The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750, with a New Prologue - Vol. 2

The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750, with a New Prologue - Vol. 2

The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750, with a New Prologue - Vol. 2

The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750, with a New Prologue - Vol. 2

Synopsis

Immanuel Wallerstein's highly influential, multi-volume opus, The Modern World-System, is one of this century's greatest works of social science. An innovative, panoramic reinterpretation of global history, it traces the emergence and development of the modern world from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

Excerpt

This volume starts with the question of how to describe what was going on in Europe during the seventeenth century. The great debate of the 1950s and 1960s about the “crisis” of the seventeenth century laid a great deal of emphasis on the “feudal” character of its processes. Most authors interpreted this to mean that there was a “refeudalization” of Europe. Volume 2 is an attempt to refute these characterizations and to insist once again that the European world-economy had become definitively capitalist during the long sixteenth century. In many ways, volume 2 is the crucial volume of the whole set in that it makes the case for a certain vision and definition of capitalism as a historical system.

Many readers have found this aspect of the work the hardest part to accept. It seems perhaps useful, therefore, to try to restate this argument more theoretically, and to indicate why I believe that what we call feudalism in Europe of the late Middle Ages is fundamentally different from the socalled second feudalism of early modern times.

The second new and important theme developed in this volume is that of hegemony. Here, too, many persons, even those sympathetic to the overall effort undertaken by world-systems analysis, have misunderstood the argument about the concept of hegemony. So it is perhaps useful also to try to restate exactly what I mean by hegemony and why I think it is a crucial concept in understanding how the modern world-system operates.

Was Europe a World-Economy in the Period 1450–1750?

The intellectual question is whether one can argue that there existed a European world-economy that was a capitalist world-economy in the period 1450– 1750. Actually, this constitutes two questions, not one: whether Europe (or some part thereof) constituted a singular economic entity in this period with a singular axial division of labor, and whether this entity can be described as capitalist.

The argument starts from a premise, which is both conceptual and empirical. The premise is that there are phenomena known as “logistics” (Rondo Cameron’s phrase), which are more frequently called in the French literature “trends séculaires.” These are presumably very long cycles, consisting of an inflationary A-phase and a deflationary B-phase. That such logistics exist seems to be widely, but not universally, taken for granted in the literature of European economic historians concerning both the late Middle Ages and early modern Europe. Empirically, the dating most frequently found in the literature is as follows:

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.