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You say that but to call China feudal is to beg the question. In fact, the nature of Chinese pre-capitalist society was highly controversial within the Moscow-directed “Communist “ parties in the 1920s and 1930s.
Some China specialists inside and outside Russia took up Marx’s suggestion that besides ancient slave society, feudalism and capitalism there was a fourth type of class society that he called the Asiatic mode of production. In this communistic village communities continued to exist but society was ruled by a bureaucracy, headed by an absolutist ruler, whose economic role was to organise and maintain irrigation systems on which the agriculture practised in the village communities depended and which were taxed to pay for this (and the maintenance of the bureaucracy).
This meant that society was ruled by a collective ruling class based on the state ownership of key means of production (the irrigation works). Some of Stalin’s ideologists realised that this could be applied to Russia — and in fact it was, as by the dissident Boris Souvarine in his book Stalin in which he argued that Russia was a modern society of this type where a ruling class owned the main means of production collectively with a despot at their head — and from then on further investigation of this concept was banned and it was decreed that all pre-capitalist societies throughout the world were “feudalism”.
I was thinking more of the Spanish Empire in Europe. Loot from its overseas empire might have made the dynastic state less dependent on taxing merchants in Europe and so less need to make concessions to them. I don’t know. Just putting forward an idea to investigate.
ps I am not saying that China at the time was feudalism. One theory is that it was a development of Marx’s Asiatic Mode of production, sometimes also called Oriental Despotism.
I was thinking of China and the Ottoman Empire in the 1600s but the case of China raises the question of why capitalism developed in the west of Europe but not in China when in the 1600s both these parts of the world were at the same stage of economic and technological development. The question is addressed in this article (don’t worry, it is not all in Portuguese):
The article suggests that it was due to the state there being so strong that it didn’t need to depend on taxing merchants to survive and so did not have to make concessions to them,
If this is a correct analysis, it suggests that, if Spain had prevented the establishment of the Dutch Republic and if the Spanish Armada had conquered England, then capitalism might not have taken off in Europe either, as the Spanish empire would have been too strong.
I am not saying it is correct but it seems at least plausible — and perhaps a reason for saying that Habsburg Spain was not a capitalist state.
Yes I would think that the resistance to Napoleon would be the beginning of Spanish nationalism but that’s outside the period we are talking about. The question is was there such a feeling or a ruling class attempt to inculcate such a feeling amongst the subjects of the Habsburg empire living in the Iberian Peninsula in the 17th century.
I don’t think the example of the Japanese Empire is a valid analogy as you could say the same about the British Empire. In any event, nationalism, as the belief that the people of a particular geographical area share a common interest and destiny, had become a common bourgeois ideology in the 19th century.
And going back to the 1600s, were the Ottoman and Chinese dynastic empires, which also participated in world trade, also thereby capitalist nation-states?
That’s a coincidence as I was about to come back on this. Habsburg Spain did take part in the world market as a “world power”, in fact as the strongest. According to Immanuel Wallerstein, that was its undoing as it relied on plunder from its empire rather than trade to increase the wealth of its ruling class and so failed to adapt its internal economy to run on capitalist lines (production for sake on an anonymous market with a view to profit).
Participating in the capitalist world market did not thereby make a state a capitalist state. So I think it is wrong to describe Habsburg Spain as this, and even more wrong to say it was a “nation state”, let alone the first one.
The growing feeling of the people of England constituting a “nation” with a national interest and destiny that you draw attention to as beginning to happen in Elizabethan England supports the contention that England or the Dutch Republic are the best candidate for being labelled the first nation-state.
The subjects of the Spanish Empire did not regard themselves as a nation and there was no attempt to try to inculcate in them that they were.
As to when Spain went through its bourgeois revolution in the sense of political power passing into the hands of the bourgeoisie, I don’t know. Marcos is our expert on things Spanish. But there were quite a few attempts to establish a Spanish Republic in the 19th and early 20th centuries, some successful for a while.
Some of the current nobility are descended from the illegitimate children of Charles II. He had at least 14 so perhaps he was more of a sultan than feudal ruler. Princess Airhead was apparently descended from him, which means that her son, Prince William, will be one of them too. When/if he becomes king the Royalists can have the last laugh as a descendant of Charles II ascends the throne —even if only as a powerless figurehead, though still a big landowner and the head of decayed aristocracy.
“So it turns out this refers to 1688, yet you introduce it in the context of our discussion on the civil war, and then say it’s about 1688 after you notice it supports my argument and not yours.”
I was merely drawing attention to the fact that the “English Revolution” in the title of Marx’s article was that 1688 not the victory of Parliament over the king forty or so years before. In fact, at the time and up until Christopher Hill that’s what everybody meant by the term.
Obviously, though, you can’t discuss 1688 without discussing what happened in those preceding years as 1688 was the culmination of the struggle between parliament and king ending in the complete victory of parliament (which appoints William of Orange king by an Act of Parliament). Both Guizot, whose pamphlet Marx is reviewing, and Marx do this. Here’s what Marx wrote about Guizot’s interpretation:
“According to him, the whole struggle between Charles I and Parliament was merely over purely political privileges. Not a word is said about why the Parliament, and the class represented in it, needed these privileges. Nor does Guizot talk about Charles I’s interference with free competition, which made England’s commerce and industry increasingly impossible; nor about the dependence on Parliament into which Charles I, in his continuous need for money, fell the more deeply the more he tried to defy it. “
The passage which you took (correctly) as backing the view that the landowners created under Henry VIII were not feudal (“In fact, their lands were not feudal but bourgeois property“) was preceded by a passage that makes it clear that Marx was talking not just about 1688 but about Tudor times too:
“The English class of great landowners, allied with the bourgeoisie — which, incidentally, had already developed under Henry VIII — did not find itself in opposition — as did the French feudal landowners in 1789 — but rather in complete harmony with the vital requirements of the bourgeoisie. “
The grammar of the English translation makes it ambiguous as to which — the class of great landowners or the bourgeoisie — had already developed under Henry VIII. A check with the original German makes it clear that Marx is referring to the landed class. A literal translation would be : “the English class of allied-with-the-bourgeoisie great landowners — which incidentally, etc”. A comma in the English translation after “bourgeoisie” would have made this clear.
So, there is no difference between us on this point. The difference is that you see this landowning class as part of the bourgeoisie while I see it as a separate class (as does Marx, not that that settles anything beyond that that was Marx’s view).
In section 3 of Volume I of Capital, Marx says that a commodity has two forms: “a physical or natural form, and a value form” and goes on:
”The value of commodities is the very opposite of the coarse materiality of their substance, not an atom of matter enters into its composition. Turn and examine a single commodity, by itself, as we will, yet in so far as it remains an object of value, it seems impossible to grasp it. If, however, we bear in mind that the value of commodities has a purely social reality and that they acquire this reality only in so far as they are expressions or embodiments of one identical social substance, viz., human labour, it follows as a matter of course, that value can only manifest itself in the social relation of commodity to commodity”
So. Marx does indeed say that value has a “purely social reality” in that it is an expression of a non-physical social relation. But this not mean that its magnitude is purely arbitrary and can be changed by a vote or some other act of collective will. It depends, as he says, on the amount of socially necessary labour that has been embodied in it.
Marxian economics certainly does not hold that the value of a commodity depends on what people collectively decide it is (though there is a school of capitalist economic theory that does hold that view).
And it certainly does mean that the other form of a commodity — its “physical or natural form” — also has a “purely social reality” and so even less that the “matter” (Marx’s term) which forms its substance can be decided or changed by a vote.
“You have been making out that the landowners were feudals”
“According to you, the “feudal” landlords should have all been on the king’s side.“
I don’t know who this is addressed to but it can’t be me as I have never said that. In fact I have argued here the exact opposite— that the landlords created by the dissolution of the monasteries were not feudal barons.
My argument has been that they were a landowning class who lived off the ground rent paid by their tenants who were producing for the market for profit (as noted by Adam Smith in the 18th century). In other words, that they were not bourgeois in the sense of a capitalist living off profits. Even so, they were just as opposed to an absolutist state as the bourgeois and made common cause with them against it.
In fact they benefitted as much from 1688 as the bourgeoisie, especially as they got to fill the top posts in the government for the next two hundred years.
More broadly, I have agreed with you that capitalism existed before the bourgeoisie won political control. Of course it did, otherwise they would have had no economic basis and in fact would not have existed. I can even agree with you that capitalism developed after feudalism under the absolutist state. However, that state had to be overthrown because in the end it became a barrier to the further development of capitalism. Hence the English Civil War and English Revolution considered in 1688.
You seem, TM, to want to have it both ways. On the one hand, you point out (correctly) that the landowning class created by Henry VIII were not feudal barons but ordinary “bourgeois” property owners (in the sense that their property rights were no different from owners of other property than land). On the other hand, you point to them (despite being painted by Van Dyck) as supporters of Parliament as evidence that the overthrow of the king was not a bourgeois revolution.
Marx was writing about the Glorious Revolution of 1688 but the course of events since the 1640s was the same as that of other political revolutions. The revolutionists win political power and the moderates are satisfied; another section wants to go further and does but are themselves overthrown, and the result is that the moderates get their way. As Marx pointed out, the landowning class had no more interest in there being an absolutist state than had the bourgeoisie and so supported a political revolution to overthrow it. Later, a conflict of interest developed between them and the factory owning capitalist class but that’s another history.
Bear in mind that the difference in time between the execution of the king in 1649 and 1688 is the same as the difference between 1981 and today with the English Republic being overthrow in 1992.
In 1850 Marx himself wrote an article on “England’s 17th century Revolution” in which the following passage occurs;
“For M. Guizot, the great mystery is the conservative nature of the English Revolution, which he can ascribe only to the superior intelligence of the English, whereas in fact it can be found in the enduring alliance between the bourgeoisie and a great part of the landowners, an alliance that constitutes the major difference between it and the French Revolution, which destroyed the great landholdings with its parcelization policy. The English class of great landowners, allied with the bourgeoisie — which, incidentally, had already developed under Henry VIII — did not find itself in opposition — as did the French feudal landowners in 1789 — but rather in complete harmony with the vital requirements of the bourgeoisie. In fact, their lands were not feudal but bourgeois property. On the one hand, there were able to provide the industrial bourgeoisie with the manpower necessary for manufacturing, and on the other they were able to develop agriculture to the standards consonant with industry and commerce. Thus their common interests with the bourgeoisie, thus their alliance with it.”
I am afraid that you have misunderstood what we said about you. It was this:
“The modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.
Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune: here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie (…)
We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.”
We are of course grateful to you for allowing capitalism and the capitalist class to develop within you, not that you could do anything about it.
Yours for the Socialist Revolution
Dr. K. Marx. F. Engels. 1848.
Who said that Habsburg Spain was a “feudal conglomeration”. It wasn’t me. I just said that it wasn’t a “nation-state”. Or do you think that pre-1917 Russia was a “feudal conglomeration”?
And how can there be a “nation”-state without the concept of a “nation” as a group with a common interest and destiny (even if this is only an ideology of a ruling class to gain consent its rule)?
Ok, the leaders of the Dutch and English Revolutions and their followers didn’t call themselves as “citizens”. That would be an anachronism (that’s why I put it in inverted commas). But they did, I think, regard themselves as something equivalent under a different name (against the Norman Yoke, etc).
Anyway, to talk of a “bourgeoisie” in England in the 17th century (or any century actually, as that’s never what the capitalist class in England and their predecessors called themselves) is also an anachronism as that too is taken from later French experience.
Ok, LBN, I can see what he’s done. He’s taken a concept originally intended to be about the social sciences, added plebiscitary democracy and extended it to the physical sciences — and ended up in a complete theoretical mess, inadvertently disproving his theory on the principle of reductio ad absurdum ie shoots himself in the foot.
What is annoying is that he drags in Marx who never dabbled in such ideas and attributes them to him.
I would have thought that in the period we are talking about Spain was a dynastic Empire (like Tsarist Russia later) rather than a capitalist nation-state (like post-Revolution France with “citizens” identifying themselves as a “nation”). Actually, the Dutch Republic or England would seem to qualify better as “the first capitalist nation-state”. Spain was a state that participated in the capitalist world-market but not as a “nation-state”.
“Habsburg Spain refers to Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries (1516–1700), when it was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg (also associated with its role in the history of Central and Eastern Europe). The Habsburg rulers (chiefly Charles I and Philip II) reached the zenith of their influence and power. They controlled territory that included the Americas, the East Indies, the Low Countries, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, and territories now in France and Germany in Europe, the Portuguese Empire from 1580 to 1640, and various other territories such as small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. ” (Wikipedia)
The people living in these territories may well have regarded themselves as subjects of the King of Spain but hardly as members of a Spanish “nation”. In fact, I wonder to what extent those living in the Iberian peninsula would have done.