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Author: IPE


There is no international political economy before 1492 – only long distance trade routes.

Feudalism is the aristocracy appropriating the agricultural surplus of the peasantry. Money is for fighting wars, saving souls and buying luxuries. The measure of wealth is the number of dependents: soldiers, servants, priests and entertainers.

The aristocratic household is the prototype of the national economy. The King is the top warrior. The Pope is the top priest. The Caliph is both. Bastard feudalism: the monetarisation of labour dues and payments in kind. Trading monopolies and commercial privileges. The measure of wealth is the amount of gold in the royal treasury.

The Physiocrats in late-18th century France: François Quesnay and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot. Economic policies to aid agricultural production: low taxes, minimum regulation and efficient bureaucracy. The cities are parasitical on the countryside. The measure of wealth is the size of the grain harvest.

Liberalism: England is the first industrial nation. The 1707 Act of Union turns England and Scotland into Great Britain. The Scottish Enlightenment pioneers the materialist conception of history. Adam Smith’s theory of historical evolution: hunting -> herding -> agriculture -> commerce.

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Volume 1 & Volume 2. (1776)

The factory is the division of labour. The market is the distribution of labour. The specialisation of individual tasks underpins the collectivisation of the economic production. Aristocrats and servants are unproductive labour. Slavery is an anachronism. Artisans and farmers are productive labour. Free trade is choosing your own trade. The “hidden hand” of the market turns private ambition into public benefit. Liberalism is market competition, minimum government and the rule of law. The independent citizen is a bourgeois property-owner. The measure of wealth is the output of human labour.

David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. (1817)

Ricardo is an immigrant Londoner banker: Portuguese Jew into English Quaker. The countryside is parasitical on the cities. Rent is a deduction from profits and wages. The benefits of free trade inside a national economy are amplified with the world economy. The comparative advantage of nations is the distribution of labour on a global scale. Portugal sells port to the English to pay for its imports of English manufactured goods. The Atlantic triangle: England sells cotton and weapons to buy sugar and tobacco -> West Africa sells slaves to buy cotton and weapons -> the Caribbean sells sugar and tobacco to buy slaves. English merchants profit at each point in the triangular transaction.

The 1776 American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson and the Democrats: minimum state, free trade, agriculture and slavery. Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists: strong state, protectionism, industry and wage labour.

The 1789 French Revolution. Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, What is the Third Estate? The Girondins are liberals: constitutional monarchy, limited suffrage and free trade. Men with property are the shareholders of the nation. Saint-Domingue is the richest colony of France. The Jacobins are democrats: the republic, male suffrage and protectionism. Men without property are citizens of the republic. Toussaint L’Ouverture and the 1791 Haitian Revolution. C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins. Revolutionary war as national autarchy: the maximum, forced requisitions and state industries. Gracchus Babeuf and the 1797 Conspiracy of Equals. Revolutionary war as foreign plunder: Napoléon Bonaparte as Emperor of the French 1804-1814/1815, the Continental System, the 1812 invasion of Russia.

Friedrich List, The National System of Political Economy. (1841). Free trade is British rule over the global economy. Political independence requires economic independence. Protectionism, state regulation and class harmony. Georg Hegel, The Philosophy of Right. (1821) The state bureaucracy as the universal class.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto. (1848) The pamphlet was launched at the Red Lion pub, Great Windmill Street in Soho. The red republicans: Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Henri Saint-Simon and Auguste Blanqui. The manifesto of the 1848 Revolutions: feudalism -> liberalism -> democracy -> socialism. The workers and capitalists against the aristocrats and clergy evolves into the workers against the bourgeoisie. Democracy is the precondition of socialism in politics: the 1871 Paris Commune, the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party and the German Social Democratic Party. Liberalism is the precondition of socialism in the economy: the cooperative commonwealth. Capitalist globalisation is the precondition of world socialism: the 1st and 2nd Internationals.

Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1. (1867): surplus value, business cycles, new technologies and commodity fetishism. Unalienated labour is self-expression. Paul Lafargue, The Right to be Lazy. (1883) The measure of wealth is free time.

Within this MySpace version of the electronic agora, cybernetic communism was mainstream and unexceptional. What had once been a revolutionary dream was now an enjoyable part of everyday life.