Writing in the Morning Star, Tom Mellen praises the global perspective of Henry Heller’s The Birth of Capitalism: A 21st Century Perspective:
Heller details how this centuries-long process of extracting vast amounts of surplus value through systematic state-led “mercantilist” polices of enslavement and plunder of the peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas enabled capitalists in the north-western corner of the Eurasian peninsula to accrue an abundance of capital.
This was what prepared the ground for the emergence of “competitive markets.”
He insists on the “revolutionary potential of the peasantry and petty producers” in neocolonial countries and chides some socialists for “failing to take the political and economic importance of the underdeveloped world seriously enough.”
It’s challenging positions like this which make The Birth Of Capitalism such a stimulating and essential read.
Visit the Morning Star to read the review in full.
Writing in Socialist Review, Sarah Young also highlights the book’s unique international perspective:
Heller aims to break out of the Anglo-centrism that has dominated much of the debate on the transition. He argues that the focus should not just be on the emergence of capitalism in England, but that the beginnings of capitalist social relations were in the whole of Western Europe. He considers early “experiments in capitalism” looking at Italy, Germany and France.
She praises the book’s argument that, contra free-market ideology, capitalism in the West has always depended upon state intervention:
The main strength of the book is that Heller places the development of the state at the centre of the birth of capitalism. For Heller, Brenner is guilty of economic determinism in his disregard of the importance of the state as “the ultimate linchpin of capitalism”.
By placing the state back into the centre of the analysis of the emergence of capitalism, Heller suggests we overcome the false contrast between the “European” path to capitalism, which is caricatured as a purely economic development, and the alternative development of capitalism elsewhere driven by state intervention.
The state was important in nurturing capitalism in its beginnings and in overseeing its development through mercantilism.
Visit Socialist Review to read the review in full.
A 21st Century Perspective
Fresh intervention into the historical debate over the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Considers the past and possible future of capitalism.