[OPE-L] Paul Bairoch

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Fri Jul 06 2007 - 13:52:49 EDT

The wikipedia reference article on Paul Bairoch
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bairoch  is still under construction, I
haven't had time yet to finish what I intended (I need to get more sources),
even although Dr Kliman who doesn't really know anything much about Bairoch,
wanted to dot the i's on what I wrote, even as I wrote it, in his sectarian
manner (wikistalking). Posing as an authority on economic history which he
isn't, Dr Kliman wanted to downgrade Bairoch's importance from his own
orthodox Marxist throne, with the stroke of a key. I thought he shouldn't
get away with his malicious, infantile edits in regard to this article and
the David Laibman article, and therefore I responded to his editorialising
at some length.

What occasioned the Bairoch article was that in thinking about some issues
of economic history recently, I chanced on one of Bairoch's writings while
book-browsing in town, which answered a question I had about the revolution
in agricultural techniques prior to the industrial revolution. Bairoch is
little mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon literature, except within certain
circles of economic historians, mainly because many of his writings -
including his magnum opus - have not been translated into English. English
readers are familiar with Pomeranz, Landes, Wallerstein etc.but not Bairoch.

I had read some of Bairoch's works before in another context (development
economics), and I was motivated to find out more about what else he had
written. I realised in the course of an on-line bibliographic search (which
I couldn't do in the 1980s) on his life and work, that he had written much
more than I thought, but also that there was no one on-line source listing
all his books, which I therefore compiled and included in the article, with
the idea of reading more, when able to do so. This article is a free
information service, but obviously not intended as an "original academic
article". I could hoard the knowledge to myself as well, but thought I would
share it, since it may be useful to others.

This however arouses the fury of Rakesh Bhandari, who appears to suffer like
Dr Kliman and Louis Proyect from serious problems of status envy and status
resentment, and who like Dr Kliman likes to dot the i's on other people's
writing, as well as denounce renegades or unbelievers who deviate from their
own orthodox religion. They are a sort of equivalent of Marxist policemen.
Somehow, Bhandari must find fault with me, and introduce the
r-r-r-revolutionary nuance, and this time he latches on to a French quote
from Bairoch, mentioned in Paroles de Sciences Sociales, which I inserted in
the article. And he whinges that this is all I quote from Bairoch...

Point is, Bhandari shows no interest in Bairoch per se himself. He just
wants to nitpick on something to find fault with me. If Bhandari had sincere
motives and knew about Bairoch, he would help improve the article, and share
his knowledge. And if he was a genuine student of economic history, he would
be grateful for the modest but useful information service I provided free of
charge, since there is no other place on the net where Bairoch's main
writings are conveniently collected together.

It is true, Bairoch wasn't a Marxist, least of all an orthodox Marxist,
although basically on the Left and, in his later years, critical of
neo-liberal revisions of economy history. As he said himself, "S'il me
fallait résumer ce que l'essence de l'histoire économique peut apporter à la
science économique, je dirais qu'il n'existe pas de "lois" ou règles en
économie qui soient valables pour toutes les périodes de l'histoire ou pour
chacun des systèmes économiques." But he influenced a generation of economic
historians, as well as Marxists such as Ernest Mandel, Andre Gunder Frank
and Robert Brenner, and Bairoch's empirical findings are certainly important
in evaluating the real history of capitalist development. I think that
should not be forgotten or overlooked, and if my reference article is an aid
to that, I'm satisfied enough.

Orthodox Marxism and the anti-capitalists try to prove that capitalism
originated out of the expropriation of the working population and colonial
robbery. But any serious historian knows - like Marx & Engels - that these
are only some aspects of the origin of capitalism and the development of
market trade, and moreover Orthodox Marxism often overlooks that
expropriation and colonial robbery ("primitive accumulation") are things
which continued, in one form or another, even during the epoch of industrial

According to orthodox Marxism, true orthodoxy resides in Marx's "dialectical
method" but the actual applications of this method in real, substantive
historical research of the facts are few and far between. I was recently
asked to review a book with new, mainly philosophical Marxist essays on
dialectics for the journal Science & Society, but if you read that book, you
realise quite clearly the authors themselves still don't agree on what
Marx's dialectical method was (one of the points I made in my post on
method). So really no "orthodoxy" is possible in this regard.


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