Arashishakar It does occur to me that Braudel would have had a better understanding of the 18th century economy than Adam Smith, commmerce in a dog in the forest way the perspectives developed by the economists still have to be engaged with. After a somewhat tedious first volume, where Braudel sets the stage for life and commerce in the period under discussion, volume two of Civilization and Capitalism really gets the ball rolling. Sep 06, Joshua added it Shelves: So is the story about the bandit Cartouche, on the point of execution, preferring a glass of wine to the coffee he was offered. Gold production in eighteenthcentury Brazil.
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The market economy is defined as the moment when subsistence existence is transformed by exchange, what Braudel calls the fateful threshold of exchange value. The first part of this volume looks at the structure of the market economy as whole, to provide a typology, a model, or perhaps a grammar. We look at the development of markets in towns, fairs, shops, peddlers; trade circuits, bills of exchange, problems of currencies and specie.
In the second part of the volume, Braudel is concerned to cast light on the classical view put forward by Marx, Polanyi, Weber and so on that real capitalism an industrial mode of production only started in the 19th century. To do this he examines the banking and finance sectors of the pre-industrial economy, and their relations with the state. He also looks in detail at three sectors of the economy often overlooked by classical Marxists where capitalism may be said to have arisen patchily: land use and ownership, industry literally pre-industry, or artisan activity and transport.
In terms of land use and ownership, he shows through extended case studies that what appeared to be feudal or seignorial pockets of the economy were in fact participants in a long range capitalism.
In terms of industry, he examines in depth the key industries of the pre-industrial age: textiles, mining and manufactories. He shows that the putting-out system was an early form of capitalism. Mines in particular demanded huge capital investment which only merchants were willing and able to provide. What these three industries have in common is the presence of the merchant, who was always the instigator of capitalistic activity: capitalism started through the circulation of trade, not in the industrialization of production, as described by classical Marxism.
The capitalism of the time was that of the urban merchants. It is in this volume that Braudel first makes three controversial statements. The first, that history is created by the minority, not by the majority, is an assertion that flies in the face of much contemporary bottom-up historiography which de- emphasises the role played by rulers and politicians. According to Braudel, the decisions made by a handful of merchants did more to move history forward than the enormous but inert masses.
There are plenty of reasons for arguing that the minority had a greater influence over the course of history than the majority. The second is the assertion that it is a structural law of societies, that power and wealth is always concentrated in a hands of a few families.
This sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it is incontrovertible fact, as Braudel shows with demographic, financial and documentary evidence taken from many different cultures and periods. The third is that the market economy, the development of which Braudel has taken such pains to describe, is not to be confused with capitalism itself.
Again, the example of China is useful here. China had a market economy in the pre-industrial period, but capitalism did not develop. The pre-conditions for the development of capitalism are: 1 a vigorous and expanding market economy; 2 a hierarchical society which encourages the slow accumulation of wealth, the survival of dynasties, and the ladders of social mobility; 3 the circulation of long distance trade.
Money was indeed a miraculous agent of exchange, but it was also a confidence trick serving the privileged. Is not the present after all in large measure the prisoner of a past that obstinately survives, and the past with its rules, its differences and its similarities, the indispensable key to any serious understanding of the present? Capitalism is a venture that goes back a very long way: by the time of the industrial revolution it already had a considerable wealth of experience behind it, and not only in the commercial sphere.
Braudel also studied a good deal of Latin and a little Greek. At the age of 7, his family moved to Paris. While teaching at the University of Algiers between and , he became fascinated by the Mediterranean Sea and wrote several papers on the Spanish presence in Algeria in the 16th century. Braudel later said that the time in Brazil was the "greatest period of his life.