Guide Rise of the Rich: A New View of Modern World History

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Yet, it is readily available in English. Better works putting this topic in world historical context, such as Mihail Gefter's, are ignored.

Again, rather than thorough knowledge of his subject, I sense that simple availability of sources seems to have guided his research, and thus conclusions, on Russia. Use of terms also presents problems. For example, Gran uses caste in relation to Russia. In one sense, the term is used metaphorically in the Russian context, but then again more directly in reference to India. Certainly, the meaning of any term can be widened beyond its strict definition, but here we risk having words lose all meaning in their overly broad application.


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For example, to refer to the Soviet nomenklatura as a caste ignores that caste is based on closed groups. The basis of nomenclature, by contrast, is openness. Dostoevsky described Russia's gentry as democratic because it constantly replenished its numbers out from the masses. Indeed, it possessed a surprisingly significant vertical mobility for a still half-feudal society.

In fact, this was one of the very causes of the and social explosions. A consequence of those revolutions was even greater social mobility. The nomenclature was first of all an open estate. If one accepted the rules, regardless of how odious, one could join their ranks. He then speaks of the Soviet nomenclature as a new class. But, even here, to borrow from Issac Deutscher, this "caste" was constantly being washed away from the bottom, lacking the stable class culture and ethics of caste. In other words we see the direct opposite of a caste structure.

Ironically, it was this very Soviet social mobility which led to the nomenklatura wanting to become a fixed class. As economic stagnation set in during the late Soviet period, Soviet elites looked less favorably on ever new numbers joining them from below. They aspired to become a genuine ruling class whose privileges would be defended by the right of property and law.

This was the most important element in the Soviet revolution from above in the late s and early s. His reasoning about the USSR's collapse is further problematic in its focus on ethnicity. He sees it causing the Soviet fall when ethnic groups became grounded in their original ethnic domains, thus developing their own interests. Yet, the participation of non-Russians in the Soviet nomenklatura peaked early rather than late. Moreover, different ethnic groups were kept in rotation, e.

Yet, it was a striving to escape this situation and secure privileges which led to the "policy of cadre stabilization" by , in which ethnic groups stopped moving and secured control over specific territories resulting in the rise of local elites. I have focused on Russia, and could reveal further problems with this case, but I believe he displays similar weaknesses in other areas too.

Gran replaces conventional units, such as Europe, the Muslim world, Latin America, etc. Indeed, the criteria seem to change from example to example. When characterizing the Russian road he uses terms such as: hierarchic culture and political centralization, universal compulsory military service, non-tribal state, etc. Why not speak then about with some qualifications German or Prussian roads? Trying to show the similarity between Russian and Iraqi history, he breaks with the conventional periodizations of and Moreover, he condemns historians for losing sight of the masses.

Yet, it is precisely these conventional periodizations which reveal when the mass has helped move history. By focusing on the tragedy of collectivization from , he instead shows more when the mass has been acted upon, rather than when it has acted itself.

On Russia, I also would have liked to see a look at the Brezhnev conservative period. Without inspecting this era the Soviet crash in the s can hardly be understood. Comparing Iraq to Russia would seem attractive since the s Iraqi elite consciously oriented itself toward Soviet development.

Yet, this does not mean that the twentieth century saw Iraq following the Russian road throughout this whole period. What is more, why not compare the Congo to Russia and Iraq? Similar features are visible among all three e. Regarding India and Mexico, I do not think they have followed the Italian road, at least not consciously. And here too, Albania shows a similar path to Italy. In sum, I wonder how much these "connections" are consciously chosen between these are "roads," or are merely coincidences.

4.1. Types of Societies

Methodologically , and in terms of explanatory power of this model, the answer will determine the value of this "road" approach. In sum, the comparisons strike me as too arbitrary. Within Mexico City are located Mexico's cultural, mono-political power structure, corporatism, and revolutionary traditions; similar to Moscow. In Latin America it might be more sensible to compare Brazil to Italy with its dualism of the rich white south, and the poor black north.

It too has a tradition of corrupt democracy, penetrated by authoritarianism, but also strong independent trade unions on the left. Also, Gran states that the Italian case is typified by economic self-sufficiency and expansion for security reasons. Is this not too like the USSR? This book borrows heavily from Antonio Gramsci.

The humble fiber, transformed into yarn and cloth, stood at the center of the emergence of the industrial capitalism that is so familiar to us today. Our modern world originates in the cotton factories, cotton ports, and cotton plantations of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The United States was just one nexus in a much larger story that connected artisans in India, European manufacturers, and, in the Americas, African slaves and land-grabbing settlers. It was those connections, over often vast distances, that created an empire of cotton—and with it modern capitalism.

The rise of the rich: a new view of modern world history

To understand American slavery it is not enough to just look at the United States itself. We need to broaden our view to the world at large and to the history of global capitalism as it unfolded over several centuries. To understand American slavery we need to analyze the relative strength of social and political structures in places such as the 18th-century Ottoman Empire and s western India. It is at this point that the history of capitalism connects in refreshing ways with another important emerging field, global history.

As is widely known, history as an academic discipline emerged hand-in-hand with the modern nation-state, and indeed played an important part in its constitution. It is for this reason that most history has been framed within the borders of modern states. In recent years, however, some historians have tried to think beyond such frameworks, bringing together stories of regional or even global scope—for example, Charles S.

When we apply that global perspective, we develop a new appreciation for the centrality of slavery, in the United States and elsewhere, in the emergence of modern capitalism. We can also comprehend how that dependence on slavery was eventually overcome later in the 19th century.

World history

We come to understand that the ability of European merchants to secure ever-greater quantities of cotton cloth from South Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries was crucial to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, as cloth came to be the core commodity exchanged for slaves on the western coast of Africa.

We grasp that the rapidly expanding markets for South Asian cloth in Europe and elsewhere motivated Europeans to enter the cotton-manufacturing industry, which had flourished elsewhere in the world for millennia. And a global perspective allows us to comprehend in new ways how slavery became central to the Industrial Revolution. As machine production of cotton textiles expanded in Britain and continental Europe, traditional sources of raw cotton—especially cultivators in the Ottoman Empire as well as in Africa and India—proved insufficient.

With European merchants unable to encourage the monocultural production of cotton in these regions and to transform peasant agriculture, they began to draw on slave-grown cotton, at first from the West Indies and Brazil, and by the s especially in the United States.


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It was able to escape the constraints on its own resources—no cotton, after all, was grown in Europe—because of its increasing and often violent domination of global trade networks, along with the control of huge territories in the Americas. For the first 80 years of modern industry, the only significant quantities of raw cotton entering European markets were produced by slaves—and not from the vastly larger cotton harvests of China or India.

A global perspective lets us see that the ability to secure more and cheaper cotton gave European and North American manufacturers the ability to increase the production of cheap yarn and cloth, which in turn allowed them to capture ancient cotton markets in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, furthering a wave of deindustrialization in those parts of the world. Innovations in long-distance trade, the investment of capital over long distances, and the institutions in which this new form of capitalist globalization were embedded all derived from a global trade dominated by slave labor and colonial expansion.

A global perspective on the history of cotton also shows that slave labor is as much a sign of the weakness as of the strength of Western capital and states. The ability to subdue labor in distant locations testified to the accumulated power of European and North American capital owners. Yet it also showed their inability to transform peasant agriculture.

We cannot know if the cotton industry was the only possible way into the modern industrial world, but we do know that it was the path to global capitalism. We do not know if Europe and North America could have grown rich without slavery, but we do know that industrial capitalism and the Great Divergence in fact emerged from the violent caldron of slavery, colonialism, and the expropriation of land.

It was the backbreaking labor of unremunerated American slaves in places like South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. And we also need to qualify the fairy tale we like to tell about capitalism and free labor. Global capitalism is characterized by a whole variety of labor regimes, one of which, a crucial one, was slavery. During its heyday, in fact, slavery was seen as essential to the economy of the Western world.

From Darkness to Light: The Renaissance Begins

Slavery did not die because it was unproductive or unprofitable, as some earlier historians have argued. Slavery was not some feudal remnant on the way to extinction. It died because of violent struggle, because enslaved workers continually challenged the people who held them in bondage—nowhere more successfully than in the s in the French colony of Saint-Domingue now Haiti, site of the first free nation of color in the New World , and because a courageous group of abolitionists struggled against some of the dominant economic interests of their time.

A contributing factor in the death of slavery was the fact that it was a system not just of labor exploitation but of rule that drew in particular ways on state power.

Renaissance - HISTORY

Southern planters had enormous political power. They needed it: to protect the institution of slavery itself, to expand its reach into ever more lands, to improve infrastructures, and to position the United States within the global economy as an exporter of agricultural commodities. In time, the interests of the South conflicted more and more with those of a small but growing group of Northern industrialists, farmers and workers. Able to mobilize labor through wage payments, Northerners demanded a strong state to raise tariffs, build infrastructures conducive to domestic industrialization, and guarantee the territorial extension of free labor in the United States.

Afraid that they were losing control over essential levers of power, slaveowners tried to strike out on their own.