn’t dismiss altogether what it has to say on the matter.October 9, 2020 at 9:02 am #208026LBirdParticipant
robbo203 wrote: “Yes I for one would go along with this. Ellen Meiksins Wood & Brenner’s “agrarian-origins-of -capitalism” seems to me to be the most plausible explanation for the rise of capitalism”
I know that this will come as an unwelcome post, robbo, but here goes!
Brenner and Wood are proponents of what I’ve called ‘idealism-materialism’.
That’s why the ‘materialist’ SWP has argued so vehemently against their ‘Political Marxism’. This is opposed to a ‘materialist’ viewpoint of ‘Economic Marxism’.
The difference is simple: for ‘Political Marxism’, consciousness carries as much weight as ‘reality’. That is, political, social, historical and ideological factors play as much of a part in explanations as ‘current reality’. Again, there is no determinism, that ‘Feudalism’ must lead to ‘Capitalism’. For Brenner and Wood, it’s entirely historically possible that capitalism wouldn’t have emerged in the English countryside, or at all.
The reason for the ‘materialist’ SWP’s opposition, of course, is political.
If the ‘materialists’ can’t claim to ‘know truth’ (and so discern the course of the past, present and future), then their elite party has no purchase over the working class.
You’re fishing in very complex philosophical waters, by accepting Brenner and Wood’s version of Marx.October 9, 2020 at 10:51 am #208030
Fascinating stuff Robbo. However the writers of ‘How the West Came to Rule’ take a different view:
Meanwhile, the failed attempts at absolutist state-building during the Tudor
period (particularly between 1529 and 1547), and Elizabeth’s abandonment
of all ambitions to develop a continental-style monarchy, had left the English
monarchy painfully dependent on Parliament for raising the revenues required
for waging war.
In terms of military and fiscal effectiveness, the Stuart state
was backward in comparison with its continental competitors.
Is the ‘absolutist state’ mentioned above the same thing as the ‘centralised state’ that your above quotes believe is the prerequisite for capitalist development? Such debates are what give this period its continuing allure for historians. I take it then Robbo that your objection to the description of events in England in 1642/45 as a ‘bourgeois revolution’ is the term bourgeois which you would substitute with capitalist or agrarian capitalist? Unlike TM you do regard it as a political revolution and not just a squabble between capitalists?October 9, 2020 at 11:13 am #208033AnonymousInactive
It was a political revolution but was part of the capitalist revolution which had been taking place for two centuries.
It was a quarrel between capitalists and a political revolution against absolutism, not feudalism.
I fail to see how the Tudors were a failure.
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