Article Information

HISTORIZATION OF CAPITALISM BY POLITICAL MARXISTS

Dmitry Karasev (dk89@mail.ru)

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia

Citation: Karasev D.Y. (2018) Istorizatsiya kapitalizma politicheskim marksizmom [Historization of capitalism by political Marxists]. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 21(5): 122–140 (in Russian). https://doi.org/10.31119/jssa.2018.21.5.7

Abstract. Ahistorical approach to capitalism leaves modern sociologists no chance to address the question about its future. Commercialization thesis borrowed from the economy is one of the sources of such approach. Following this thesis one can find evidences in favour of existence of would-be “proto-capitalism” even in ancient world (commodity exchange, market, money and even wage labour in some cases). Eventually, it leads to downplay the specific, novelty and emergent nature of the capitalism came into been in the early modern Europe. Thus, the discussion of the future of capitalism appears to forget virtually all historical determinants of emergence and existence of capitalism. It equals the conclusion that even if all necessary historical conditions of capitalism come to pass, it would still exist forever either in form of “informationalism”, “postcapitalism”, “imperialism”, “globalism” or whatever else “-isms”. One of the solution to the problem is historization of capitalism or the return to debates on the transition from feudalism to capitalism generally forgotten by sociology despite the fact that the debates was not over. The first stages of the transitional debates of 1950–1960-s between such scholars as Dobb, Sweezy, Takahashi, Hilton, Hill, Trevor-Roper, Lefebvre, etc. were analyzed in Soviet historiography. However, it is not true for the following stages of the debates marked with the strong impact of political Marxists — first Brenner and then Meiksins Wood. Their contribution to the discussion can be summed up in following theses. Firstly, the emergence of capitalism in 17th century England was an exception rather than natural evolutionary principle shared by all Europe. Secondly, once established, capitalism could not independently emerged somewhere else in the second time, but only diffused from the country where it had initially appeared. Thirdly, the certain results of agrarian classes' conflict were preconditions of the social-property system that restricted opportunities for surplus extraction through extra-economic means. Fourthly, industrial capitalism was preceded by agrarian capitalism; fifthly, necessary precondition of transition to capitalism was national market as imperative rather than as opportunity. Thus, capitalism became a unique system driven to improve the labour productivity by technical means.

Keywords: historical sociology, capitalism, feudalism, transitional debates, political Marxism, Robert Brenner, Ellen Meiksins Wood. 

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