Contesting Markets: Analyses of Ideology, Discourse and Practice

By Roy Dilly | Go to book overview
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Liberal discourse, in a creole reading of Adam Smith, was therefore, against all its own expectations, responsible for the destruction of the internal market, the demonetisation of the country, the internationalisation of mining capital and the creation of an export/import-dominated form of economic dependency which has continued to crucify the country for most of the twentieth century. Such issues in Bolivian historiography acquire added significance today, when the dominant capitalist interests in the western world - regrouping, diversifying and shedding labour in the face of the declining rate of profit, as well as cynically triumphalist in the face of the collapse of East European 'socialism' - increasingly fail to legitimate themselves through the historicist slogan of nineteenth-century liberalism that 'there is no other way'.

This text is based on materials collected during a research project ( Assadourian et al. 1980) on 'Mining and Economic Space in the Andes' ( 1980-3), sponsored by the Institute of Peruvian Studies ( Lima) and the National Archive of Bolivia ( Sucre) with funding from the Inter-American Foundation. It has been further developed by work with the Anglo-French Project on 'State control and social response in the Andes, XVI-XX centuries' ( 1985-7), funded by the ESRC and the CNRS (with Thérèse Bouysse, Olivia Harris and Thierry Saignes). Useful suggestions were forthcoming at the St Andrews conference on 'Concepts of the Market' ( 1991), and I am particularly grateful to Roy Dilley for his comments. During the final revision I derived additional benefit from discussions in St Andrews with Luis Javier Ortiz, of the Universidad de Medellín.
At this moment ( January 1991), the EC contemplates yielding to US demands that price subsidies to small European farmers be sacrificed to liberal 'economic principles' which coincide neatly with US and big capitalist farming's material interests while leaving the smaller farmers at the mercy of this field of power we imagine as 'the market'.
The classical metaphor of the 'ship of state' was already identified with commercial trade in seventeenth-century England ( L. Platt, personal communication).
For example by Dalio Fernandez, Subprefect of Chayanta province, see Informe del Subprefecto de Chayanta al Prefecto de Potosí, Potosí 1889 (p. 18).
A similar preception underlay the neo-protectionist current of 'national-economic' thought, exemplified by Hamiltonianism and given theoretical expression by Friedrich List, whose National System of Political Economy ( 1841-4) defended the necessity of a German customs union to achieve the national objective (see Hobsbawm 1990).
See Heinz Lubasz's chapter in this volume for the Providentialist overtones of this over-invoked phrase.
Smith attributes this to such factors as the uncontrollable risks abroad, transport costs and the lack of trusted agents. Though possibly true of the behaviour of many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British capitalists, the argument was of little consolation (as Rae pointed out) to those societies whose home industry was being destroyed by foreign capital.
An exchange of insults at the end of the century between the country's Constitutional and Liberal parties illustrates the point. In 1890, the Constitutionalists maintained that the insult 'conservative' (conservadores) had been hurled at them by the Liberal party out of resentment at being called themselves 'demolitionists' (demoledores) by the government ( La Industria, Año IX, no 1058, 4. 1. 1890) -- not to mention 'social Darwinists', which was certainly true (see Demelas 1980; Langer


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Contesting Markets: Analyses of Ideology, Discourse and Practice
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