From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Tue Sep 16 2003 - 19:19:51 EDT
Here are some notes and citations on the scholarly controversy over the origins of the Industrial Revolution. Was agrarian capitalism an almost sufficient condition for the emergence of industrial capitalism? Did the former provide the released labor, the dependence on market goods and rising incomes on which the Industrial Revolution depended? How exactly productive was English agrarian capitalism? What role did the Atlantic trading system based in slavery play in the Industrial Revolution? The works of Robert Brenner, Joseph Inikori and Kenneth Pomeranz are highlighted. BIN WONG IN DEFENSE OF POMERANZ AGAINST BRENNER/HUANG http://www.aasianst.org/catalog/wong.pdf INIKORI'S TRADE BASED THEORY OF ORIGINS OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM http://www.waado.org/NigerDelta/Documents/Slavery/SlaveryandDevelopment-Inikori.html ON COTTON I Could England have met its cotton needs through imports from Egypt and India? Note Kenneth Pomeranz's response on pp.275-78 in The Great Divergence. These are in my opinion absolutely crucial pages in his argument, and it is my impression that Brenner and Isett's next reply will concentrate on them (I can't find explicit, detailed commentary on said pages in their first Pomeranz critique in Journal of Asian Studies, May 2002, but it is long and detailed, and I may well have missed it). I am looking very forward to how this argument is resolved. While both Inikori and Pomeranz place the Atlantic trading system based on slavery at the center of their respective explanations of the emergence of industrial capitalism, the latter emphasizes that the resource bounty that England enjoyed due to the the geographic, ecological and institutional features of New World agriculture allowed England to overcome the land constraints on which its proto industrialization would have otherwise crashed (as did proto industrialization in Jiangnan). On the basis of a survey of the evidence of cotton producing capacity and potential in the 18th and 19th centuries, Pomeranz doubts that Manchester would have been able to find in (or induce from) Old World markets the quantity of cheap cotton that it needed at the time it began its impetuous industrialization. Even England's attempts in India and (indirectly) in Egypt to diversify its sources of cotton after industrialization was well under way came up short (the role that the colonization of India played in the English industrial revolution however includes more than the supply of cotton, see Irfan Habib, Essays in Indian History: Towards A Marxist Perception, pp. 259-366). Pomeranz argues that industrial development would have probably not taken off had it not been for slave-based, New World agriculture (as well as English coal) relieving the land shortage that industrialization would have otherwise exacerbated to the point of Malthusian crisis. Brenner and Isett argue that Pomeranz has underestimated the revolutionary accomplishments and capacity of English agriculture. Did the veiled slavery of the English industrial proletariat need for its pedestal slavery, pure and simple, in the New World? ON COTTON II Brenner would argue that since the Dutch and the French also had access to New World cotton, New World cotton cannot explain why England industrialized first. Since Inikori's explanation for England's priority in the Industrial Revolution is based not on England's access to cotton per se but England's domination of trade-- imports to, as well as exports and reexports of tropical products from, the "plummest" territories in the Americas--Inikori does in fact provide an explanation for why England industrialized first not only in North West Europe but in the world as a whole. So in terms of Inikori's theory: if the English had focused on Egypt or India until the end of the 18th century and ceded dominance over American trade to either the Dutch or the French, either of these continental powers may have industrialized first. Pomeranz would however argue (I believe) that the ecological and institutional features of New World agriculture allowed all of Northwest Europe to break through land constraints that had frustrated the expansion of proto industrialization in Europe and elsewhere (and in Jiangnan in particular) and that England's industrial priority which did not last long at all within Europe can be explained by the disruptions of war on the continent. The "Englishness" of the Industrial Revolution seems less important to Pomeranz. INIKORI'S CRITICISM OF BRENNER/WOOD THEORY OF AGRARIAN CAPITALISM AS QUASI SUFFICIENT CASUE OF INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION "Robert Brenner dismissed the importance of overseas trade in the Industrial Revolution and argued that the class structure produced by the development of capitalist agriiculture in England in the 15th and 16th centuries was the principal cause. The main weakness of this argument...is Brenner's presentation of class struggle as the main determinant of development without showing hte factors in the historical process that produced the classes and over times changes in their relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as over time changes in the way the members of the classes perceived their self interests. To show that agrarian class structure was not a sufficient condition for WEuropean development, critics point to the similarity between England's agrarian structure and those of renaissance Italy and 17th c Holland, countries where the agrarian class structures in question developed much earlier than England without producing an industrial revolution... [Moreover]...regional studies by the main authorities all show unambiguously that much of the agrarian development in England between 1086 and 1660 was limited to counties in the South of England, that is, counties lying to the south of a line drawn from The Wash to the Severn estuary...Now if Brenner's agrarian class structure were the principal cause of the Industrial Revolution, clearly the leading regions would have been in the South of England. But, as we have seen, it was agriculturally backward Lancashire and Yorkshire that led the way, while East Anglia with its progressive agrarian class structure stagnated." p. 147-8 of Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England. POSSIBLE CRITICISM OF INIKORI I am wondering whether Lancashire, Yorshire, etc were dependent not on net immigration or markets but food imports from the south of England? Brenner argues that agricultural transformation and growth of agricultural productivity allowed the economy to support an ever greater proportion of the labor force outside of agriculture (more than 60% of the population off the land by end of 18th century as well as a tripling of population before imports become necessary). Brenner would argue (as I know from personal correspondence) that the specialization of south and east England in arable was part and parcel of the capitalist transformation of the national regional division of labor in which the north and west came to concentrate on arable husbandry, sheep, cattle, etc also on a highly capitalist basis. If so, industry develops in the north because labor is freed up as a result of the low labor requirements of the pastoral agriculture in which the North came to specialize. Later the higher rate of profit in industry over pastoral agriculture gives industry the dynamism to suck in more labor as well as support a natural increase in population. As always, Brenner has strong defenses. MORE ON INIKORI'S CRITICISM OF THEORY OF AGRARIAN CAPITALISM 1.There is doubt that rents were as competitively determined as Wood and Brenner argue. Robert Allen has raised many criticisms of the theory of agrarian capitalism; can't remember whether Ellen Wood speaks to them. 2. Inikori is not emphasizing the profits from slave trading. The growth of cloth exports from Yorkshire for example seems to have derived in large part from American demand, itself of course the result of its own commodity exports tied in one way or another to slavery. Are you arguing that the profits or rents from agararian capitalism were invested in industry? I think there is much less evidence for that than the much maligned Williams thesis, by the way. 3. Brenner/Wood are emphasizing changes in land tenure and agrarian capitalist behavior which were for the most part regionally specific, concentrated (as I understand it) in the south of England. Inikori's challenge which may or may not prove successful is that Brenner/Wood's agrarian capitalism cannot have underpinned the Industrial Revolution given England's regional fragmentation. As Inikori has emphasized to me in private correspondence, "inter-regional specialization was not an important phenomenon in England's industrialization before the railway age well into the 19th century. There is no evidence of large export of foodstuffs from the southern counties to Lancashire and Yorkshire in the 18th century, just as there is no evidence of large export of manufactures from the latter to the former in exchange. Even the provisions carried by the Liverpool slave ships were largely from Lancashire and neighboring counties (such as Cheshire) and occasionally from Ireland. The evidence is clear enough that there was no integrated national economy in England before the railway age." This argument is developed esp on pp. 81-88 of his book. Inikori also argues that industrialization in the north of England did not depend on labourers dispossessed or released by agrarian capitalism in the south--these dispossessed rural laborers seem to have often languished in uemployment. Indeed Inikori emphasizes that most of the industrial workforce was supplied through a natural increase in population stimulated by the dynamics of industry itself. That is, the workforce does not seem to have even come from the arable pasture which did not have high labor requirements. I think Robert Allen supports Inikori here. INIKORI ARGUES INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM NOT USE DISPLACED AGRARIAN LABOR Inikori's answer emphasizes that changes in demographic behavior arising from growing employment opportunities in the non agricultural sector, especially commerce and industry, were principally responsbile for sustained population growth. This means that expanding oversas exports by creating more employment contributed to the growth of population and the expansion of the domestic market. So population growth in the main export producing and rapidly industrializing regions of the north of England--Lancashire and Yorkshire was the fastest in the whole country. In this way, the fast growing regions largely created their own labor force through natural increase and did not depend in a significant way on net immigation from others regions in England. So if rapidly industrializing regions of the North of England did not depend in a significant way on the other other regions for their labor and for the sale of their products, then the home demand argument based on agricultural prosperity and population growth seems weakened. From Inikori, p. 145. Yet throughout his counterargument Inikori does not really speak to the spectacular fact that agricultural imports are not necessary until after 1820 or 1830 despite a level of population out of agriculture that few economies reached until the 20th century if even then. Brenner's theory focuses on this astounding performance. And we can see a lot of downplaying of it or shifting attention away from it by Inikori and Pomeranz, however important their many other criticisms may be. This debate seems to me far from settled. Brenner would also deny that Inikori's implicit contention that there had not been a transformation of agriculture on a capitalist basis in the Midlands and northwest. There is also the question of why the spectacular Dutch developments in the early modern period fizzled out even though her agricultural sector showed dynamism as a result of changes in the social property relations.
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