power origin of capitalism Max Weber

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power origin of capitalism Max Weber

Postby gibinhong » Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:57 pm

The origin of capitalism is an absolutely crucial issue for building power theory of capital, but, unfortunately, this is not fully explicated in Veblen's work in detail. However, this does not necessarily means he was ignorant of or did not study in earnest on this issue. One interesting piece by him is his review of Sombart's [/i] Das Modrene Kapitalismus (you can find it in JSTOR). After a praise on the book, quite rare to find in Veblen, he made his crucial difference with Sombart saying that, with all the examples of business institutions in 18th century central Europe Sombart describes, the direct origin of our modern business system should be found in the history of English-speaking countries.

Here is another work by Weber on this crucial issue: [General Economic History], tr. by Frank Night. This is not exactly a book because it's based on his lecture on the course on the origin of modern capitalism he delivered just before he died. It presents his mature view on this issue, much richer and systematic than the partial and unclear fragments in [Economy and Society] as well as much chattered-about [Protestant and Capitalist Spirit].

This work has been unduly ignored among sociologists (especially the "economic sociology" guru Swedberg). However, this book compresses enormous amount of informations and his life-long research and offers numerous intrigues on the origin of capital accounting, forms of enterprise, social and political conditions etc.

If needed, Randall Collins's "Weber's Last Theory of Capitalism: A Synthesis" American Sociological Review 1985, 45(6) and Geoffrey Ingham's piece on Swedberg...(sorry, I don't recall the bibliogrphicals.).
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Re: power origin of capitalism Max Weber

Postby dtcochrane » Tue Dec 16, 2008 7:57 pm

Hi Gibin,
I'd actually invert your initial assertion and state that a power theory of capitalism is crucial for helping us to locate the origins of capitalism. To me the origins of capitalism rest upon the origins of capital as an institution. We need to understand that institution before we can understand where, when, how and why capitalism emerged. I would argue that we can locate capital and capitalist interactions as soon as ownership itself becomes valued, 14th century Italy.

I didn't know that Veblen said the origins of capitalism should be located in the English speaking countries. He was once enamoured of engineers and perhaps wanted to retain the close link between capitalism and industry. He would eventually become disillusioned by the technicians in charge of the technical side of production. I wonder if this changed his ideas of where capitalism originates?

Troy
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Re: power origin of capitalism Max Weber

Postby gibinhong » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:07 pm

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Re: power origin of capitalism Max Weber

Postby dtcochrane » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:20 pm

Gibin,
I think these questions are precisely what need to be further fleshed out in tracing a power theory conception of the historical trajectory of capitalism. I would argue that as soon as their is valuation of ownership claims, there is capital and therefore capitalism. Did power create capital? Growing powers did, as they sought new, practical ways to expand their control over the assets of the community. But, as you note, they were well down the hierarchy. Few likely would have predicted just how revolutionary their attempt to disburse risk would truly prove to be. But revolutionary it was.

Early capitalism was a system of power, but not the dominant system of power. It was in uneasy tension with landed aristocrats holding hereditary title and capable of crushing the nascent capitalists - as indeed happened. I actually think the tale of capitalism's emergence and eventual ascendancy as [i]the[i] dominant system of power (although still susceptible to non-capitalist agents) is best told from the power perspective precisely because it acknowledges other systems and does not view capitalism's 'victory' as a logical necessity.

I'm definitely going to fish out that book by Weber and see what I can poach from it for my own work.

Troy
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Re: power origin of capitalism Max Weber

Postby gibinhong » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:58 am

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Re: power origin of capitalism Max Weber

Postby dtcochrane » Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:09 pm

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