Karl Marx, Anthropologist

By Thomas C. Patterson | Go to book overview

5

Capitalism and the Anthropology of the
Modern World

Marx's lifelong fascination with history and how it merges with the present has its roots in first-hand observations about and experiences of the places he lived. Over the years, these snapshots would inform his analyses of various moments or stages in the development of capitalism. They ranged from the collapse of rural cottage industry in Trier during his teenage years through the explosive growth of Berlin's population and burgeoning construction industry in the early 1840s or the fragmentation of the French peasantry and the presence of 85,000 German workers in Paris (roughly an eighth of the city's 650,000 residents) by the mid 1840s to the enormous pools of skilled and unskilled workers employed in the gradually changing industries of London after 1849.

The transition to the factory system … was not a clear-cut process. For a long time there
were branches of manufacture virtually untouched by mechanization, while others were
experiencing a revolutionary transformation. More than that, within the same field of
enterprise, old and new methods of production often coexisted, neither strong enough to
overcome the other, though time was clearly on the side of innovation. (Hamerow 1969:
16)

Marx's understanding of the subtleties of capitalist development in different areas would deepen in the years to come. This was partly due to his own historical anthropological research and partly to his acquaintance with the work of others, including Engels's (1845/1975) The Condition of the Working Class in England and the sources he used for a series of articles about British colonial rule in India and local reactions to it that appeared in the New York Daily Tribune between 1852 and 1862 (Habib 2006; Husain 2006; Patnaik 2006). Marx (1880/1989) was not only concerned with collecting information about actual social conditions—as evidenced, for example, by the 100 questions in his “Enquête Ouvrière,” which was sent via labor unions and political groups to 25,000 workers in 1880—but also, and more importantly, with disseminating this knowledge both to the workers themselves and to the wider public through venues like the Tribune, which had a weekly circulation of about 200,000, making it the most widely read paper in the United States at the time (Husain 2006: xiii; Weiss 1936/1973).1 The research for the Tribune articles provided him with

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Karl Marx, Anthropologist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chronology xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Enlightenment and Anthropology 9
  • 2: Marx's Anthropology 39
  • 3: Human Natural Beings 65
  • 4: History, Culture, and Social Formation 91
  • 5: Capitalism and the Anthropology of the Modern World 117
  • 6: Anthropology for the Twenty-First Century 145
  • Notes 173
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 219
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