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Presentation on theme: "M ODERNITY AND G LOBALISATION Gurminder K. Bhambra."— Presentation transcript:



3 O VERVIEW Sociological theories of industrial capitalism were based on an account of society in which the logic of industrialism was internal to the societies changing Commercial society, however, was based on interchange and interconnection with others We reassess the accounts of industrialization by taking these interconnections into account trades of dispossession slavery de-industrialization and colonialism

4 S LAVERY IN C OMMERCIAL S OCIETY By the middle of the 18 th century a substantial proportion of the European bourgeoisie (e.g. about 20% in France) generated and accumulated their wealth on the basis of activities connected to the slave trade and other trades of ‘dispossession’ Despite the economic significance of these trades, few thinkers regarded slavery as generative of commercial society or integral to its functioning and thus in need of integration into the explanations of commercial society

5 S LAVERY AND C OMMERCIAL S OCIETY Not only did contemporary thinkers not condemn slavery, but some also regarded it as positive Adam Smith (1863 [1776]: 610), for example, writes: ‘as there are no grounds for thinking that really free blacks will ever, of their own accord, undertake the drudgery of sugar planting, it would seem that compulsory or slave labour is not merely the cheapest that can be so employed, but that it is all but indispensable to the prosecution of the business’

6 G ENERATION OF W EALTH As well as the internal dynamics of wealth creation, commercial societies benefited from: the exploitation of resources in other countries the institution of slave labour the trades of ‘dispossession’ The latter was the process by which Europeans gradually took over the trades of the peoples with which they came into contact e.g. the dispossession of the fur trade from the Algonkins

7 S LAVE C OLONIES Slave colonies contributed to substantial increases in national wealth in 3 ways: the profits internal to the trade the expansion of external markets the supply of cheaper foodstuffs, primarily, sugar and coffee Saint Domingue, a French colony til the end of the 18 th century, produced about 40% of the world’s sugar and over half its coffee It was also the largest foreign market for the export of French goods

8 T HE T RIANGULAR T RADE Slave ships sailed from the home country with a cargo of manufactured goods these were exchanged at a profit on the coast of Africa for Africans who were traded on the plantations in exchange for a cargo of colonial produce to be taken to the home country (Eric Williams 1944: 51-2)


10 S LAVERY D EBATE In many accounts of the emergence of capitalism the fundamental factor is the transformation of social relations internal to societies The ‘triangular trade’, however, provided an important stream of capital accumulation which contributed significantly to the financing of the Industrial Revolution This is not to suggest that slavery ‘caused’ the Industrial Revolution or was the only factor in its emergence or that without slavery the Industrial Revolution would not have occurred It is to point to the importance of understanding colonial slavery as integral to the ensuing development of industrializing processes

11 I NDIAN I NDUSTRY Before World War I India had ‘one of the world’s five largest cotton textile industries, one of the two largest jute industries, the third largest railway network, and a substantial coal mining industry’, however, Morris still argues that India ‘was a society which had none of the basic preconditions of an industrial revolution’ (1963: 614-6) He suggests that the advances in India were all a consequence of the interventions and efforts of the British Raj, but the failure to industrialize fully had nothing to do with colonial policies This, instead, was attributed to the general international economic context, population increase, and the unpredictability of the weather

12 D E -I NDUSTRIALIZATION While there is an on-going debate about the extent to which Europe contributed to the ‘de-industrialization’ of other areas, the debate rarely addresses its impact on the success of industrialization in Europe These successes are endogenously created, achieved, and maintained The British production of cotton textiles is often cited as a successful example of the factory mode of production Yet, what is missing from this narrative is the simultaneous destruction of the cotton textile industry in other parts of the world which opened up those areas as markets for the export of British goods

13 C OTTON Cotton is not indigenous to the UK It first came to Britain from India, as did the knowledge of how to design, weave, and dye it It was grown in the slave plantations of the southern states of the US and transported to Britain as part of the triangular trade in human beings (slave), raw materials (cotton), and consumer products To understand its mechanization simply in terms of an evolution of a pre-existing British domestic system of production without recognizing its relationships with other parts of the world is seriously to distort its history David Washbrook, 1997

14 I N SUM … The attempt to find evidence of a special European significance, with Britain perhaps in a lead role, does not stand up to scrutiny Pomeranz suggests that there was little to indicate that there was any Western European industrialization prior to the 1800s that would mark any difference to that of non-European economies with similar processes of commercialization and ‘proto-industrialization’ occurring in other core centres outside Europe

15 C OLONIZER ’ S M ODEL OF THE W ORLD It is this belief in Eurocentric diffusionism – the belief that Europe eternally advances, progresses, and modernizes while the rest of the world struggles to catch up – that James Blaut, among others, seeks to undermine He argues that while it is commonly believed ‘that the economic and social modernization of Europe is fundamentally a result of Europe’s internal qualities’ what this does not take into consideration is the immense impact, and inter- relation, of these areas on the developments occurring within the geographical territories of Europe (1993: 2)

16 E UROCENTRIC D IFFUSIONISM This interpretation downplays the influx of wealth from the colonies that contributed to the initial ‘take-off’ period of the industrial revolution; the involuntary contribution of slave- and bonded-labour to this process; and the manner in which areas, such as Africa, Latin America, and India, were de- industrialized and deliberately under- developed in order to ensure market supremacy for British and European commodities

17 The one aspect that is missing from most explanations of the emergence of the Industrial Revolution is that of the relationship between any industrializing impulse and the ability to use ‘force’ both in terms of establishing forms of ‘unfree’ labour as well as expanding the reach of the market for one’s goods Colonialism was integral to both

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