Posts Tagged 'Primitive Accumulation'

A Spectre is Haunting paper: The Genesis of Capitalism

Do international relations precede or follow (logically) fundamental social relations? There is not doubt that they follow. Any organic innovation in the social structure, through it’s technical military expressions, modifies organically absolute or relatively relations in the international field too – Antonio Gramsci (1971: 176).

Karl Marx once wrote “the economic structure of capitalist society has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter set free the elements of the former” (1990: 875). It has been argued, against the orthodox conceptions in the International Relations (IR) discipline, that the origins of the modern international system was bound up with the rise of capitalism in early modern England (Rosenberg 1994: 138; Teschke 2003: 11). The purpose of this presentation is to provide a Marxist interpretation of the origins the modern international system. The subject of this study is England and begins with analysing the establishment of agrarian capitalism, the “so-called primitive accumulation” of early capitalism which fostered the changing property-social relations of the land. I analyse the consequential economic, social and political transformations, that is, the reconfiguration of the English state/civil matrix. I examine how the changing social relations affected the shift from dynastic sovereignty to parliamentary sovereignty, in sharp contrast to the Absolutist state of France. I establish the transformation and duality of England’s foreign policy towards Europe, which shifted on the basis of a capitalist social property dynamic that revolutionised the British state. I demonstrate how the geopolitical pressures of British capitalism affected the course of socio-political development in the old European continent. Indeed, the aim of this presentation is to demonstrate, as Gramsci stated, how international relations are intricately linked to the correlation of social forces, in civil society and the state, both domestically and internationally. Finally, I conclude by analysing the nature of global capitalist hegemony, which had the British Empire at its core. This last section deals more with the theoretical aspect of hegemony than a empirical-historical analysis. I develop the neo-Gramscian concept of hegemony to explicate the social-cultural hegemony of a ruling class and the expression this has on international politics and the world order. In sum, I argue that the rising capitalist state/civil matrix in England “would play a pivotal role in the long-term restructuring of the European states-system” (Teschke 2003: 249). Overall, sixteenth to late seventeenth century England is the point of reference for this investigation. No single event or date can be singled out as the decisive point of the modern international system; for this is an era. International relations in this period of transformation were thus not modern, but modernising (Teschke 2003: 250). Continue reading ‘A Spectre is Haunting paper: The Genesis of Capitalism’


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