tv Book Discussion on Empire of Cotton CSPAN February 21, 2015 11:00pm-12:41am EST
e of how we observe it. and this patent clerk albert einstein, how would we test that and take two clocks and try to synchronize them? likewise with steve jobs people didn't know we needed 1000 jobs in our pocket. we had walkman and mp3 players that were big part of our lives but steve was able to have a feel for beauty a feel for customer experience that to me made him the greatest intuitive genius of the digital age. that is what i meant by the that. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
>> i think we will get started. i want to thank julia for allowing me to say a few words. welcome to the new school. welcome to one of the featured events at the center for capitalism studies. for a couple of years i taught a course at our undergraduate division on understanding global capitalism and the first day we would come in and everyone had to look at the tag of the shirt on the shirt of the person to their left and tell us what country that shirt was made in. that was the first thing we did in understanding global capitalism and we would write the names of the countries on the board. it was invariably 25 countries. actually remarkable in the era
that the production is still quite diversified. what we learned by looking at cotton shirts in that case was about globalization of production. we learned about the structure of the modern corporation, about grounding fashion design and the relation between trade and capital movements but what we didn't have when i taught the course was sven beckert's book "empire of cotton" which not only raises those issues but those of colonization slavery were agricultural industrialization much broader. i look forward to teaching my course again so i will have this as a reference. these are enormous big issues about capitalism. in a way as an economist i feel comfortable saying they could really only be told in a single
tome by a historian. that was the basic rationale behind our formation of the center for capital studies. they are these major questions about capitalism that can't be addressed by economics alone. there are these political cultural sociological aspects and all of these big questions. historians can provide the atlanta and bring these perspectives together in this case and one brilliant book but it's not surprising that has to historians with came up with this idea. julie and her colleague klaus frankel who are the ones that imagine the idea for capitalism studies center at the new school school. the pleasure we have a historian that for us tonight. the idea of the center for
capitalism studies was to precisely take on these questions about economic dynamics about equality of income distribution distribution in that role at the state and social movements in relation to economic change. it was only going to be accomplished with and put it was clear from the outset from all the disciplines at the school for social research and some outside of it. so it's not surprising the center sits comfortably at the new school for social research were all of those disciplines concern themselves with those types of questions. bob kyle brenner after whom the center is named who had the great fortune working with and teaching with for over a decade became well-known not for the precise answers that he gave to these questions but because he raised these questions in the first place. he argued along marxist and keynesian lines that capitalism had a nature and it had a logic but it sounds highly precise but
he also understood economics and modern rate -- rigorous economics could not adequately address these questions. one story was a quip story was equipped to use when he said of economics had a journal called the journal of big economic issues its pages would be empty which was to say economists were not taking up the big important issues around questions of the dynamics of capitalism. the profession could not take them on so the profession retreated into corners of texas is amend over specialization. the question of these big issues and how to theorize them is not just of academic interest. when the financial crisis hit in 2008 the queen of england the queen of england wrote a letter to the presence of the british academy asking why did no one
see it coming? their reply and i will quote from two prominent economists was quote everyone seemed to be doing their own job properly on its own merit and according to standard measures of success they were often doing it well referring to the economist. the failure was to see how collectively this added up to a series of interconnected imbalances of which no single authority had jurisdiction. so in summary your majesty they wrote the failure to perceive the timing extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people to understand the risks to the system as a whole. so not just a theoretical questions at stake really raise the need for a center for capitalism studies. i'm pleased to ask julia to introduce our speaker. julie is associate professor of
history at the new school for social research at lang college preachy as a ph.d. in history from el and is the author of the widely acclaimed book when wall street met main st. the quest quest for investor democracy published by harvard university press. she is currently working on a book project that explores quote the ideas, individuals and institutions that brought u.s. and equality. she is the codirector of the auburn center for capitalism studies and a the great colleague. julia. [applause] >> thank you for that lovely introduction and marvelous comments which i hope you'll e-mailed to me. so it's a true honor for the hall brenner center for capitalism studies at the new school for social research to welcome professor sven beckert here tonight. he he is flared bell professor of american history at harvard university. tonight professor beckert will
present his book "empire of cotton" but by way of introduction or that many of you in the audience might like to know a bit about his own history with the new school for social research. our esteemed colleagues charles tilly and eric hobsbawm shaped his thinking in the early stages of the project that became the money metropolis. professor beckert's first book. publishing capers in 2000 money metropolis examines a surprisingly and it's surprising that surprising, surprisingly unlikely social consolidation of wealthy neighbors -- new yorkers he became the most powerful social group in the united states. working with professor's tilly and hobsbawm perked kesser beckert emboldened him to take up capitalism as the subject of historical and critical inquiry
and to think about large social formations and questions to engage in comparative perspective to broaden his analytic frame and encompass the entire globe. all of these had fallen out of favor in the discipline of history at that time. so in the last 15 years since he published the book professor beckert has let the emergence of a new history of capitalism within the discipline of history. he has done that not just on account of the acclaimed and influence of his first book. he codirects the program on the study of capitalism at harvard where he has provided a generation of not just harvard graduate students and historians but a whole generation of scholars coming back to questions of capitalism and provided them with intellectual nourishment. next year the prestigious
charles warren center will take up the history of capitalism under the direction of professor beckert. he co-chairs the weather ahead initiative for global history at harvard and i don't have time to list all of his awards but they do include the american council of society the coleman center for scholars and writers and the guggenheim foundation. now then to cotton. tonight professor beckert will tell us a story of the commodity that brought his capitalism and in the process he will challenge us to rethink the meaning and the history of that social formation and indeed the meaning and the history of the modern world itself. thank you everyone for coming. [applause]
>> thank you so much for being here tonight. i am delighted to be here and i'm very much much looking forward to our discussion. as you know "empire of cotton" the book that i'm going to be talking about for the next 45 or 50 minutes was published approximately two months ago and i'm honored to be able to present it here at the new school for the first time in new york city as julia just mentioned. the new school has indeed played a very important role in its genesis because it was here that i took seminars with professor george tilly and hobsbawm and for those of you who had a chance to begin reading the book were for those of you who will eventually read it you will undoubtedly be able to discern their influence. as you probably are ready now for at least a guest "empire of
cotton" deals with more than 5000 years of history and it deals with a vast array of different places from india to the united states, from egypt to central asia, from west africa to the united kingdom. the scope of the book is so fast that it can't possibly give you the complete picture in the short time we have here today. i can only hope i will be able to provide you with a taste of importance but also the exciting nature of that story, "empire of cotton" and this story of the empire of cotton which will lead you to a leisurely study of the book itself. so what kind of book is "empire of cotton"? first and foremost "empire of cotton" is a book that is much different from most history books that you have read. most historical studies as you note deal with events with world
war i world war i are a particular person such as a biography of napoleon or they deal with a particular subject such as the history of industrialization and they almost always deal with relatively narrow short timeframes and they limit themselves to studying developments in one town in one region, one country. of course there are exceptions. one only has to think of the great works of nathaniel bordanelle or eric hobsbawm or george tilly but by and large most historical research is framed in these particular ways. i don't disagree with framings as such. i think they are important to understand. "empire of cotton" breaks with these traditions and it tries radically different way to think about history mainly to look at history from a global perspective and at the same time
to try to analyze one of the greatest issues of our contemporary moment, capitalism and in doing so by putting a physical thing cotton at the center of the story that it is telling. so what kind of book is "empire of cotton"? "empire of cotton" as its title suggests first and foremost the history of cotton. instead of putting a fence people are themes into the center of its narrative it circles around a commodity if fluffy white viper that allowed humans to manufacture textiles for 5000 years. the book follows that cotton from the peasants, the slaves the sharecroppers who grew it to the merchants who traded in cotton to the spinners and weavers who manufacture cloth and then on to the consumers who used it to dress themselves.
it traces the history of that fiber over period of 5000 years from the moment when it emerged as a household-based industry of hand operated spindles and looms strung between trees and what is today pakistan to the industrial revolution in england and all the way to the modern era and the rising dominance of china. this is of course a fascinating story as such but more importantly to focus on cotton allows me to disentangle connections between agriculture and industry but also connections between wage workers and slaves, between industrialization and deindustrialization. in some ways a commodity history helps us see what i call the unity of the diverse of the industrialization of one part of the word to the t. industrialization.
importantly however, and is not in a commodity but one and this is one of the core argument of the book that was very significant to global history and especially to the global history of capitalism as i mentioned earlier. only few of us know and can imagine for about 900 years from the year 1002 the year 1900 approximately the growing spinning and weaving on cotton was the most important contribution that humans engaged in. and large areas of the world from central asia to east africa from anatolia to china a large number of people kept themselves busy growing spinning and weaving cotton. it was indeed the central importance of cotton previous to the industrial revolution that eventually motivated drastic improvements in its production techniques. very large markets existed before the industrial revolution of the 1780s and the
possibilities for-profit seemed unending for anybody engaging in the manufacture of cotton textiles and new and productive ways. as a result the cotton industry was at this center and was always in cotton's. during the 19th century there was no industry that employ as many people as the cotton industry and its enough huge swaths of united states from the slave plantations of the south to the industrial cities of new england were dominated by cotton cotton. the advent of mechanized cotton production in many ways was assembled of countries entering the modern world a world that is recognizable to us today. as a result no other manufactured goods stood at the cradle of so many revolutionary technical innovations organizational shifts social changes or as many conflicts. by inventing the factory is the most efficient way producing textiles cotton manufactures
recast the way humans worked. by searching for evermore staff factories english american brazilian and glendan japanese cotton manufactures men others approached an unprecedented move of people from the countryside into cities. by demanding ever more cotton manufactures encourage planters to vastly expand their cotton land and the cheaper labor led to the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of slaves as well as new territory such as africa and asia. the factory production of cotton in fact pioneered a new relationship between industry and the countryside by producing ever more cotton textiles efficiently and selling them to markets throughout the world cotton traders destroyed -- discovered more efficient ways
to send it to asia to western europe and then to the united states. in the search for labor capital mandates cap" together different regions of the globe creating one of the earliest waves of globalization. as you might no cotton was important to many different places. in britain it became the most important manufacturing industry early in the 19th century while cotton was the most important import and beyond britain's most important export product. in india shifting from spinning towards the growing of cotton for export combined to create tectonic upheavals in the indian economy. in continental europe cotton manufactures manufactured everywhere became the first manufacturing industry. in the united states cotton exports established praise in
the global economy. in mexico and egypt india brazil steps are taken towards industrialization and all of them in cotton. egyptian agriculture was turned upside down to facilitate cotton production for export and by the late 19th and early 20th century peasants throughout africa northern argentina and australia turned their fields into cotton plantations. huge profits were accumulated in cotton's. the bearings of brown's and many other families profited from cotton. throughout the world ever more people began to use ever more cotton textiles notable in areas that came late to cotton such as the continent of europe
revolutionary seeing how people dressed on how they kept clean. from the perspective of a century as a whole from the 19th century as a whole cotton's importance can only be compared to the importance of oil in the 20th century. even today and perhaps that is somewhat more surprising to you cotton is still important. last year in 2013, 2014 about 124 million cotton balers were produced throughout the world every one of them weighing approximately 400 pounds enough cotton to produce 20 t-shirts for each human on this planet. if one would put these balers on top of one or that they would make a tie were 40,000 miles high. globally up to 350 million people work in today's cotton industry in one way or another. a number that has never been
rich in human history and represents three to 4% of the entire human population. huge cotton plantations can still be found around the world from china to india to the united states from west africa to central asia. indeed 75 million acres of land are used today for the growing of cotton. those tightly pressed raw fibers are sure to factories around the world for hundreds of thousands of workers spend then we them and eventually turn them into clothing. the finished products are sold everywhere from her most country stores to stores such as walmart and indeed cotton goods are among the very few products that can virtually be acquired anywhere and thus cotton's history demonstrates the oppressive and unprecedented increase in human productivity and consumption that industrialization and capitalism
have been able. as an advertising company in the united states quite accurately cotton fabric of our lives. empire of cotton the book tells us history of cotton during the past 5000 years but it focuses in particular on the 150 years between 1780 and 1930 the years when cotton was central to the unfolding of industrial capitalism. it focuses on the sears because "empire of cotton" does not tell the story as an end in itself. indeed a truly conference of history of cotton would take many thousands of pages and it would tax the patience of readers to an unbearable degree. "empire of cotton" tries to do something slightly different by focusing on cotton to engage one of the most urgent issues of the modern world mainly the issue of
capitalism. the book is not just a history of cotton but especially history of capitalism. as you might have observed and as you also mentioned earlier during the past few years there have been few topics that have emanated the chattering as much as the issue of capitalism. in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2008 questions about the nature the cost and the viability of cotton appeared on evening talk shows and newspapers throughout the world. it was not just the british queen who is interested in the future of capitalism. the discussions crossed most political boundaries with conservative newspapers in the united kingdom and germany for example running stories on what they call the future of capital as if in doubt there was such a thing by creating an analysis of
capitalism's serving destructive tendencies. as discussion continues with unabated propensity today crossing all political ideological professional with the then pope prince is making discussions of capital central theme of this prophecy which help thomas piketty received rock star status with a book with the unsexy title capital. this vibrant debate i think is to be welcomed. it has become clear that to understand our contemporary work we need to understand, we need to come to terms with capitalism capitalism. but our thinking about capitalism needs the boys of historians within the debate as it was anticipated earlier. capitalism has a history and by now a very long history.
the social and geographic expansion of capitalism is a millennium in the making and the tendency of capitalism to revolutionize science technology states in all aspects of our lives pose a great number of questions which can only be answered from a long historical perspective. in that analysis i think historians have certain advantages over economists who often deal with these questions not least because too many economists all too many economists have at times an unfortunate tendency certain economic arrangements to search for the laws that explain them with the allegedly mathematical precision not commonly associated with the mode of thinking of historians. fortunately. empire -- "empire of cotton" tells a story of capitalism to the history of one of its most
important commodities cotton and emphasizes the historical necessity of capitalism and how it changed over time quite drastically and this would become clear. we will never be able to know if capitalism could have developed differently than it did but we do know that cotton stood at the center of capitalism's history for an awfully long time. "empire of cotton" bus does not dissect the abstract nature of capitalism but tries to detailed empirical analysis to understand the actual functioning of capitalism are what i call capitalism in action. as you will hear later that capitalism in action worked quite differently from the capitalism you might encounter in many economic textbooks. "empire of cotton" is not in
abstract meditation on the alleged loss of capitalism but the history of pre-existing capitalism. just as reading karl marx is not the way to understand the history of the soviet union reading atoms does not allow us to understand the history of capitalism as it actually unfolded. capitalism is by now looking back on 500 years of history and it is that history that is at the center of this book. "empire of cotton" as the subtitle says it is also a global history. as you know and as i mentioned earlier most history that has been written in the past 150 years has focused on national history and indeed the entire discipline of history is organized along national lines. we publish books on particular national histories and we teach courses on particular national
history such as french, chinese and american history and her personal associations dedicated to particular natural history spread this is as such not surprising as history as an academic discipline itself hand-in-hand with the nation-state and history played an important role in the constitution of nation-states. "empire of cotton" breaks with these traditions in the fundamental argument of the book is we can neither understand the history of capitalism nor for that matter the history of cotton if we tell it from the perspective of just one place, one region or even one country. we have hundreds of books on the history of cotton plantations in the americas, and history of spending weavers in india and books on the coming of so-called american capitalism the so-called history of german organized capitalism or
capitalism in china. "empire of cotton" draws upon these studies and could've been written without them but also leaves them behind by instead focusing on connections between development and disparate parts of the world. in the book we get to know central asian peasants and indian weavers merchants in liverpool and enslaved workers in the american south demand to consumers in west africa chinese industrialists, groups of people you usually do not find mentioned in the same book or not even the same section of the library. "empire of cotton" does this globally in scope but it combines discussions of local developments with a very global perspective. a great danger of writing a global history is that it describes the world is a network of globally connected actors the words in which local or national distributions of power or local
interest in some ways or ends -- inconsequential because it focuses just on the oval. i'm arguing very much against such a perspective. instead i argue that global cannot be understood without the local and the local not without the global. for that reason the book describes the global word of cotton from shifting perspectives. sometimes from the perspective of an ant, sometimes from the perspective of somebody flying in a helicopter and sometimes that from the perspective of a satellite. one chapter we might for example encounter the biography of an 8-year-old girl forced to work in a cotton factory in the early 19th century to then look at the global process of emergence of wage labor to then these additional framework in which labor unfolded in the united kingdom. in another chapter we might encounter industrialists first
mechanized cotton mill to then the spread of cotton industrialization throughout the world during the 20th century and to then discuss actions between japanese bureaucrats and cotton mill owners to domestic injured -- industrialization. there are many different levels of analysis and played at most times. it is certainly true that the local conditions come it's true that the global constraints the options available to local actors. in many ways indeed one of the arguments of the book is the local and global the global cannot be capped strictly separate from one another as social classes unfold on different spatial scapes. and last but not least "empire of cotton" is a book that analyzes history over a long time. come in maybe 5000 years.
it chronicles developments unfolding over decades or centuries centuries and e-trace overcome the ever shorter time horizons of our thinking including our historical thinking as historians david armour taj and -- of argue. shows the history of the modern world cannot be understood from the perspective of the history of the past few decades or even the past century alone. if we try to do so confident that history history in a short time chunk we might seriously misunderstand some important developments. for example if we look at the past 50 years alone it would hypothetically speaking be possible to tell the history of capitalism as a history of expansion of human freedom. it no longer shows that slavery could only -- were just as important as human rights emergence of legal systems or democratic institutions.
the history focused on only the past 50 years on the continent of europe plus north america could be written as a history of industrialization and that is a reasonable assessment but it would miss the most significant wave of industrialization that ever happened in human history just another parts of the world. "empire of cotton" is the book for the importance of thinking not just on large spatial scales but also in terms of long timeframes. by describing "empire of cotton" as i just did i hope to have provided you with at least a first impression of what kind of book is expecting you when you open it later this week. and at least i have given you some idea of what's that's major arguments are.
before ending i want to quickly explain some of these arguments that emerge from this whirlwind tour from many different parts of the world that "empire of cotton" is. first and foremost "empire of cotton" as should it become clear by now ready is the geographic spread and deepening of capitalism is one of the most important historical processes of the past 500 years and indeed we begin to understand the history without paying great attention to the history of capitalism. the expansion of capitalism integrated ever more people more territories and ever more parts of our lives. that capitalism did not emerge in a natural way it was created through the j-term and actions of merchants statesmen, peasants workers industrialists and many others. ..
the best of our knowledge economic growth in our regions of the world was negligible with 0.1% on average per year, which meant that economic outlook doubled in these years and that was outside the living experience of anybody. however that would change hermetically after the year 1800. after 1800 in some regions of the world, especially in the north atlantic region, economic growth accelerated and also became continuous. growth became the new norm and not the exception. why that is so is one of the four questions of history and one of the most important questions that we have. some have argued that that great diversion was the result of a favorable climate and more of
the peculiar institutions. my argument is very different. i show how europeans created evermore global connections and then came to dominate these global connections. succeeding in integrating distant regions of the world into the european economy and they did so by engaging in violent trade in asia and splitting workers and by capturing huge expanses of land both north and south. and at this moment in the history of capitalism, before 1780, then i call were capitalism. this was characterized by the violent situation and markets all over the world. it was one in which many could low competitors out of the
water. it was based on the largely unrestrained actions of either individuals and the domination of the master of slaves and a frontier capitalist of indigenous inhabitants. this system expanded states whose scale and scope consisted and widened and deepened. but at the same time he gave space to private capital owners and dominated labor without the day-to-day supervision of the state. it was this were capitalism that generated the possibility of industrial revolution in europe and that is the great diversion and indeed it was one of the wages of war capital. were capitalism was a particular situation that allowed those to dominate the global networks of production and trade and that was in many ways surprising
since they had very little experience with a growing manufacturing to the continent of europe and they were indeed europeans who in the middle ages believed that this was like a planet on little sheep or attach do, and they would bend down and drink and that is how they imagined this seed to grow. showing how little they knew. but with the global expansion of european power in the 16th century, they could now imported this and eventually they could also dominate manufacturing in parts of india. they could rule the territories as well and leader in the american south. they could mobilize workers through the trans-atlantic slave trade area in at the same time
they open markets for goods that had emerged through the importation. it was that network that suggested to the europeans the possibility of dominating production of this as well. so the europeans became important to the network before they ever engaged in the manufacture of carbon. but they saw that this was a way to power and process. it was exactly that point that the new machine emerged in these industrializing factors of your. they catechize this unprecedented growth. and it was exactly this way that the great diversion emerged. for the directly related, the book talks about the great importance of slavery to the
history of capitalism. for far too long many historians have seen this as mutually exclusive systems of organizing economic activity. the history of capitalism was described as a history without slavery and slavery is essentially on capitalism. it was the modern institution than it really was describing it as premodern, violent but unimportant capitalist modernity to put a brake on economic development i'm also arguing at this particular point of time. it sees slavery as modern and profitable and expansive in
england and the united states and other parts of the world because it was slaves who produced this and indeed slavery stood at the center of what was the most far-reaching situation that had ever been treated in human history. [inaudible] and without the unpaid labor the vast expansion as well as the domination of trade invested
the emergence of industrial capitalism to envision. and as i mentioned before in embrace a global perspective but it also argued that the history of this can only be understood from this perspective and i just want to give you one example to illustrate the possibility of such a global perspective and how it should sound thinking in history. the question is how the united states became to become the world's most important power and it provided it as well. and they would argue that the united states was for
particularly suited for continent for many reasons. if you look at it from a global perspective you will see that this is just an so why did this become so important to the global cotton industry? you can see that potter was unique in that it was lucidly grown in grade graphic distance from its most important manufacturing center mostly europe. i would argue that this was of central importance to the development of the industry and in the 70s and 18th centuries,
it was writing largely from the ottoman empire but the inability to recast the social structure and by the mid-18th century it was something that they increasingly grew for european markets. possibly because they effectively removed the native population and that was very different than what was happening in west africa or in india. it was in this military agricultural complex that eventually migrated to the united states. the origin of this move had to be found in the year 17911 claves rebelled in the caribbean
on the most important island which is today haiti. at the very moment when the european industry demanded vast increases of this from its factories. and this was also the moment when the united states for the first time came to global cotton production. the war this time very little u.s. cotton was produced for trade and very little was exported to britain and indeed so little that in 1785 it arrived in the port of liverpool and the british customs authority, skated it because if it could not possibly be the product of the united states. shortly thereafter the united states captured world markets and dominated them for the next century and beyond.
already 25% of it originated from the united states and 20 years later that number had increased to 59% and then it was 72% of cotton consumed in britain and other industries that was produced in the united states. so what was the competitive advantage of the united states? , in the 17 '90s it exploded in europe and at the same time production diminished because of the revolution in haiti, the united states was the one territory in the world in which land and labor existed. no powerful and entrenched situation needed to be dislodged. instead workers were forcefully moved in and indeed 1 million of them are forced in. the kind of social situations
ascended upon the north american countries. they could then recast the nature and the organization which it work. it's hard to imagine that this couldn't be a part of this in the world. when the british tried to in greece on production in the 1820s and 1830s, they largely failed in this project. production in other parts of the world such as the indies and ottoman empire were part of this, but not because european factory owners and such had a preference for slave grown cotton and saw that it could not be taken from this part of the world, but because they lack military infrastructure and capacity to recast the peasant agriculture to the degree that they were wire whip the powerful
political structure such as in the ottoman empire. finally when the british economist considered what he called the connection between american slavery he concluded that there is not and never has been any source of supply for cotton which is not obviously exclusively maintained as slave labor. and so another important argument of the book is that states play an exceedingly role in the development of cotton and of capitalism and here you hear an echo of venice. it has become fashionable to see state intervention as some are contradictory. the more states, the less capitalism. looking from a long and
historical perspective, this is just plainly wrong and just the opposite is the case. states have played an enormously important role in the development of capitalism and especially in the development of industrial capitalism, something that i would be happy to talk more about in q&a. states have talked about this and have had mobilize workers and markets and they have created infrastructures and have supported industries in many other ways. indeed a map of strong states is nearly identical we have to think of great britain itself come the first industrialize her. which was a powerful state in the 18th century necessitating
those who got involved in that state governed a huge empire and it also allows this with the workers. and in some ways one could argue and this includes with the support of strong states and it can be a relationship that eventually authorize workers who came to play an ever more important role in the states.
and especially in the 20th century for different set of reasons. and it takes you through many centuries of history to explore how the present world came about. and along the way he will be meeting workers in new hampshire and new york individuals in the american south as well as other areas as well. they are struggling to maintain control over costs and struggling between resilience slaveowners and industrialize. as well as a terrorist regime and egyptian industrialists
trying to build this industry under the condition of colonialism. and it is a tale of many individuals and that includes the western capital owners. and this includes georgia and the united states in this includes many peasants starving to death because the cotton may did not pay for the food that they needed and it is the women and others working in horrible conditions in factories from lancashire and it is a tale of
private and government repression descending upon workers struggling to improve working conditions and wagers. and this includes the reputation from the empire of cotton. however, i want to end on a somewhat more good note. and this includes the global history of capitalism and we can and should. and it's not only just on state bureaucrats. instead the collective individual actions of others and peasants made it different in the shape of the empire of cotton. and this engages in this and has
a significant impact on the shape of areas of the world global cotton economy. and it seems that we have seen the shape of the globe it depends very much on the activities of the state, states that today much of the world have seen become subject to democratic politics. so if we would like to draw a history and it's not a fact of human nature but the product of human negotiation. many narratives of the rise of capitalism have effects of doing this with essential differences. and even well-meaning advocates have argued the essential i think of particular groups of people within us, assigning them to the center or the periphery
for example. and after all only a hundred and 50 years ago, it would have been unimaginable to those sitting in the city of arcata or that the possibility off the continent of europe, basically turn this into those who may or may not use to entertain the workers and it would only have been imaginable. it could've been a nightmare. thank you. [applause]
[applause] >> okay, everyone, my name is brian weathers i am and the assistant here we are going to have the q&a. but we do not have a mobile microphone microphone right here and over there. as you might have noticed this is being recorded and we would like to be able to capture your voices and questions. so if you have one make your way to the front and we will take one of these microphones out of the stand where you can come to the site and asked as well. >> thank you. justin jackman from nyu. one of the things that i really lucky for two one thing i
really like about the book is the concept of war capitalism as we are trying to advance. and yet this for discussing relationships between war and colonialism, i'm wondering if it is a kind of synonym for war and it counts as were capitalism. looking at that phenomenon, i'm wondering if the book sets us up with anything between war and capitalism in the 20th century in some ways, obviously people like lenin, many others as well dearest political scientists have talked about this in a very different historical timeframe than what you are looking for. i'm wondering if the book helps us to kind of think in new ways about war and capital in the 20th century. >> these are very complicated
questions. and i think that the short answer is that the book does not address is a bit weighty issue of capitalism in the 20th century. and it doesn't necessarily talk about this as well because the idea of capitalism, were capitalism does not rest on the idea of war between the dates. the idea of it is basically emerged because it is clear in the history of capitalism what appears to be merging with industrial capitalism and it has caused that moment in the history of capitalism, mercantile, capitalism and other things as well this is perfectly fine except it struck
me that this really doesn't capture the essence of what was actually happening in this particular moment. until was really happening was an enormous degree of violence that descended upon many of the world's people, which seems so unlike capitalism as it is described and economic textbooks as i mentioned earlier. therefore were capitalism is meant to describe this moment in which slavery and the lands end of violent trade is really at the center of the expansion of european capitalism and of course war is play into that as well, but they are not the central element of war capitalism. i see a much more as an emphasis
of this aspect in this particular moment and also an emphasis upon that this is -- this is a moment that is quite different from the history of capitalism in the 20th century and so i'm also worried about transferring that easily into the modern era. that being said, it is obviously something that one plays with the other from one moment to the next. indeed i am arguing is i wasn't able to do in the top, but i go into detail in the book. then in some ways the transition into industrial capitalism which is based upon the previous forecast but first intensifies because of what so much pressure, especially on slave
labor in the united states, at the same time something new emerges and it is a new way of mobilizing labor in the country without enslaving workers that begins to emerge at this particular moment and eventually it is going to take time as it has no significance to the empire of cotton activists. so in some ways i think what this allows me to do is not just to this particular moment, but it also allows me to explain why eventually slavery is not particularly important anymore in the history of capitalism. and we are perfectly aware of those who are not at the center of the economy and that is he huge difference.
is not always so important. i think about the rise of england and others. even in the hype and of cotton when you think about a country like the united states, it's not clear that cotton is a leading or most important commodity. usually people say land and slaves are the most ardent commodity. they are related to gone, but they're not the same. they are not the same as cotton. so part of your talk that i really found quite interesting and very convincing was the specificity of cotton and when you related it to the relationship between local elites that are already presupposing market developments, medieval europe, china, and others, their ability to organize at a distance, which
is what happens thinking about this essay on the crisis he talks about a crisis owing on for several centuries that is a thickly dissolved by the colonization of america. i think that was very convincing and that's not the same as kind of using this as a symbol. >> good question, very good one. but let me just say that i don't think capitalism has a 5000 year long history. will say approximately 500 years. and i totally agree with you this is not the only thing in the history of capitalism. there are many other things as well and in particular i think
if you look at the later periods if you look at the 20th century and obviously i don't think it is at the core of modern capitalism in the 21st century old for that matter. so i agree with you there. but still it is striking how central cotton is in this kind of moment in that history of capitalism. and in some ways we will be forced to identify the one really crucial moment in the history of capitalism and i would say it is the industrial revolution, this moment when we suddenly invent new ways of manufacturing things and machines that are more productive. you know that brings us that.
and we are all wearing much better textiles because of it. but i think at this moment also in france or italy or other places, egypt or united states i think that that is the particular importance of cotton in this history. so when it comes to the united states [inaudible] and it's just value of the land and value of those that are immediately related to the expansion of cotton agriculture without the value of slaves that
are much lower. and if you look -- i don't think anybody really knows of the effects, if you look at the american economy as a whole, nobody has really calculated what the precise percentage is of the cotton growing industry in the american south, but i have seen estimates of approximately 20% of total economic activity in the united states related to the growing of cotton. but if you look at it as trade in the united states the majority was cotton. the united states matter to the global economy because of this. that is how the united states came to play an important role in this was literally on the stage. >> i have had the pleasure of reading the book and i don't want to give too much away and i have lots of them and nothing
but tremendous respect for the work. so one of the central issues that you're trying to deal with here is the great convergence. and you kind of preview this argument or introduced it to us in the talk. but the great convergence required a certain kind of state and the europeans had other political structures in other regions of the globe. it made me wonder, are you sort of implying there that they're other political formations and capable of the same sort of violence the europeans states are capable of to perpetuate to create capital populism? and also was it because we had this very violent state in creating this world i was left to wonder what you thought were
how you kind of think about liberalism. is it just simply like an ideological cover for a you know, a few people that have very little his oracle significant if you want to look at this as it develops in history. leaping forward in time because i was reviewing the book recently discussing postcolonial movements in some of these regions that you talk about mainly in egypt and india this book was talking about how even in the beginning of the 20th century as anti-colonial radicals are debating what is kind of world would look like, they are thinking about liberalism together. and so the book that i was reviewing was focusing more -- it was rejecting colonized
status, would it mean rejecting liberalism and what it mean rejecting capitalism or could you keep some of the elements in a postcolonial world or would you want to. so if the question is to sharpen out a little bit and say after the decolonization as economies continue to exhibit cotton production and export do you find actors questioning this is a commodity in general or the way in which the organization and distribution are structured in any sort of meaningful way. because that is an important moment that we maybe haven't paid enough attention to. >> those are good questions. let's start with the anti-colonial movement and the postcolonial moment. this is a superbly important topic that we have focused on
not really in the history of capitalism, because we have seen them as the core and the periphery and the global south why it has been underdeveloped. and so we often have talked about this within the global south and i think that this comes to haunt us because if you look at the world today the most dynamic capitalism place is clearly once upon a time what caused this. so there is a really interesting hit history of this places like china and egypt and brazil and elsewhere that we need to take a much greater account of. the book tries to do some of that. and what strikes me as important in this story is that clearly
conversations on cotton are very important, especially in places like india and egypt and also other parts of the world and they are certainly kind of part of the basic veneer, you know like gondi, coming back to sitting at home under the tree. but you know the people who really were quite instrumental in the rubble in india it actually talks about who we will work in close contact with. and so the cotton production in india skyrockets, especially the cotton tree expanding quite
significantly. interestingly enough, by and large i think that there is a colonial mechanism that were developed as to how to transform the countryside and make it more conducive to have can't be shipped to factories. in a way they became radicalized and it's often very visible and the soviet union, which is obviously as such an anti-capitalist project. but in some ways if you look at the cotton industry, in some ways the imperial project in central asia becomes radicalized and also quite violent and there's a beautiful story in a german archive about this.
political history as we have seen it, and maybe that is slightly overdoing it but still, i think there are -- matters a great deal and then the question-now we are moving earlier into the 18th under and 19th century, about liberalism. and look, this is a -- again, a very important project very important to think about this question. obviously the creation of a capitalist society was a utopian project, and very much was driven -- there were important thinkers who very much emphasized that the embrace of market, the embrace of contract the embrace of the rule of law, also the embrace of wage labor, that these were all ways to increase human freedom. and in many ways it did increase
human freedom. there were the kind of independencies that, whichize european country were done away with and the arbitrary rule of the lord over his peasants came to an end, and so human freedom clearly expanded and this is a very important part of that hoyt of capitalism. but at the same time, if you actually look at what i call capitalism in action. you look at the history of capitalism, you see third idealogical project goes along with what i describe as this enormous degree of violence descends upon hundreds of millions of people all over the world, which has nothing to do with this enlightenment project and human freedom.
one question how we persuaded us to right this hoyt of capitalism out of our conceptual thinking of the history of capitalism. a lot of work must have been done to make that possible because as a historian who is going to the archives and looking at documents, it clearly strikes me there is a disjunction between the ideological project and this -- and the actual real history of capitalism. >> hi, greg bartel, your book was reviewed in the "wall street journal," and the reviewer was basically complimentary of the book but it being "the wall street journal" he felt he had to take issue with the idea you could actually take away anything about capitalism in your book. his argue. in a nutshell was that slavery, violence all regrettable things
but none of them took place entirely in isolation from political context, from personal graft, et cetera, et cetera, social bias, what have you and therefore you can't lay any of these purely at the foot of capitalism, and the reviewer finished with a quip capitalism hasn't been tried and failed but simply hasn't been tried. it seems to me i hear echos of this basic form of argument all the time from chicago school of economics, recent magazine that time of thing. might have even anticipated it a little but the your last answer. just wondered if you could clarify for me the logic of the argument, how your book aims to go beyond it or transcend it through historical research. >> just summarized what you see as that core argument? >> if negative effects don't follow from capitalism alone but only capitalism in conjunction
with government interference, we have no way of isolating the effects of capitalism from the effects of government interference. >> look, i think that an interesting argument and as you just mentioned, you encounter that frequently. that doesn't make it right, but it is still very much an argument that is out there, and again issue think that relates to my previous comment. the kind of capitalism you find described in economics textbooks or the kind of capitalism envisioned by some enlightenment think are is a utopian project and it's beautiful. it's very attractive. we're all going to get richer and freer. that's beautiful idea. and i don't think anybody in the
room would object to that. however, it is not an accurate description of the unfolding of the history of capitalism in the past 500 years, and so i would -- i think i said that at the beginning it is now -- the capitalism -- we don't know if there would have been some other part of history of capitalism, which would have not had a history of slavery and colonialism and ex-prooperation and warfare and all of that. maybe it is possible but i can only say the historical record is very, very different and the historical record is so
persistently different that i think that makes me think that maybe there's something wrong with the model. the utopian model. but the ideas are beautiful. yes. >> hi. how, if at all, were you influenced by eric williams' book capitalism and slavery. >> eric williams is very, very important to my argument, because as most you've probably know he published a book in the '40s on capitalism and slavery in which he argued that the expansion of slave labor in the caribbean was important to the history of british industrialization. and that is a story that is very
much the story that i'm telling as well. the particularity how we tell the story is a little different. for example, eric williams focuses very much on the process out of the slave trade being re-invested into the manufacturing enterprises and economic historians look at that very closely and have concluded that the capital investment in manufacturing in england that derive directly from the slave trade was quite minor and cannot really explain the industrial revolution and i agree with that. i think that's not the persuasive part of eric williams. slavery -- mattered for reasons i described here earlier in great detail. but he is very, very important,
and -- but that tells you a lot about the distribution of the power to interpret the word, because the writing in the 1940s as african caribbean was not a position from which many people would listen to you and i think his work has been largely -- has become now again quite prominent, and our students read it again, but for a long time that had not been the case. again, this is -- links in a way to your question about liberalism and the utopian character of capitalism. who had actually been able to tell the history of capitalism. it's a very select group of people. very small slice of humanity. and has found an audience in doing so. and many africa intellectuals,
maybe many intellectuals in the global south, gandhi among them -- he wrote an entire book on the history of cotton which are some of the arguments i'm making within it. they have made these arguments a long, long time ago, but they are not the ones who interpret the capitalism for us. >> hi. it's such a rich discussion. i'm very eager to read the book, and i think that the questions that have been asked are really intriguing. i think i want to follow up on some of the themes others already mentioned. so your concept of war, capitalism, and the military agricultural cot to be complex all of this sounds to my ears -- evokes a language of primitive
accumulation and accumulation by dispossession as the foot of absolute essential, not only originallal accumulation of capital making possible a more developed system of capitalism in the early phases but possibly a still sort of ongoing kind of development, and i'm just curious really about your title, that you use the word "empire" in your title. am i wrong cannot the word "capitalism" or is that in the subtitle? anyway, could you see a little more about what the force of that term " em"is sneer -- "empire" is here? i'm wondering if it has some sort of determinant conceptual place in your argument. that would be one point.
and if i could just raise another related point i was really struck by two other things that you said that i'm still trying to kind of digest. on one is this idea of the tabular, the importance of -- it's almost like you're describing something like nimbi don't do this in our backyard where we get people upset. do it sort of far away where you don't have social organization basically. i don't know anything about anna -- but you gave me the impression there was a capacity for social organization among the peasantry there that would have made things very messy and this idea is extremely interesting to me. i'm really eager to hear more about it. but i'm trying to put it
together with your -- this other point about cotton being the sort of entry into the world market, or into manufacturing for -- at each point, countries or regions or places that are sort of trying to get in go via that route and so partly i'm also trying to understand whether there's a difference -- whether there's really small scale peasant cotton cultivation that doesn't involve this kind of resistance problem or whether -- i mean it's the plantation system and that did evoke for me forced collectivization. this idea of really organizing something where you just completely tear up whatever form of social organization people
already have and just engineer it. >> right. >> can you say something about -- thank you. there's a lot to be said about this and this is basically the second half of the book so i cannot possibly summarize it all, but look, i think i tried to explain. so basically in the moment you start european cotton industry you need a lot of raw material to feed into the industry and you need it ideally at falls prices so you can sell these goods into expanding markets. the problem was that stuff udoesn't go in europe. the french revolution areas tried to grow it but the failed so it didn't grow in europe. had to come from somewhere else. it had the advantage, by coming from somewhere else you didn't have to do anything to european
countryside. the european countryside has very definite social relations and when you disturb it too much the peasants would re bell and -- rebel and you have problems on your hands but this came from the outside. where it came from i don't think any manufacturer cared very much and quite a few of the early cotton manufacturers were very much opposed to slavery and would have much preferred to have cotton grownly free labor than by slave labor. the problem was that through the world millions of farmers grew cotton in india and africa and central america they grew it for their own domestic protection, and cotton had a very definite place within the total distribution of crops they grew food crops or -- they needed to have food but grew cotton as well for producing their own textiles and maybe exchanging them on market but they were very very reluctant
to give that up just to produce for external markets and then be at the mercy of that market. they had a preference to first produce enough so they and their families could survive. >> disrupt -- >> you could have disrupt it and eventually it will be disrupted in the later parts of the 19th 19th century, but in the 18th century and early part of the 19th century european colonial state did not have the capacity yet or european merchants to disrupt that, partly because they encountered strong political structures in india and also because they couldn't really -- they had a problem bring european capital into the countryside. europeans were on the out. africa and south asia and the port cities and the only way how they could get cotton is to talk to merchant and purchase it but they had -- they were very
far removed from the production in the countryside itself. and i could tell in great detail how the british tried to make that happen and how they failed in the 1820ys and 1830s, and they failed because they cannot get the labor to do this, and it's really bad that the importance of the america's ex-aappropriate operation end of asleep already job comes because here they can do it, they can re-invent the world and it has a lot to do with the social structure of north america and the caribbean. so that's a very short answer to a very long question. i didn't speak much about the transition in the latest half to 19th century, the european states in the global countryside increases tremendously and partly because the resource accumulate it in the first moment of the history of capital jim and then it's contract law
the railroad that come into the global countryside. the growers of the cop are not any longer enslaved but their labor can be mobilized in new and different ways and it's spectacularry successful. so after the evolution of slavery it continues even though in 1850 or 1860 before the american civil war, many factory owners in europe were convinced that if slavery is done away with, the industry would be also done away with. but that does not happen and this speaks a lot to the changing character of european capital, and the capacity of european states. the title of the book "empire --" not much conceptual currency in using the term except to suggest it leads to many different parts of the world, and the subtitle the same book titled in the u.k. and
the same title -- the origins of global capitalism. a different market. talking about capitalism. >> so i think if we have one last question, we probably have time for a brief final question. would you like to come up and use the mic? >> this might be a good last question because it's absolutely cheeky. suppose i just prod a little about at the capitalism cotton nexus along two dimensions, in the smaller then the large. one of the most important organizational forms of capitalism is the factory and the use of wage labor in factories. when i was a kid i remember being trotted off to see the mill which is part of the cotton industry. but i was also trotted off to see the foundary where the started smelting iron ore with
coke. so the factory didn't depend on the cotton industry. we would have got that in any case the process of production is essential so capitallity. one part of the theory of production is the question as to whether or not there's a basic commodity, something that enters into the production of anything and that you therefore need to produce everything that you actually produce. so i've never heard of cotton as a candidate for basic commodity in the 20th century, normally oil is nominated. in the 19th century, normally coal is nominated and i would bet that if you took iron and steel out of the import-outpart matrix of britain in the 19th 19th century you'd have a hell of a time keeping the economy afloat. so if i put my tongue in my cheek here and i say cotton
shmotten would have got capitalism in any case. >> i think that relates very much to the debate that we had. there are other industries that matter. capitalism is a matter -- the british economy by the 18th 18th 30s they're increasing investments in'ds and iron industry, steel industry, and mining and all of that becomes very important, but still at the moment of industrial revolution i would still want to maintain that cotton is at the very center of this particular move. they were large production units in the parts including large workshops in marley, but the factory as we know it as a prevalent way of organizing human production is clearly a result of the expansion of the
cotton industry and it's not just so in the u.k. butanals the united states -- but also in the ute and egypt and india and brazil and other parts of the world. so again, is it theoretically possible to imagine the history of capitalism without cotton? maybe. maybe. but the real hoyt of capitalism clearly -- cotton is very, very central to that history and i think that's not just kind of a coincidence. it is not just that something has to be at the center. it's cotton. but there is the systemic reason for that some of which i just tried to explain in my previous answer partly that it was connected to the americas and to south asia and all these other places. this is not like a flourish and
exotic flourish in the hoyt of capitalism we like to read about and talk about because it's exciting, all that global connectiveness. i think this is kind of the core of this. and therefore think cotton does matter a great deal. >> we're finding it very hard to depart the empire of cotton. [applause] >> thank you everyone for attending and thank you, professor beckert. >> thank you. >> every weekend, booktv offers programming focused on nonfiction authors and books. keep watching for more here on c-span2, and watch any of our
past programs online at booktv.org. another person who you mentioned, former congressman mark fott works here in d.c. i knew martin when i was covering politics in texas. but in the 1990s -- i'm quoting from your book -- seniority would now be based on money north legislative skill, and you attributed that cheng to him when he was in charge hoff the democratic congressional campaign committee. how did that manifest itself in reality, this notion it wasn't based on merit that you would get a very high ranking position in congress but it would be based in large part on your fundraising ability? >> this go back to the '94 election when the democrats lost. martin is one of the few people i've ever met in politics that didn't just like fundraising, he loved it.