Pseudoerasmus: The Empire of Cotton: A Reductionist Summary


In other words, the Beckert recipe is:

  • start with Marx and “primitive accumulation“, both domestic and international. Marx had gleefully welcomed the imperialists’ destruction of the “semi-barbarian, semi-civilized communities [of Bengal], by blowing up their economical basis, and thus produced the greatest, and to speak the truth, the only social revolution ever heard of in Asia”. This was, after all, an inevitable part of the transition to capitalism and then ultimately to socialism. But Marx was a bit too cheerful about the prospects of capitalism and industrialisation in the Rest…
  • so temper that cold-but-optimistic vision with Karl Polanyi‘s more rueful reflexions on the destructive creation of the “market society” in Europe.
  • add a lot of Eric Williams, especially as mediated by Joseph Inikori, to bring in the “Atlantic perspective” of African slaves’ contribution to Western development;
  • mix a dollop of Friedrich List’s infant industry protectionism, as interpreted by Ha Joon Chang;
  • and get the concoction shaken, not stirred, by world-systems-theorists like Immanuel Wallerstein and neo-Marxist dependency theorists like André Gunder Frank.

One might modify Ecclesiastes and observe, “There is never anything new under the sun”.

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