Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Historical Source of Capitalism, Part Three:

Today I read Woods "The Origin of Capitalism" and dicovered her thesis is remarkably pedestrian. She says there was a mainstream theory that capitalism arose from the merchant classes in the big cities around the edges of Europe in the thirteenth century, which she contradicts with an equally Eurocentric and uninteresting view. For Woods, the origin of capitalism is in "agrarian capitalism", which she then does not define, so I had to deduce it from the discussion. No wonder people call this stuff imperialistic: it's so dull it almost begs to be disputed. How could anyone confuse this verbiage with the most exciting and successful form of organisation that is specific to humans?

Anyway, with a grudging spirit here is Wood's guess at How Capitalism Came About:

Agrarian capitalism is simply when landlords over farmers charged rent taking the market for the farming products derived from that land into account. It was, she contends, an unnatural and disruptive matter of landlords taking the market into account that triggered the fullest closure of the Commons, the ensuing wave of emigrations to the swollen cities, and the wage-labor that occured.

All this is merely an elaboration of basic instincts. The abstractional awareness of "the market" may have been part of the landlord's minds, but it is hardly a definitive quality of their innovation.

The real source of capitalism, I believe, must be Sumer or Babylon. But why has this story not been told? When I did searches for information on this, there is only the popular book, The Richest Man In Babylon, by Richard Clason.

This should be an exciting first-time-told story when I uncover the details!

As I write this I am browsing the book reviews on Sagg's Babylonians, Roux's Ancient Iraq, Kramer's History Begins at Sumer, and Oppenheim's Ancient Mesopotamia. These all hold forth exciting promise of yielding answers.

It has been amusing trying to track down a history of capitalism without political bias. It would seem that people prefer to locate the context anywhere but at its source. Even the two books I read titled ORIGIN of capitalism are distinctly polemic in nature.

By contrast, I just want to see the thing clearly, as it is. And that's both my bias and my bliss.

The way I understand it capitalism is an essentially human pattern of applying the ecological instinct to human relations. The reference to forms of capitalism is as limiting as comparing an insect's predation style to a mammals: worse, it is useless. Capitalism is formless by definition because it is a process of intuiting the market, which is an abstract mental model of real people's responses in real or digital time.

Likewise, the simplistic ecological intuitions of economists reflect the "hall of mirrors" approach where those economics who are taught to be proudly ignorant of ecology and systems theory, apply their odd individual sensibilities to the idea of capitalism. Worse, when political groupthinkers idealise the notion of capitalism (either as "imperialistic enemy" or "source of human prosperity", one becomes blinded to its essential shortcomings and difficulties, since it is merely a well-trained instinct for the abstract market by my estimation. But that is another story.

To end up, then, I understand capitalism to be merely ecological intuition applied to the human sphere. These intuitions, once business enacts them, are elaborated by evolutionary feedback (Darwinian to begin, and now increasingly Lamarckian). It is no more and no less a special human gift.

It would be interesting if the Sumerian age of confusion, the Dark Ages of the Near East, lasting from 1300 to 900 B.C.E could be the time when that abstract ability first developed as a consequence?!!


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