Uneven development and the origin of capitalism



England was the “edge” of a process that had already been insinuated and partially developed in other regions of western Europe

To explain the British origin of capitalism, it was considered that England had unique geographical characteristics (first of all, its insularity) and also social and political pioneering, but it was not alone in Europe, nor in the process of transition to a new mode of production . Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie found phenomena, in XNUMXth century France, similar to those that would happen in England only in the XNUMXth century.[I]

But, on the other hand, in addition to an expanding domestic market, England could count on a growing foreign market (colonial or otherwise): Eastern Europe was already a consumer market for English manufactured goods at the time. The fundamental characteristic of technical renewal in England was the shift from production based on a static manufacturing system to production based on “large industry”, a dynamic form of organization of production and division of labor; and also a form of industrial organization introduced through numerous production processes and new machines; above all, machine tools and energy-producing machines, manufactured in increasing numbers.

Several elements contributed to the faster industrialization of England: disposition of capital, natural resources, market, and agrarian transformation begun previously. England advanced its industrialization by fifty years in relation to the European continent and, as a result, recovered or, in some continents, took the lead in colonial expansion. Undoubtedly, at the base of the phenomenon was its previous history, in its social and political aspects, which created the bases of its National State.

England, on the other hand, was the “tip” of a process that had already been insinuated and partially developed in other regions of Western Europe. Labor productivity began to grow at a faster pace than the pace of demographic growth, the various estimates coincide in an accelerated growth of the national product and the per capita product as a result of industrial transformation. In the English case, moreover, there was the pioneering formation of a modern State, which preferred to replace the direct extortion of subjects, through force and confiscation, by taxation defined by laws (sometimes based on already existing customs) that made the regular taxes, and gave more security to capitalist entrepreneurs.

In summary, the advantages of England were: (i) The great availability of labor for the nascent industries due to the emergence, in the 1688th century, of a process of expulsion of peasants from their lands and changes in the agrarian structure; (ii) The establishment of the parliamentary monarchy through the Glorious Revolution of 89/XNUMX, which established in the country the Declaration of Rights (Bill of Rights) allowing the supremacy of Parliament over the monarchy, which meant the beginning of the end of absolutism, allowing the bourgeoisie greater participation in government decisions and in the political life of the country; (iii) The great availability of raw materials that England enjoyed, as it had no difficulties in accessing those that were considered basic for its industrial development. It was rich in coal ore, wool, cotton (obtained in America) and other industrial inputs.

(iv) The fact that, as an island of moderate dimensions and with a jagged shape, it had natural facilities for the establishment of an efficient transport system that allowed the flow of production to its ports; (v) Possessing the largest and strongest maritime force in the world at the time, which allowed it to control a large part of the world's maritime trade; (vi) Control a large colonial empire in formal or informal expansion, which served as a consumer market for its manufactured products and provided the raw material necessary for its production.

Historiography also gave weight to sociocultural structures and traditions (religion, work morals), but the creation of an ideological and institutional environment favorable to industrial work was not an automatic process. In the seventeenth century, Francis Bacon spoke out against the repression of usury: loans were necessary for economic life, whose protagonists were not altruistic so that advantages were granted without any consideration, justifying the charging of interest (according to Marx, “the bearer capital interest rates, or, to use the old term, usurer's capital, figures with its twin brother, commercial capital, among the antediluvian forms of capital, which long precede the capitalist mode of production and can be found in the most diverse economic formations. of society").

Francis Bacon witnessed the beginning of great manufacturing and the new scientific proposals that contributed to the industrial dawn in England and openly defended usury and interest as a “concession to the hardness of the human heart”. These factors favored the accumulation of capital and the expansion of their trade on a world scale: the British advanced on foreign markets, by peaceful or military means. Naval hegemony gave them control of the seas. The country carried out an international economic policy: the Treaty of Methuen, in 1703, gave preferential rates for its products in the Portuguese market; Portugal further extended its debts to England. To pay its debt, Portugal was forced to use precious metals taken from its colonies (mainly Brazilian gold). Precious metals of American origin filled the chests of English banks.

The structuring of a world market, of which England would be the great beneficiary, however, did not happen suddenly. The “world economy” has been in the process of formation for a long time. It had inconclusive antecedents and represented a leap in relation to the previous processes of “global” economic expansion, some of them very old. In remote antiquity, Isaiah referred to the area of ​​Phoenician expansion, centered on Tire, as the “market of nations”, dominant over the entire Middle East and much of the Mediterranean basin.

Although subdued by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and by Alexander's Greeks, Phenicia was successively reborn and did not cease to create "agencies" in the Mediterranean: Citium in Cyprus, Karatepe in Turkey, Carthage in Tunisia, areas where "money flows like water, where the spirit of profit dominates”. Closer to modern “European expansion”, we find the expansion of the suzerainties of the Chinese Empire in the Far East, the commercial expansion of Islamic civilization in the era of its splendor, the resumption of internal and, above all, external trade routes of Christian Europe from the twelfth century, which led countless merchants (Italian, in particular) to establish permanent commercial connections with the centers of production of fine fabrics (silk) and spices of the East.

Illustrating the scope of this process, Janet Abu-Lughod postulated the existence, between 1250 and 1350, of eight articulated economic circuits, in which trade and the division of labor configured developed and self-sufficient economic systems.[ii] Of these circuits, more than half were located in areas dominated by Islam which was, at the time, along with imperial China, the most developed economic area (Europe was less economically developed, its commercial contacts with the rest of the world were not as voluminous and continuous).

With the formation of the first proto-national States in the “old continent”, the Arabs were being expelled from part of their domains, and the European expansion began, which would dominate the world, as the most important and paradoxical event in its history. Europe was not and is not a continent, but a subcontinental annex of Asia. The whole of Europe (excluding Russia and Turkey) comprises no more than 5,5 million square kilometers: less than two-thirds the area of ​​Brazil, little more than half the area of ​​China or the United States. Russia alone covers 17 million square kilometers, three times the size of Europe. The countries located in the relatively small European territory, however, were able, thanks to the accumulation of capital, to dominate the world. This poses a larger question: why did the broad non-European economic circuits not originate, unlike European expansion, a world market?

Immanuel Wallerstein denied the character of “world economies” to the Arab-Islamic economic circuits of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, as did Abu-Lughod, a category that, for this author, would only be achieved with the destruction of these circuits by European expansion. The largest economic circuits, in that period, were in China, until economic stagnation, accompanied by recurrent famine epidemics, were followed by the destruction and closure of the Chinese Empire, provoked by foreign invasions, events that slowly prepared the ground for social changes in the Celeste Empire.

In contrast to the Arab retreat and Chinese stagnation, the expansion of the radius of European activities was inscribed in internal economic motives, in the logic that led to the gradual dissolution of manorial ties, the expansion of the scope of commerce and the impulse of mercantile production, accompanied by scientific, technical and ideological renewal. Fritz Rörig even proposed the existence of a “worldwide medieval economy”, including in this phenomenon the intercontinental journeys made by medieval European merchants, from the XNUMXth century onwards.[iii] It is in this context that Europeans won the “[undeclared] race to America”. The existence of lands, continental or insular, to the West of the Atlantic, was already suspected or known, by oral tradition, or recorded in written documents, by diverse peoples of the Eurasian continent and also, probably, African.[iv]

From the end of the 1424th century, European interoceanic voyages took place in the context of the freedom of ideas about the Atlantic “which cartographers, cosmographers and explorers of Latin Christendom shared during the XNUMXth century. Against this background, Columbus' project to cross the ocean seems intelligible and even predictable. The Atlantic space exerted a powerful attraction on the imaginations of Latin Christendom. Cartographers seeded their representations of the ocean with speculative landmasses and, from XNUMX onwards, left empty spaces to be filled with new discoveries.

As interest in this space grew, so did the awareness of the possibility of exploring it. The first lasting European colonies were founded in the Canary Islands (discovered by a Genoese navigator in 1312) in 1402 and in the Azores in 1439. The pace of efforts accelerated in the second half of the century”.[v] And they concluded, as is well known. The existence of unknown lands was a generally accepted hypothesis; its extension or approximate location was not known, nor its connection with distant lands already known.

With the worldwide expansion from Europe, the internationalization of the economy became a fact to be considered. The decrease in distances was accompanied by the specialization of countries and regions and the reorganization of local economies, caused by the opening of new markets, which caused some sectors of the economy to prosper and others to fail. In the XNUMXth century, the impact of the American overseas discoveries, and the new route to the East, on the European economy was verified.

For its external expansion, Europe took advantage of knowledge and maritime routes traced by the Chinese: the post-medieval European West created, based on these and other appropriations, a new society, based on an economic-social system in which mercantile relations took over. of the productive sphere, as it did not happen in other societies in which internal and external trade reached important dimensions, as well as scientific and technological development.

In summary, the roots of the new economy were in the revival of internal and external trade in Europe, changes in agricultural production, the rise of international trade and the opening of lines of circulation of goods to/from the East and, finally, from/ to America. The sixteenth century, therefore, represented the beginning of the historical era of capital. At the end of that century, the European economy had “an agriculture that continued as the predominant activity, able to feed many more people than in 1500, and to do it better; a trade co[MI1] mercio with the overseas worlds, a growing textile industry compared to 1500, a much larger mining and metallurgical industry. Big capitalism tended from then on towards anonymous capitalism, whereas in the previous century it had been purely patrimonial”.[vi] Which of these factors was the differential that made this era the platform for the victory of capital? Each presupposes the other, but one of them was absent in previous commercial and industrial booms.

Earl J. Hamilton summarized it this way: “Although there were other forces that contributed to the birth of modern capitalism, the phenomena associated with the discovery of America and the Cape route were the main factors in this development. Long distance voyages increased the size of ships and the technique of navigation. The expansion of the market facilitated the division of labor, and led to technical improvements. The introduction of new agricultural commodities from America and new agricultural and manufactured goods, especially oriental luxury goods, spurred industrial activity to obtain the counterpart to pay for them. Emigration to the colonies of the New World and to establishments in the East lessened the pressure of population on metropolitan soil and increased the surplus, the excess of production in relation to national subsistence, from which savings could be drawn. The opening up of distant markets and sources of raw materials was an important factor in the transfer of control of industry and commerce from guilds to capitalist entrepreneurs. The old union organization, incapable of dealing with the new problems of purchase, production and sale, began to disintegrate and finally gave way to the capitalist enterprise, the most efficient means of management”.[vii]

The interoceanic voyages of Christopher Columbus and Bartolomeu Dias were the culmination of this process and, above all, gave rise to another, of worldwide scope. They were followed by the expedition of Fernando de Magalhães (1480–1521), a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, who made the first voyage around the globe, which began in 1519 and ended in 1521. world maritime routes, but also at the pace of the colonizing enterprise, whether this took the form of a commercial enclave, trading post or territorial occupation. Seeking an alternative route to China, Europeans “discovered” a new continent, America, which they conquered and colonized, initially as a subsidiary function of their search for and penetration of the Chinese and Far Eastern markets. The first cartographies of the new continent were prepared to determine the most suitable crossing point for the Far East.

Intercontinental travel, originally Iberian, configured a unit with processes that, in Europe, accelerated social transformations; demographic increase, overcoming famines and plagues of the fourteenth century, resumption of wars and modernization of armies in the second half of the fifteenth century: “This internal impulse was finally sustained, from the end of the fifteenth century, by an injection of external wealth due to the maritime and colonial expansion. The circumnavigation of Africa, the discovery of the route to the Indies by Vasco da Gama, that of America by Columbus, and Magellan's voyage around the world, raised the scientific level and expanded the conception of the world in Europe.

At the same time, and this was the true objective of the 'discoverers', the great trade in exotic products, slaves and precious metals, opened up again, extraordinarily expanded. A new era was opening up for mercantile capital, more fruitful than that of the Mediterranean republics of the Middle Ages, because a world market was constituted, whose impulse affected the entire European productive system, at the same time that large states (no longer simple cities) ), were going to take advantage of it to constitute themselves”.[viii]

Iberian expansion was followed by English, Dutch, and finally French expansion as well. Thus, European expansion unified the planet geographically and economically. Wallerstein proposed, as the basis for the origin of the “modern world system”, a slight superiority of capital accumulation in the United Kingdom and France, due to circumstances inherent to the end of feudalism in these countries, which triggered an economic-military expansion culminating in a system of global exchanges that, in the XNUMXth century, incorporated almost all territories on the planet.

The takeoff of the main protagonists of this expansion required revolutionary changes, without which it would not have had a solid base of support: “The English Revolution of the 1649th century prepared the ground for English commercial and maritime expansion on a world scale. At the heart of the expansionist policy were the interests of the mercantile bourgeoisie, merchants and shipowners. From 1655 onwards, English merchants managed, together with the government, a systematic policy in the field of commercial activities. It can be said that, only after the taking of Jamaica in XNUMX, the interests of merchants came to have a prominent place in the definitive formulation of a commercial and colonial program”.[ix]

A few decades later, England had a more complete, comprehensive and nationally connected financial system, with the creation of the Bank of England, in London – a bank founded in 1694 by the Scotsman William Paterson, initially as a private bank – which started to centralize the national finances, reflecting the advance of the English bourgeoisie after the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. The Netherlands followed the trail opened by English commercial capital.

The statement that this process configured a “Europeanization” of the world forgets that it was this process that created “Europe”:[X] “Today, we imagine that Africa and Europe are two completely different continents, separated by an abyss of civilization, but until recently this distinction made no sense. For many centuries, goods and men moved more easily on water than on land; trade and empire brought together the peoples of the Mediterranean”.[xi] Modern Europe thus arose simultaneously from a split, a differentiation and a contrast.

Therefore, it was not, in short, Europe that created the world mercantile expansion, but this expansion that created the modern concept of Europe; it, on the other hand, was not purely commercial, and was therefore called the “Europeanization of the world”: “The construction of the modern world-system involved an expansion of Europe, which was simultaneously military, political, economic and religious. Within this context, Christian missionaries spanned the globe, but were notably more successful in parts of the world that were not dominated by so-called world religions. The number of converts in largely Islamic countries, Buddhist, Hindu and Confucian-Taoist areas, were relatively few, and particularly few in Islamic areas”.[xii]

The secret of the solidity of European expansion, however, was not religious (although it made use, to a greater or lesser extent, of religion): it was based on the expansion of manufacturing and industrial production, which required a constant expansion of the market; because of this, it reached all regions of the planet, creating conditions for “the intertwining of all peoples in the network of the world market and, with that, the international character of the capitalist regime”.[xiii] This expansion did not automatically create, on the other hand, Europe's hegemony or uncontested economic superiority in the world.

In China, still hegemonic in the Far East and resistant to European advances, in 1645 there was the conquest of power by the Manchu dynasty, which subjected the traditional peoples of Central China (the Manchus were a nomadic tribe that came from the northern region of China, Manchuria ). The maximum expansion of Chinese civilization was reached in the eighteenth century, when the vast interior regions of Mongolia, Sinkiang and Tibet were conquered.

Subsequently, the “Middle Empire” gradually lost its dominant position: Chinese annual GDP per capita remained stable (600 dollars) between 1280 and 1700, while the European, in the same period, rose from 500 to 870 dollars.[xiv] At the beginning of the 96th century, however, the estimated GDP of the Chinese economy was still the first in the world (74,25 billion “Geary Khamis dollars”), followed by that of India (15,6 billion) and, in third place, France (XNUMX billion).[xv]

European maritime expansion had strong internal repercussions, accelerating economic and social transformations, when it intertwined with the colonization and exploration of “new territories”. In Marx's comprehensive summary: "The discoveries of gold and silver in America, the extermination, the enslavement of the indigenous populations, forced to work inside the mines, the beginning of the conquest and plunder of the East Indies, and the transformation of Africa into a vast field of lucrative hunting, are the events that marked the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These “idyllic” processes are fundamental factors of primitive accumulation… The methods (of primitive accumulation) were based in part on the most brutal violence, as is the case in the colonial system. But all of them used the power of the State, the concentrated and organized force of society to artificially activate the process of transformation from the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, thus shortening the transition stages. The colonial system made trade and navigation prosper. Monopoly societies were powerful levers of capital concentration. The colonies ensured a market for expanding manufactures and, thanks to the monopoly, accelerated accumulation. The riches seized outside Europe by pillage, enslavement and massacre, flowed back to the metropolis, where they were transformed into capital”.[xvi]

One factor that increased the earnings of the new capitalist tenants was the so-called “price revolution” of the XNUMXth century, linked to the monetary expansion derived from the exploration of the New World, an inflationary phenomenon motivated by the new influx of precious metals. As the European economy was not yet prepared to adjust all incomes in line with inflation, those who sold their goods (salaried workers and capitalists) profited unevenly; those who mainly bought, lost (consumers in general, and in part the same wage earners and capitalists, only the latter gained much more and lost much less). Those who lived on fixed incomes and only shopped were ruined (basically, the landed gentry).

In order to survive, the State was forced to create other forms of revenue (sale of public debt securities, sale of offices and titles, which were previously monopolized by the nobility by birth). The new monetary wealth increased the demand for luxury items by its beneficiaries, making the industry need more specific agricultural inputs to meet it, leaving land for the cultivation of basic foods (rye, wheat, oats and barley) and raising their prices, generating a growing agrarian misery that created the foundations of a chronic and growing peasant rebellion.

In this way, the entry of precious metals of American origin into Europe constituted a major episode in its economic history: “It was this fact that triggered the price crisis of the XNUMXth century, and saved Europe from a new Middle Ages, allowing the reconstitution of of its metallic stock”.[xvii] He unleashed much more than that, as he anticipated the “climate” of a new society, through “the astonishment of these men over a century that begins before 1500 and during which prices do not stop rising. They had the impression of living an unprecedented experience.

The good old days when everything was given for nothing, was succeeded by the inhuman time of famines that never receded”,[xviii] for the poorest, and profits that did not stop increasing, for the nouveau riche. In western Europe, the average price of wheat quadrupled in the second half of the sixteenth century. Prices quadrupled in Spain in that century; in Italy, the price of wheat multiplied by 3,3; by 2,6 in England, and by 2,2 in France.[xx]

The crisis provoked by the “price revolution” (which quadrupled on average in Europe throughout the XNUMXth century, and favored debtors, leading not a few creditors to bankruptcy) contributed, through inflation, to the ruin of countless artisans or small proprietors, creating new social conditions, likely to facilitate the transition to a new economic system. For Pierre Vilar, the mismatch between rising prices and rising wages, with its “inflation of profits”, was “the first major episode of capitalist creation”.

To measure the impact of the “price revolution”, it suffices to know that the total amount of gold circulating in Europe between 1500 and 1650 increased from 180 to 16 tons, and that of silver from 60 to XNUMX tons,[xx] which made the “price revolution unleashed by American metals directly contribute to the progress of capitalism. Textile manufacturing, the main industry, was dominated by the homework system. Its lack of integration meant that the production process required a long period. The price paid for goods in the East Indies was largely determined by their value in Europe at the time the traders set out on their voyage, but when they returned, prices had risen. As a result, industrialists found themselves with huge windfall gains”.[xxx]

An important part of the new and expansive monetary surplus was diverted to import goods from the East, but another part fed the budget of the States that spent it on armies and fleets, borrowing from bankers and creating the fiscal deficit (origin of the public debt), which Marx called the “creed of capital”: “It infuses unproductive money with creative force and thus transforms it into capital, without having to expose itself to the efforts and risks inseparable from industrial and even usurious application… Hence it is The modern doctrine that a people becomes richer the more it goes into debt is entirely consistent. Public credit becomes the creed of capital. And when the indebtedness of the State appears, the sin against the Holy Spirit, for which there is no forgiveness, gives way to the lack of faith in the public debt”.[xxiii] It generated the chronic dependence of the modern state on financial capital. Accompanied by, and propitiated by, an inflationary phenomenon of unprecedented dimensions, which boosted it.

The inflation route followed the route of entry and transport of American precious metals in Europe: [xxiii] “The discovery and conquest set in motion an enormous flow of precious metal from America to Europe, and the result was a great rise in prices - an inflation occasioned by an increased supply of the best kind of money of good quality. Hardly anyone in Europe was so far removed from the influences of the market as not to feel some effect on his salary, on what he sold, or on any small object he wanted to buy.

Price increases initially took place in Spain, where metals came in first; then, as they were carried by trade (or, perhaps to a lesser extent, by smuggling or conquest) to France, the Low Countries, and England, inflation followed. In Andalusia, between 1500 and 1600, prices rose five times. In England, if we took the prices of the last half of the 100th century to be 250, that is, before the voyages of Columbus, the height of the last decade of the 1673th century would be 1682; eighty years later, that is, in the decade from 350 to 1680, they would be at XNUMX, three and a half times more than they had reached before Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro. After XNUMX they stabilized and remained so, as they had fallen much earlier in Spain. These prices, not the conquerors' reports, represented the news that America had been discovered, for the vast majority of Europeans.[xxv]

Spain, the main beneficiary of the exploration of the American continent, played in this episode, paradoxically, more of an intermediary role within a much larger process and scope, with enormous future consequences: “The way in which the money was spent ensured that the new wealth discovered of Spain provided the entire continent with a monetary boost. The 'duro', the Spanish silver coin, based on the thaler German, became the world's first global currency, and financed not only Spain's wars in Europe, but also the rapid expansion of European trade with Asia.

The 1540th century Spanish monarchs Carlos V and Felipe II discovered that an abundance of precious metal can be both a curse and a blessing. They dug up so much silver to finance their wars that the value of the metal declined dramatically, reducing its purchasing power relative to other goods. During the 'price revolution', which affected all of Europe from the 1640s to the XNUMXs, the cost of food – which had not shown a sustained upward trend for three hundred years – rose sharply”.[xxiv] In England the cost of living multiplied by seven, a catastrophic rise in the price of bread by medieval standards.

If the importance of rising prices in the sixteenth century is beyond dispute, the same is not true of its causes. Was the inflationary surge due to the increased circulation of precious metals, or did other factors also play a decisive role? For Slicher Van Bath, the general rise in prices would have preceded the American arrival and flow of precious metals into Europe. The prices of agricultural products rose earlier than those of manufactured goods, and also more than wages.[xxv]

The triggering factor of the “price revolution” would have been, for this author, the internal population explosion: the increase in population would have led to an increase in demand for subsistence products and, consequently, to an increase in prices. With population growth, on the other hand, there was a greater supply of labor, which led to a depreciation of wages. There would also have been a strong stimulus to subsistence agricultural production, evidenced by the increase in the cultivated area, and also by the increase in agronomic knowledge.

The rise in prices was directly reflected in the increase in urban trade and in the growth of cities. For Pierre Vilar, similarly to Van Bath, the price revolution was not caused exclusively by the increase in the circulation of metals from America: since the mid-XNUMXth century, a tendency for prices to rise was configured through demographic and agricultural expansion, advances in technicians of silver extraction in Europe, of financial, monetary, commercial and, finally, political innovations. Inflation in the XNUMXth century was a crucial turning point in the European economy.

Thanks to it, the general crisis of the XNUMXth century, with the crisis of agriculture, population stagnation, gave rise to the final decline of feudalism, the rise of commercial capital and proto-industrialization, symptoms that announced a new mode of production.[xxviii] The feudal lords already received the serfs' annual contributions in coin, a fixed rate per person. By doubling the amount of gold, with little change in production, prices doubled, halving the real income of the feudal lords: “The economic crisis of the feudal nobility gave rise to a great transfer of wealth, the macroscopic example of which was the sale of manors . To worsen the economic condition of the aristocracy and increase the speculative gains of the commercial bourgeoisie, a very particular circumstance had arisen: the rapid increase in the mass of circulating capital, which followed the massive importation of precious metals, determining a broad phenomenon of price inflation that had a negative impact on feudal land values”.[xxviii]

For Ralph Davis, “the price revolution was important because it did not operate equally on all prices, changing the economic relations between men (due to) differences in wealth, skill, knowledge and information, and government or community resistance. municipal or commercial institutions”:[xxix] the emergence of bourgeois society thus rested on pre-existing class differences.

The general increase in prices produced a transfer of income to the detriment of the feudal lords, since the cash installments of their serfs and dependents had a fixed nominal value, in addition to the retraction of the consumption of cereals, the main marketable production of the landlords: “The old nobility lost rents, ceded a large part of their lands and, finally, came to depend on royal charity or to fill offices in the service of the Crown”.[xxx] The decline of the nobility created a basis for a transformation of the state, which should not be confused with a revolution or social transformation, as the ruling class remained the same, and the political regime (monarchy) remained formally the same: “What happened with the erection of absolute monarchy, with the domestication of the upper and lower nobility by the kings, it was nothing but a displacement of the point of gravity of power within the same social stratum. Starting from the nobility, dispersed throughout the country, the courtly nobility, centered around the king, developed as a center and decisive power. And just as most nobles changed from knight to lord and great courtier lord, so kings changed in the same vein.”[xxxii]

Thus, the price revolution did not produce, but accelerated, the transition to a new mode of production, and also to a new state. Pierre Vilar summed it up masterfully: “The primitive accumulation of capital engenders its own destruction. In the first phase, the rise in prices, the increase in real taxes, large loans, stimulate usurers and speculators, but in the end, in different degrees according to the countries, the average rates of interest and profits tend to equalize. if and decreasing. Accumulated capital must seek another means of reproducing itself. It is necessary that men of money, who had remained relatively on the margins of feudal society, invade the entire social body and take control of production”.[xxxi]

The new emerging class did not fail to notice the political potential of popular rebellion against the masters: “At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the established order seemed threatened in Europe. The old pressure from the nobility and the renewed pressure from some sovereigns who demanded more taxes and more soldiers weighed heavily on the popular strata, especially on the peasants. His malaise expressed itself in more and more frequent riots, almost one a year. These revolts were increasingly conscious and radical, often outlining demands for social reform… It doesn't matter that they claimed an illusory 'moral economy', which they supposed the masters had made vulnerable, or that they invoked divine law and made an egalitarian reading of the gospels, which gave a 'traditional' character to his speech.

Behind these arguments lay the hope of a new society in which men would be equal in rights, elected authorities, and religion would not be an instrument of social control in the hands of the clergy”.[xxxii] A revolution, not only economic, but also social, was on the way, based on the rebellion in the countryside.

Paul Mantoux underlined the role of commerce and cities in this period of gestation of a new economy. The great urban markets arose from the routes traveled by merchants. The transition to continuous purchases and sales, however, would only begin in the XNUMXth century. This new commercial form was influenced by and also led to the development of new means of transport and steam navigation; the great obstacle that prevented the expansion of the mercantile economy was the lack of communication. The new flow of trade demanded that it be conducted through more efficient channels.

With the development of transport, fairs and occasional markets became obsolete in Western Europe (Eastern Europe fairs retained their importance longer). Business methods have changed. Product exchanges gradually took the place of fairs, working daily and permanently. Large purchases and sales were made by samples: trade became more speculative. The sale of company property titles and insurance terms or transactions appeared, whereby the producer was guaranteed against any loss he might suffer through fluctuations in the price of raw materials. Insurance guaranteed the payment of a pre-established fine if the price fell; the buyer, in turn, guarantees coverage in the eventually changed value of the product he wanted to buy.

The market, moreover, was diversified, there was a greater quantity of supplies. With the modification of transport, the variety of products coming from different places was much greater. Merchants began to dedicate themselves only to sales, specializing in certain sectors. Product exchanges used new communication methods to relate to other exchanges: this led to the tendency to create a single international price, whose fluctuation was notified to all markets. Commercial travelers used new modes of transportation to seek out buyers.

The stores became more varied, they started to be managed by a specialized articles merchant: they became commercial companies. Initially small and specialized, they would later become large and multiple, with branches. The accelerated circulation of goods was a condition for the valorization of capital in industry and commerce, parallel to the dissolution of vassalages, which progressively collapsed the feudal system in the countryside and the corporative organization in the city. Capital from trade settled in factories, taking advantage of the urban system and corporate organization, seeking economies of scale through the centralization of productive resources.

Marx summarized the process: “The transformation of individually dispersed means of production into socially concentrated means, from the minuscule ownership of the many to the gigantic ownership of the few; the expropriation of the great mass of the population, stripped of their lands, their means of subsistence and their instruments of work, that terrible and difficult expropriation, constituted the prehistory of capital”.[xxxv]

Geopolitical changes accompanied this process. In the second half of the XNUMXth century, “the most striking fact was the progress of the maritime powers of West and Northwest Europe, taking the place of Spain and Portugal. France played a minor, albeit honorable, role. Its foreign trade was developed mainly with Spain, which needed its products and could only pay in cash, and with England, where agricultural products from France were in great demand... It was also in the second half of the XNUMXth century when the English began to form part of the great maritime trade, greatly impelled by the Tudors who, having great needs for money, strove to develop the economic forces of the nation and inaugurated, under the reign of Elizabeth, an intense nationalist policy”.[xxxiv]

By contrast, in Spain, “the bourgeoisie was less powerful than in neighboring countries. It included the merchants of cities such as Burgos, Medina del Campo, Seville, Valencia and Barcelona, ​​jurists holding a state or notarial office, and the masters of some highly esteemed corporations”. In contrast, “the clergy comprised one hundred thousand people. Its resources were considerable. He had vast domains, especially in Galicia and Toledo, realizing tithes and also donations. That wealth was very unevenly distributed.”[xxxiv]

In the race towards the “new economy”, Spain was lagging behind. For Pierre Vilar, “the conclusion of the spontaneous development initiated in the times of the Catholic Monarchs, accentuated by the successes of the discovery of America, can be placed in the time of Charles V. It is more delicate to pronounce on the rhythm of this impulse in the times of Filipe II... Luís Ortiz's memorial analyzes the two great factors of the future decadence already in 1558, after the great collapse of the public finances: the imbalance of internal and external prices and State expenditures made outside the kingdom.

From 1560 onwards, rising wages nullified the benefit of rising prices for companies. Only after 1600, when the demographic catastrophe – the plague of 1600 – coincided with the slowdown in the arrival of metals from the Indies, did the Spanish State find itself forced to mint a bad copper coin and pass through the 'golden age' to the bronze age. Then the economic decay will be evident to everyone.”[xxxviii] The idea of ​​“Spanish decadence” is also defended by JH Elliott, for whom “the disappearance of Spanish power in the 1640s appears so irrevocable and absolute that it can only be considered as inevitable… its splendor with Philip II. Then, with the reign of Philip III, the decadence of Spain appeared”.[xxxviii]

For Milcíades Peña, on the contrary, the binomial greatness and decline of Spain would be a myth: in Spain there would not have been decadence, but a permanent rickets of its economic development. At the end of its supposedly glorious and powerful run, there was no true national unification in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain – a view that was also held by Marx and Engels –[xxxix] condition for a unified internal market. According to Manuel Colmeiro, “each of the (Spanish) kingdoms closed in on its territory, established customs, fixed entry and exit fees and enacted prohibitions. Goods coming from Aragon were foreign in Castile, Navarra, Catalonia and vice versa, so merchants had to pay the toll as many times as they passed from one tax area to another.

The exuberance of municipal life, which in the first years of the Reconquista isolated cities to the point of appearing emancipated, weakened over time, forming small nations... Each city governed in its own way, without making common cause with the other peninsular peoples; although obeying the same sovereign, they celebrated separate courts, enjoyed different privileges and, finally, maintained their autonomy”.[xl]

This paralleled Spain's conquest of the world, during the Spanish "Golden Century" (1525-1648), when "the Castilians, following in the footsteps of the Romans, first conquered, then colonized, governed and exploited their conquests... (Although) the fate of Spain, and of other powers that followed in its footsteps, leads us to wonder whether the damage from the psychological consequences of the empire for the imperialists does not outweigh, in the long run, the most valuable asset to bring on your train”.[xi]

Spain's colonial trade monopoly only served to enrich Seville or Cadiz trade and industry and foreign trade installed in these ports, which was at the root of Spain's world-historic failure to maintain itself as the leading colonial power, culminating in his successive financial bankruptcies in 1557, 1575, 1596, 1607, 1627, 1647, 1653 and 1680, in times when “two-thirds of the silver in the Spanish Treasury’s fleet went straight to foreign countries without even entering Spain”.[xliii] The Spanish (and also Portuguese) economic backwardness was evident, and a result of the English, French and Dutch industrial development.[xiii] Spanish wool was raw material for the industry of other European countries, which resold it manufactured to their country (or countries) of origin. At the end of the XNUMXth century, it was not Spaniards, but Flemish and Italians, who occupied the prominent place of the expelled Jews in the peninsular economy.[xiv]

The great direct support of the Spanish monarchy were the transhumant farmers, grouped in the Honorable Concejo de la Mesta whose base of economic activity (production and sale of wool) implied the struggle against localist borders, which prevented all progress in their commercial activities. The marches of the shepherds with their flocks extended the market for their products beyond local limits and even beyond the borders of the Spain of the Catholic Monarchs. Cities, ecclesiastical orders and the nobility opposed all kinds of obstacles to the pilgrimage of transhumant cattle. The birth of a strong central power favored the Mesta, providing him with an ally and a defender against the constant extortions of local tax collectors. And the Catholic monarchy had no other instruments to overthrow localism than the migrations of Mesta, to whom it delegated privileges, administrative and even judicial and fiscal functions that should correspond to the State, that is, the Spanish monarchy delegated its state functions to a particular entity, which distanced it from the absolutist monarchies.[xlv]

Thus, in the verbose description of the historian of the Spanish economy, Ramón Carande, “the prostration and imbalance of our economy contributed to the kings of Spain finding warriors and monks at low prices and, with them, we owe to our poverty a large part of the portentous expansive capacity that during his reign began. But hunger, the 'imperial hunger' that Quevedo once said, is far from explaining the departure of those who left Spain without the smallness of the ships, the immensity of the sea, nor the endless distances, full of risks, to contain their spirit. , nor calm the thirst for horizons, riches, honors and lordships of some, or for beatitudes, selfless sacrifices and salvation in eternity for others”. For both reasons, seeking nobility or a religious mission, Spanish colonial expansion was tinged with unproductive and plundering parasitism, revealed by the “insistent of senior Indian government officials asking for labradors that they could not find”: “Suffice it to compare two opposing types of colonization; ours, overflowing, accelerated in the exploration of territories, and the one that, in the North East of America, kept the French, from Cartier, and the English afterwards, closed in in redoubts, in a coastal strip. They and the Dutch lived sedentarily alongside their cultures and workshops for centuries, with their backs to the mainland.”[xlv]

The consequences were structural and long-term. Spain, “once it mutilated its productive forces, was reduced to the status of a consumer-importer country. From 1496, English, French, Italian, Dutch and German workshops replaced those abandoned or destroyed in Segovia, Toledo, Barcelona and other cities, supplying the country. The royal family and great lords set an example by providing for themselves abroad and introducing alien fashions. As the Spanish market expanded with the incorporation of American consumers, the economic dependence of the metropolis on western European manufactures was aggravated.

The greater the metallic wealth extracted from their domains, the greater was the downfall of the peninsular economy and its subordination to developing economies. Monopolies, the single market, the prohibition of direct trade between the colonies and other countries, and political and ideological isolation reinforced this relationship. The most powerful monarchy in the universe, right hand of the Catholic Church, mirror and refuge of princes and lords, had to beg money from moneylenders without love of glory and deceive-betray their subjects with vile metal adulterations to the declared value of the coin”.[xlv] .

This characteristic lasted for centuries: “The second half of the XNUMXth century witnessed a strong expansion in the production and export of goods of American origin, movements that did not give rise to phenomena of development, but only of growth. There has been no change in the Spanish social structure”.[xlviii]

Spanish economic rickets and parasitism were in decline, that is, the uneven European development that had preceded it became evident. Carlos Astarita studied “the mechanism of asymmetric exchange between different European areas, in the phase of the first transition to capitalism (with the) concern to establish the causal relationship between trade flows and uneven development in different countries”, precisely from the study of Castile and its trade flows with Europe.

Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, quoted by the author, referred to the “invasion of the kingdom of Castile by merchants and foreign goods (which) created a double stream of emigration: large sums of gold and silver and large quantities of raw materials, causing the currency failure and general impoverishment”. According to this, “the importation of luxury products had wide economic and social repercussions, contributing to luxury and imposing ostentation”, and determining “the great failure of the Castilian economy”, preventing the use of iron and wool for the industrialization of the country. country, in contrast to Great Britain, where, contrary to what happened in Castile, in the fifteenth century “a slow but magnificent industrialization” began.[xlix]

The political consequences were violent. In the Spanish case, “the antagonism between manufacturers and merchants was defined at the politico-military level; Villalar[l] it was the sanction for the disruptive economic and social practice and the conflicting political action that the merchants erected against the prevailing conditions… The military result, the defeat of the industrial sectors, allowed the crystallization of an economic and social structure that for a long period of time generated conditions for the asymmetric exchange between Castile and other European areas to continue to be carried out”.

What underlines “the causal relationship between trade flow and differentiated economic development between countries…. In this historical phase, there was a transfer of value, accumulation of mercantile capital, reproduction of the corporate system, manufacturing capitalism and feudalism, consumption of luxury and non-luxury goods, variables that coexisted in a social whole in the European space”.

Uneven development (Spain – industrialized regions of Europe) would show that “the dependency theory, that is, the explanation of economic backwardness by the mere transfer of value in the world market, is insufficient and in need of revision”,[li] “unequal exchange” presupposes previous inequalities in economic development, whose presence at the dawn of capitalism explains the central or peripheral roles of different countries and regions in the transition between modes of production.

Barbosa argues that “the dynamics of the world market, taken in isolation, is incapable of explaining the changing positions of domination-subordination among European nations in the XNUMXth to XNUMXth centuries”,[liiii] or because nations larger or more powerful than England failed to consolidate capitalism.

The concept of uneven development, in the conditions of a world market in development, opposes the notions of “greatness and decadence”, of cyclical matrix, for the analysis of the changing positions of economic and political units in the transition to capitalism, in the world market and in established capitalism itself. Uneven development presupposes a common standard of measurement, which can only be given by the tendential universality of capitalist production, verified in the reality of the world market: “The world market is not only the internal market in relation to all foreign markets existing outside it, but it is simultaneously the internal [market] of all foreign markets as integral parts, in turn, of the domestic market. In this sense, it reflects the different degrees of development in the productive forces of different nations”.[iii]

The theory of uneven (and combined) development constitutes, for recent authors, “the necessary step towards non-Eurocentrism”,[book] because it would show the role of external “geopolitical pressures” and technological advances appropriated by the West from the Amerindians, the Mongol and Ottoman empires and the peoples of the Indian Ocean, reduced to “others”, in the emergence and consolidation of Western capitalism.[lv]

The “different degrees of development”, on the other hand, do not refer to any abstraction, but to the differences in their development and location in pre-capitalist eras and in the transitional phase,[lv] brought into contact with each other through the constitution of the world market. When this happens, “even with the reproduction of capital constant in the past natural form and productivity, still the English spinner will again reproduce his 'mighty automaton' and the Indian spinner his hand-spinning wheel: the inequality of England and India is continuously reproduced, as well as the continuous reproduction of the class relationship between capitalist and wage worker”.[lviii]

Neil Smith, studying the spatial dimension of capitalist development, concluded that spatial inequality was not a simple by-product of geography and only made sense as part of the contradictory development of capitalism: “The division of labor in society is the historical basis of spatial differentiation levels and conditions of development. The spatial or territorial division of labor is not a separate process, but is implicit from the outset in the concept of division of labor.[lviii]

The concept of uneven development highlights the possibility of coexistence in the same society of disparate and even contradictory elements, remnants of past historical stages and recent creations, and the fusion of unequally developed elements as a way of overcoming the preceding inequality: “The development of a nation historically backward necessarily leads to an original combination of different phases of the historical process.

The cycle presents, focused on its entirety, an irregular, complex, combined character”, characterized by the “combination of the different stages of the path, the confusion of different phases, the amalgamation of archaic structures with the most modern ones”.[lix] At the beginning of the era of capital, the Iberian peninsula was the most complete illustration of this assertion. Uneven development, in the conditions of globalization of economic relations, necessarily led to the combination of different economic and social forms in the same socio-economic formation, originating a concept that would be “one of the most significant attempts to break with evolutionism, the ideology of progress”. Linear and Eurocentrism”.[lx]

When, at the end of the 438th century, the peninsula retreated on the international scene, it was not just a matter of local or regional problems, or geopolitical upheavals, but of structural changes in an increasingly international economy, in transition from mode of production, cloth from the background of the “economic upswing” of the 1500th century and the general crisis or depression of the 556th century. The world population reached 1600 million inhabitants in 118 and increased to XNUMX million in XNUMX, with a growth of XNUMX million inhabitants in the XNUMXth century alone.

In the following century, the addition was only 47 million. In the boom phase of the XNUMXth century “business prospered, opportunities and external demands stimulated transformations in institutions, both in Eastern and Western Europe, and even in some parts of the New World. Perhaps they already had a similar impact during the previous long period of expansion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when Europe's relations with Muslims changed, particularly in the Mediterranean regions.

By contrast, “much of the seventeenth century witnesses a decline in silver production and the supply of currency, long periods of deflation, a great decrease in transatlantic trade, less or slower expansion of trade with the East, and lower production, or less growth rates. The Mediterranean area (Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Ottoman Empire), on the rise economically in the XNUMXth century, suffered a decline that, in many ways, was absolute, and also involved Northwest Europe”.[lxi]

For the cited author, “the expansion was stopped by the increase in the limitations of the productive forces relative to the relations of production – in other words, by the diminishing returns to the scale of production”, that is, due to a structural economic crisis, of continental scope ( and, within the framework of European expansion, directly or indirectly, worldwide), which provoked a “secular crisis and readjustment”.

In Europe, feudal survivals became an obstacle to economic development, whose failure would return it to the productive levels (and social life) of the High Middle Ages: “Only a radical transformation could bring about the necessary change to consolidate the agrarian revolution that it had started in England. The premise for the expansion of manufacturing production was the internal and external expansion of the demand for goods. The demand for consumer goods increased as the population increased… The repercussions of population growth on demand were limited, as real wages fell due to the increase in food prices. As the purchasing power of agrarian products increased, the share of peasant income that could be added to the demand for manufactured products grew. Demand from the urban middle classes also gained weight. Thanks to the incipient commercialization of agriculture, proto-industrialization and the disproportionate growth of cities, the number of households dependent on the market increased extraordinarily rapidly. The domestic economies for which the market was peripheral gradually declined. The domestic market expanded. Because of agricultural improvements and the reduction of supply crises, the crises of underconsumption of manufactures lost strength”.[lxii] Another type of crisis, as we shall see, would take its place.

The European economy was changing its nature, its crisis pushed it in that direction. As a result, in the first great financial centers of Europe, especially in Amsterdam, the beginnings of capitalist accumulation were accompanied by crises of a new type. Initially, they were attributed to random phenomena, as was the case of the “tulip crisis”, the first recorded modern economic crisis, which took place between 1636 and 1637, caused by speculation about the increase in prices, and their subsequent collapse, in this way. exotic flower used in garden decoration and also in medicine in the Netherlands.

It was the first “overproduction crisis” to be recorded in historical annals: merchants were crammed with tulip bulbs, and they broke: the Dutch Court did not enforce the payment of purchase and sale contracts when the “price bubble” burst. Smaller but similar versions of “tulipamania” also occurred in other parts of Europe. One of its effects was the sophistication of the financial system (through insurance contracts) and the creation of new commercial exchange mechanisms, such as the options market.[lxiii]

In the midst of the depression of the European economy in the seventeenth century, the center of economic hegemony shifted to the neighboring countries of the North Sea: with the entry of England, Holland and France in the world commercial and colonial expansion, Fernand Braudel dated in 1650 the passage from the history of the “Mediterranean world” to world history.[lxiv]

The European depression pushed towards an expansion of the scenario and the base of its economic activity. In this way, it was with the territories neighboring Northwest Europe as the initial center, in a process of much broader economic scope, that the conditions that made possible the birth and victory of capitalism and its institutions were created in Western Europe. Its launch bases were social and political violence in Europe, and general violence, derived from colonization, in America and Africa – the first crises of overaccumulation of goods and capital, in turn, were the heralding sign of its painful childbirth.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Marxist economic theory: an introduction (boitempo).


[I] Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. The Monarchical State. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1994.

[ii] Janet L. Abu-Lughod. Before European Hegemony. The world system 1250-1350. New York, Oxford University Press, 1989.

[iii] Fritz Rorig. The Medieval Town. Batsford, University of California Press, 1967 [1932].

[iv] An article in american history (December 2009) listed seven non-American civilizations or peoples that, over millennia, could have had some contact with or approached the American continent: Siberians, Chinese, Japanese, Polynesians, Vikings, Irish and Franco-Spanish (or European -westerners).

[v] Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. Christopher Columbus. Barcelona, ​​Folio, 2004.

[vi] Frederic Mauro. Europe in the Sixteenth Century. Economic aspects. Barcelona, ​​Labor, 1969. Stock companies, in an embryonic way, already existed in Rome and other places in Antiquity, as a simple partnership; one of the parties offered capital to the operator of a company in exchange for a share in the profits. This type of economic cooperation was revived in medieval France, but it was only popularized by the Dutch in the XNUMXth century, prefiguring modern publicly traded companies.

[vii] Earl J. Hamilton. The Flowering of Capitalism. Madrid, Alianza Universidad, 1984.

[viii] Pierre Vilar. La transition du feodalisme au capitalisme. In: CERM (Centre d'Études et Recherches Marxistes). Sur le Féodalisme, Paris, Editions Sociales, 1971.

[ix] José Jobson de Andrade Arruda. The Great English Revolution 1640-1780. São Paulo, Department of History USP – Hucitec, 1996.

[X] Defenders of a supposed “eternal Europe” based themselves on the geographic division lines drawn by the classical Greeks who, naturally Greco-centric, named the lands to the East as Asia, those to the South as Africa, and the rest as Europe, a notion that, however, it encompassed part of Africa and extended to the borders of Egypt on the Nile, that is, as far as the Hellenic civilization reached, excluding the Iberian peninsula. The Greek division, which fell into disuse in the Christian Era, was resumed in the Modern Era, intending to establish a direct line of continuity between Greek “Europe” and modern Western Europe; the Mediterranean would always have separated the “civilized West” from the “barbarian East”, which is a modern myth.

[xi] Nigel Cliff. Holy war. How Vasco da Gama's travels transformed the world. Sao Paulo, Globo, 2012.

[xii] Immanuel Wallerstein. Islam, the West, and the World. Lecture in series “Islam and World System,” Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, October 1998.

[xiii] Karl Marx. The capital. Book I, Vol. 1.

[xiv] Angus Madison. Chinese Economic Performance in the Long Run. Paris, OECD, 1998.

[xv] The Geary-Khamis dollar is a fictitious unit of account, which has the same purchasing power in a given country as the US dollar in the United States at a given time.

[xvi] Karl Marx. The capital, Book I, Chapter XXIV.

[xvii] Pierre Chaunu. History of Latin America. São Paulo, European Book Diffusion, 1981.

[xviii] Fernand Braudel. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, São Paulo, Edusp, 2016, vol. 1.

[xx] John H. Munro. Money, prices wages and profit inflation in Spain, the Southern Netherlands and England during the price revolution: 1520-1650. History and Economy vol. 4 nº 1, São Paulo, 1st half of 2008.

[xx] Earl J. Hamilton. The American Treasury and the Precious Revolution in Spain 1501-1650. Barcelona, ​​Criticism, 2000.

[xxx] Earl J. Hamilton.The Flowering of Capitalism, cit.

[xxiii] Karl Marx. The capital. Book I, Section VII.

[xxiii] See Fernand Braudel. Il tesoro americano e la rivoluzione dei prezzi. In: Ciro Manca (ed.). Formazione e Transformazione dei Sistemi Economici in Europa dal Feudalesimo al Capitalismo. Padua, CEDAM, 1995.

[xxv] John K. Galbraith. Currency. Where did it come from, where did it go. São Paulo, Pioneer, 1977.

[xxiv] Niall Ferguson. The Rise of Money. Financial history of the world. Sao Paulo, Planeta, 2009.

[xxv] H. Slicher VanBath. Agrarian History of Western Europe (500-1850). Lisbon, Presence, 1984.

[xxviii] Eric J. Hobsbawn. The general crisis of the European economy in the seventeenth century. In: Charles Parain et al. Transitional Capitalism. Sao Paulo, Moraes, sdp.

[xxviii] Giuliano Conte. From the Crisis of Feudalism to the Birth of Capitalism. Lisbon, Presence, 1979.

[xxix] Here it is convenient to remember that “the difference in natural endowments among individuals is not so much the cause as the effect of the division of labor” (Karl Marx. Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2004 [1844]).

[xxx] Ralph Davis. Atlantic Europe. From the discoveries to industrialization. Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1989.

[xxxii] Norbert Elias. La Sociedad Cortesana. Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1982 [1969].

[xxxi] Pierre Vilar. La transition du feodalisme au capitalisme, cit.

[xxxii] Joseph Fontana. Europe in front of the Mirror. Bauru, Edusc, 2005.

[xxxv] Karl Marx. The capital. Book I, Vol. 1.

[xxxiv] Henri See. Origin and Evolution of Modern Capitalism. Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1952 [1926].

[xxxiv] Henry Lapeyre. Carlos Quinto. Barcelona, ​​Oikos-Tau, 1972.

[xxxviii] Pierre Vilar. History of Spain. Lisbon, Horizonte Books, 1992.

[xxxviii] JH Elliott. The decadence of Spain. In: Carlo M. Cipolla, JH Elliot et al. The Economic Decadence of the Empires. Madrid, Alliance, 1981.

[xxxix] “The absolute monarchy in Spain was only superficially similar to the monarchies of Europe, it should rather be included in the Asiatic forms of government. Spain, like Turkey, remained a cluster of misguided republics, with a nominal sovereign at their head” (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Spanish Revolution. Madrid, Akal, 2017 [1854-1873]).

[xl] Manuel Colmeiro. History of the Political Economy in Spain. Madrid, Libreria de Don Angel Calleja, 1883. “Anyone who studies the medieval cities of Castile and other peninsular kingdoms is surprised by the little weight that the type of patrician citizen had, compared to other countries, enriched by the exercise of industrial activities or commercials. Headquarters of a flourishing economy, whose trade was exclusively in the hands of the Spaniards, did not exist in the country. The local government of the cities of Castile was exercised by knights or fidalgos, farmers or craftsmen, some lawyers, but rarely by merchants, due to their small number” (Ramón Carande. Carlos V and his Bankers. Barcelona, ​​Criticism, 1987).

[xi] John h. Elliot. Spain and its World 1500-1700. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989. Cf. also: Bartolomé Bennassar. La España del Siglo de Oro. Barcelona, ​​Criticism, 2001.

[xliii] John H. Elliott. Imperial Spain 1496-1716. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1970.

[xiii] Wrote Baltazar Gracián, in The Criticón (1651): “The French complain that luck did not give them America. They're wrong. In reality, Spain plays the part of the Indies for France”.

[xiv] In the fourteenth century, England expelled the Jews and Italians who dominated the island economy, to replace them with English merchants and industrialists.

[xlv] Julius Klein. The table. Study of Spanish economic history, 1273-1836. Madrid, Alianza, 1994; Jerónimo López-Salazar Pérez and Porfirio Sanz Camañes (eds.). Mesta y Mundo Pecuario en la Peninsula Iberica during the Modern Times. Madrid, University of Castilla – La Mancha, 2011.

[xlv] Ramón Carande. The economy and overseas expansion under the government of the Catholic Kings. Seven Spanish History Studies. Barcelona, ​​Ariel, 1976.

[xlv] Rodolfo Puiggros. The Spain that Conquered the New World. Buenos Aires, Corregidor, 1974.

[xlviii] Ruggiero Roman. Le Rivoluzioni Borghesi. Milan, Fratelli Fabbri, 1973.

[xlix] Claudio Sanchez Albornoz. Spain, a Historical Enigma. Buenos Aires, Edhasa, 1992 [1971].

[l] Battle that decided the “War of the Communities of Castile”, also known as “revolt of the communes”, an uprising against the Crown that took place between 1520 and 1522, carried out by the cities of the interior of the Kingdom of Castile. Some historians have qualified it as one of the first modern revolutions. The rebels, without artillery protection, were, in April 1521, defeated by the cavalry of nobles loyal to the Crown; they lost between 500 and XNUMX men, while XNUMX were taken prisoner, with the main communitarian leaders, belonging to the Castilian nobility, being executed.

[li] Carlos Astarita. Unequal Development in the Origins of Capitalism. Buenos Aires, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (UBA) – Thesis 11, 1992.

[liiii] Carlos Alonso Barbosa de Oliveira. Industrialization Process, cit.

[iii] Flavio Ferreira de Miranda. World Market and Uneven Development, cit.

[book] The Eurocentric narrative is defined as the position according to which “modernity” originated in the North Atlantic, deriving from it the technological progress and civilization that would have spread to the rest of the world. The European exceptionality (Europe would have been the first region of the globe to combine the ideals of modernity and progress) would be enough to legitimize European history as an exemplary or paradigmatic model for the development of all humanity. The universalization of the historical experience of European societies would begin in the Enlightenment, with the attribution, by its representatives, of characteristics such as uniqueness, universality and continuous development to history, from its “European engine”. History would be seen as a phenomenon in which humanity finds itself in a process of progressive development and evolution, whose model would be Europe (cf. Michael Wintle. Eurocentrism: History, Identity, White Man's Burden. London, Routledge, 2020; Daniel Vasconcelos. Beyond the teaching of National History: Eurocentrism and its theoretical interpretations. Ars Historica magazine nº 21, Rio de Janeiro, Graduate Program in Social History at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro [UFRJ], 2021). The critique of the Eurocentric narrative (or of any other privileged “centre” of history), while necessary or relevant historiographically, is linked, but not identified, with the question of the origin of capitalism and the role of the “European center” (more precisely , Western European) and the “periphery” in this historical phenomenon.

[lv] Alex Anievas and Kerem Nişancıoğlu. How the West Came to Rule. The geopolitical origins of capitalism. London, Pluto Press, 2015.

[lv] Uneven development is observed in “the faster or slower development of the productive forces; in the more or less ample or reduced character of entire historical epochs, for example, in the Middle Ages of corporative regime, of enlightened despotism, of parliamentarism; in the uneven development of different social institutions, of different aspects of culture”. Marxist thought defined this characteristic of the historical process as a law of it: “Its first aspect refers to the different proportions in the growth of social life. The second, to the concrete correlation of these unevenly developed factors in the historical process” (George Novack. The Law of Uneven and Combined Development of Society. São Paulo, Rabisco, 1988). Just to give one example: a millennium and a half separated the beginning of the Bronze Age in the human populations of advanced Mesopotamia and backward Scandinavia.

[lviii] Isaac Dashkovsky. International exchange and the law of value. Under знаmenем Marxism (Under the Banner of Marxism) No. 1, Moscow, 1927 (https://libcom.org)

[lviii] Neil Smith. The uneven development. Rio de Janeiro, Bertrand Brasil, 1988: “Capitalist development is a continuous transformation of natural space – inherited absolute space – into produced relative space”.

[lix] Leon Trotsky. History of the Russian Revolution. Paris, Seuil, 1950 [1930].

[lx] Michael Lowy. The theory of uneven and combined development. October nº 1, São Paulo, 1998.

[lxi] Andre Gunder Frank. World Accumulation 1492-1789. Rio de Janeiro, Zahar, 1977.

[lxii] Peter Kriedte. Late Feudalism and Mercantile Capital. Master lines of European economic history from the 1982th century to the end of the XNUMXth century. Barcelona, ​​Critica, XNUMX.

[lxiii] Osvaldo Coggiola. In the XNUMXth century: the tulip crisis. Living History nº 62, São Paulo, Duetto, November 2008.

[lxiv] Fernand Braudel. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, cit.


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  • A myopic logicRED MAN WALKING _ 12/06/2024 By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL: The government does not have the political will to make education a priority, while it courts the military or highway police, who do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism that they continue to support
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives