Monday, 22 April 2013

More on 'Primitive Accumulation'

Some years ago, I found a wonderful book by Michael Perelman entitled The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation (Duke University Press, 2000).  Now I see that Perelman has a splendid article on Counterpunch, giving a whistle-stop tour of his arguments.  He bears out David Harvey's suggestion that 'primitive' accumulation is here with us now, and works via many means - from versions of 'enclosure' as I wrote here on April 6 in regard to Coillte, to the failure to regulate the banking and financial sectors of the economy - to transfer wealth from the many to the few.

Part of the pleasure, or grimness, to be derived from reading Perelman lies in being reminded of how in the mid-nineteenth century, Ireland, with its clachan settlements and rundale mode of land-use, and the potato economy, was the target of neo-classical economic reformers like David Ricardo.  In the lead-up to the Great Famine, Ricardo advocated not only the re-organisation of the rural economy, but also the disciplining of the Irish peasant workforce to the rigours of wage-labour.  The brilliant Irish critic David Lloyd, in his most recent book Irish Culture and Colonial Modernity: The Transformation of Oral Space 1800-2000 (Cambridge UP, 2011) gives a searing account of the transformations advocated by the likes of Ricardo, and by contemporary administrators such as Trevelyan, which while they certainly did not 'cause' the Famine considerably worsened its effects.

Here's a link to Michael Perelman's article:

 A Short History of Primitive Accumulation


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