No Need to Choose: History from Above, History from Below
June 29, 2014 1:14 PM Subscribe
Where does the new interest in the “history of capitalism” come from?
posted by whyareyouatriangle (9 comments total)
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I’d suggest the following rudiments of an answer. The financial crisis of 2008-09 has clearly placed certain issues of historicization on the agenda. If the accelerated and seemingly unstoppable drive for the “flattening” of the world through a process of neoliberal globalization since the early 1990s has not actually brought us to a permanently unfolding and self-reproducing neoliberal present, but has rather encountered severe structural problems, then how do we historicize this current time? That is, how do we understand the contemporary crisis of capitalism, in all its political and social ramifications, in relation to longer-run processes of capitalist restructuring and their logics of development and difficulty; and how do we locate the history of the present inside a larger-scale framework of periods and conjunctures?
To bring the specificities of the present into focus, I’ll argue that the preceding era, essentially the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, often treated as a ground from which a successful politics of the Left might be rebuilt, was actually a very particular and non-repeatable time. In doing this, I’ll draw on two bodies of argument. One uses the increasingly rich historiography of slavery, post-emancipation societies, and the Black Atlantic, with its challenge to our basic notations of the origins of the modern world. The other concerns the distinctive conditions of accumulation and exploitation now defining the new globalized division of labor of the present, particularly in the deregulated migrant and transnationalized labor markets still being generated at ever-accelerating pace. In this second argument I’ll draw some contrasts with the previous accumulation regime established after 1945 and lasting until the mid-1970s.