“Can’t forget, can’t remember”: capitalism and slavery

Posted: 1 May 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Sale Of Slaves

We seem to be in the midst of a veritable renaissance of research on the history of capitalism, especially on the role slavery played in the emergence and development of capitalism in the West.

Two new books on the subject have just received the Bancroft Award: Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Global History and Greg Grandin’s The Empire of Necessity.

As Grandin [ht: ja] explains,

Despite all this scholarly work, each generation—from WEB Du Bois’s to Robin Blackburn’s, from Eric Williams’ to Walter Johnson’s—seems condemned to have to prove the obvious anew: slavery created the modern world, and the modern world’s divisions (both abstract and concrete) are the product of slavery. Slavery is both the thing that can’t be transcended but also what can never be remembered. That Catch-22—can’t forget, can’t remember—is the motor contradiction of public discourse, from exalted discussions of American Exceptionalism to the everyday idiocy found on cable, in its coverage, for example, of Baltimore and Ferguson.

Right now, we are living that history—of the spectacular failures of capitalism and the enduring effects of slavery.

Comments
  1. […] other day, I remarked that we appear to be in the midst of a veritable renaissance of research into the history of […]

  2. […] his review of ten recent books, including Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told and Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Global History, is not as dismissive as those of other mainstream economists, […]

  3. […] his review of ten recent books, including Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told and Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Global History, is not as dismissive as those of other mainstream economists, […]

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