The formation of the modern state, the rise of capitalism, the Renaissance and Reformation, the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment have all been attributed to the “early modern” period. Nearly everything about its history remains controversial, but one thing is certain: it left a rich and provocative legacy of political ideas unmatched in Western history. The concepts of liberty, equality, property, human rights and revolution born in those turbulent centuries continue to shape, and to limit, political discourse today. (...) Assessing the work and background of figures such as Machiavelli, Luther, Calvin, Spinoza, the Levellers, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, Ellen Wood vividly explores the ideas of the canonical thinkers, not as philosophical abstractions but as passionately engaged responses to the social conflicts of their day. (shrink)
Ellen Wood replies here to the symposium on her book, Empire of Capital, by laying out her views on the specificity of capitalism and capitalist imperialism, the relation between global capital and territorial states, the problematic concepts of 'globalisation' and 'financialisation', and how our understanding of capitalism affects our conceptions of oppositional struggle.
A Hard-Hitting Critique... Brings Together Fine Essays That Speak Directly To The Underlying Assumptions Of Postmodernism And Offer A Stunning Critique Of Its Usefulness In Both Understanding And Critiquing The Current Historical Epoch. Contemporary Sociology.
One fundamental assumption seems to underlie – explicitly or implicitly – every critique of Brenner I have seen: that there can be no such thing as a Marxist theory of competition, the ‘horizontal’ relation among many capitals, that does not presuppose the ‘vertical’ class relation between capital and living labour. To start with the relation between capital and living labour is the only way to establish one's Marxist credentials. In support of that assumption, more than one critic has invoked Marx's (...) comment that competition does not produce or explain capitalist laws of motion but merely executes them, as their visible manifestation in the external movements of individual capitals. Predictably, too, some critics have gleefully turned against Brenner the charge he has famously levelled against other Marxists: that his focus on competition and the market makes him a ‘neo-Smithian’. (shrink)
Since historians first began explaining the emergence of capitalism, there has scarcely existed an explanation that did not begin by assuming the very thing that needed to be explained. Almost without exception, accounts of the origin of capitalism have been fundamentally circular: they have assumed the prior existence of capitalism in order to explain its coming into being. My intention here is to sketch a kind of potted history of these question — begging explanations and to consider their implications. I (...) shall start with what has been called the ‘commercialisation model’, which has its origins in classical political economy and Enlightenment conceptions of progress. This model is arguably still the dominant one, even among its harshest critics, including both the demographic explanations that claim to have displaced the commercialisation model, and also most Marxist accounts, from the transition debate which started in the ‘50s until today. But there does now exist an important alternative account, and I shall end by considering that too. (shrink)
Western conceptions of modernity — and, by extension, ‘postmodernity’ — typically conflate various historical processes, such as the development of capitalism and the rise of Enlightenment rationalism. Those conflations are also reflected in the identification of ‘bourgeois’ and ‘capitalist’. However, the cultural and intellectual forms of the French Enlightenment are distinct from the ideologies of capitalism. The Enlightenment belongs to a social, political and economic formation quite different from capitalist society. These differences affected conceptions of progress, science and the role (...) of intellectuals. (shrink)
E. M. Wood, one of the main figures of political Marxism, is interviewed by Frédérick-Guillaume Dufour and Jonathan Martineau and discusses the different directions of her work. The main questions she is asked concern : her relationship to Marx ; her specific approach to history and how it differs from other Marx-inspired types of analysis ; the situation of contemporary capitalism ; the dead ends of intellectual debates in recent years and the challenges of the current political situation.