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In Search of Wealth. Eric Wolf: ”Europe and the People Without History” ( chapters 1-6). Cultures/societies/nations/peoples are not billiard balls. What are the processes that unite and transform the different parts of the world?

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in search of wealth

In Search of Wealth

Eric Wolf:

”Europe and the People Without History” (chapters 1-6)

cultures societies nations peoples are not billiard balls
Cultures/societies/nations/peoples are not billiard balls
  • What are the processes that unite and transform the different parts of the world?
  • Though fragmented, all social sciences have their roots in Political Economy (the relation between wealth, production, class, the State)
  • Marxian social science tries to maintain an integrated perspective:
  • ”Production” includes (1) human-environmental relations, (2) social relations, and (3) human consciousness
we need a theory of growth and under development
Weneed a theory of growth and (under)development
  • André Gunder Frank: Dependency theory (metropole-satellite relations)
  • Immanuel Wallerstein: World-system analysis (core-periphery relations)
  • Growth and development as accumulation
  • Accumulation by one social group occurs at the expense of other social groups
the world in 1400
The world in 1400
  • The Old World (Afroeurasia) comprised a web of agricultural societies united by long-distance trade in prestige goods (preciosities)
  • Trade routes were dominated by pastoral nomads such as Berbers, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols, who also gained political control over wide areas (such as the Ottoman Empire)
what is a mode of production
What is a ”mode of production”?
  • A specific set of social relations through which labor is used to extract energy from nature by means of particular tools, skills, organization, and knowledge
  • There are three main kinds:
  • The Kin-Ordered Mode (based on kinship)
  • The Tributary Mode (based on servitude)
  • The Capitalist Mode (based on wage labor)
1 kin ordered mode
1. Kin-Ordered Mode
  • Access to other people’s labor is defined by kinship and marriage
  • Access to resources (such as land) is defined by membership in kin group
  • Surplus production can be invested in labor, for instance through brideprice
2 tributary mode
2. Tributary Mode
  • Surplus is extracted from laborers through ”other than economic pressure”, such as threat of violence (e.g., slavery), control over irrigation systems, or supernatural legitimacy (theocracy)
  • Variation in terms of how centralized power is, from feudal lords in Europe to ”Asiatic mode of production” with central control of irrigation
3 capitalist mode
3. Capitalist Mode
  • Producers are separated from means of production (for instance land) and thus forced to sell their labor for money
  • Products are sold on the market at higher prices than the wages paid to producers
  • This surplus or profit can be increased by keeping wages low or increasing productivity
  • Symbiotically linked to other modes
the expansion of europe
The expansion of Europe
  • 1000-1300: Commercial and military expansion (alliance States/merchants to secure imports of prestige goods)
  • 14th century: Crisis of feudalism (limits of agricultural growth, epidemics, rebellions)
  • 15th century solution: External expansion (new agricultural land, gold and silver to pay for imports from Asia) through investments in armies and State power
the industrial revolution
The Industrial Revolution
  • 17th century: Economic crisis due to lack of investment opportunities
  • 18th century: England shifted from exporting wool to manufacturing textiles for export
  • Much of the capital invested in the English textile industry had been accumulated through international trade and conquest (e.g., spices, bullion, furs, and slaves)
iberians in america
Iberians in America
  • 1503-1660: 185 tons of gold and more than 3.000 tons of silver were shipped to Sevilla, Spain, from the New World
  • Europe’s supplies of gold thus increased by 20% and its supplies of silver by 300%
  • 1570-1780: almost 5.000 tons of silver were shipped across the Pacific from the New World to Manila in the Philippines
the fur trade in north america
The fur trade in North America
  • Why did the Indians hunt all those animals and trade all those furs in exchange for European commodities of lower market value (e.g., glass beads, blankets, alcohol)?
  • European commodities served as prestige goods within indigenous societies on other continents