Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University

Review abstracts, vol. XXXII, 2009

 

Review XXXII, 1, 2009

 

Raj Patel & Philip McMichael, “A Political Economy of the Food Riot”

 

This article views the food riot as not simply a demand for staple foods, but about the wider political economy of food provisioning. From a world-historical perspective, the food riot has always been about more than food—usually signaling significant transitions in political-economic arrangements. Food riots are, in other words, political, and therefore their interpretation needs to be threaded through endogenous political debates and power struggles, to see the articulation of international economic relations behind protests with local struggles and organized alternatives to existing structures of power. That is, the protests themselves are agentic moments in movement toward an alternative that is best captured in the term “food sovereignty.” Accordingly, the spread of food riots has a great deal to do with a specific kind of rebellion against the political economy of neoliberalism.

 

Lucy Jarosz , “The Political Economy of Global Governance and the World Food Crisis: The Case of the FAO”

 

This article examines the global responses to world hunger and food crisis through a political economy analysis of global governance.  Using the case of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, it is argued that the steady erosion of the FAO’s leadership and influence comes from tensions within the organization about how to respond to the world food problem. The accommodation of the tensions between a response that emphasizes economic growth and increasing agricultural productivity and that of a human right to food have marked the organization’s history and ultimately constructed it as ineffectual and failing to effectively address world hunger.  In examining the responses to the two major world food crises of the last thirty years, it is found that the proximate causes are similar as are the responses.  This indicates that the dominant discourse of economic growth and productivity has not been successful in building a socially just and sustainable world food system.  The world’s people remain as vulnerable to food price shocks now as they were over thirty years ago.

 

Shalmali Guttal, “New and Old Faces of Hunger: Cambodia, Timor Leste, and Food Crises”

 

Drawing on research in Cambodia and Timor Leste, the author examines historical and recent causes of food insecurity and how they are related to the dynamics of the global food crisis.  Despite differences in culture, society, geography, and political history, both countries have been subjected to the same macro forces of economic and political development in their independent, postcolonial eras.  Both countries have been the “wards” of the international community through United Nations-World Bank designed postconflict reconstruction and nation building programs.  The author argues that it is the same ideology at work in conditioning and reproducing the food crisis globally, as well as nationally in Cambodia and Timor Leste through neoliberal development and free market ideology.  As people in the two nations have struggled to rebuild their lives after occupation, war, and genocide, this ideology and its accompanying development model has debilitated rather than rehabilitated their capacities, thus making them particularly vulnerable to global food and financial crises.

 

John Wilkinson, “The Emerging Global Biofuels Market”

 

This article presents an analysis of the forces currently responsible for the profile and dynamic of the emerging global biofuels market, highlighting the increased uncertainties provoked by the financial and economic crisis. After describing the two major types of transport fuels the article provides a brief account of the origins of the biofuels industry in the two principal producer countries, the United States and Brazil, before considering recent developments in the European Union. The following two sections explore the current structure of this market and analyze the different strategies being adopted by leading actors and economic blocks with regard to its future development. The article then discusses the increasing opposition to current biofuels policies and targets adopted in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, identifying a coalition of interests which extends from global NGOs, to leading figures in the scientific community, representatives of the techno-bureaucracy, and extending to major actors in the agrofood system. The article concludes that the biofuels global market is currently being consolidated on the basis of interests identified with so called first generation biofuels and that the economic opportunities opened up by alternative renewable fuels will require for their realization the consolidation of a counter coalition of forces not yet in evidence.

 

Farshad Araghi, “Accumulation by Displacement: Global Enclosures, Food Crisis, and the Ecological Contradictions of Capitalism”

 

This article develops the concept of accumulation by displacement to denote (1) the global appropriation of under-reproduced labor power (predicated upon dispossession of formerly self- reproducing peasantries) and (2) the accumulation of spaces of surplus nature. From the labor-in-nature perspective, the concept of surplus nature (as distinguished from necessary nature) is utilized to critique the developmentalist view of nature as an (external) object rather than a human relationship internal to the production of social life. This perspective helps to conceptualize the current crisis of global capitalism as a crisis of under-reproduction, of which the food crisis is only one expression.  The long food crisis, as conceptualized in this article, expresses the limits of cheap ecology as supported by cheap food regimes and oil regimes. The end of cheap ecology will decisively rule out all externalizing solutions to capitalist crises.

 

Review XXXII, 2, 2009

 

                                                                             

Immanuel Wallerstein, ABraudel on the Longue Durée: Problems of Conceptual Translation@

This article reviews the conceptual and linguistic problems of translation in the historical social sciences in general, and that of translating the work of Fernand Braudel in particular. Since this is the fourth translation into English of the same article over a period of 50 years, the differences between the four translations are discussed in detail. The article notes how Braudel relates his concepts to those of four thinkers who were central to intellectual discourse in France in the 1950’s: Lévi-Strauss, Sartre, Marx, and Gurvitch, and to a fifth, Vidal de la Blache, who had ceased to be central to intellectual discourse. The entire discussion always brings Braudel back to the central importance of the longue durée, the key word in the title of the article.

 

Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée,” translated by Immanuel Wallerstein

 

This is a new translation of Braudel’s classic article on the longue durée, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its original publication. The article lays out Braudel's concept of the multiplicity of social times and their respective utilities in the analysis of historical phenomena. It specifically criticizes the emphasis on short-term episodic and idiographic history (l'histoire événementielle) on the one hand and the emphasis on the use of eternal concepts in the social sciences, what he calls the très longue durée. He explicates the necessity of analyzing the longue durée (long, but not eternal), as well as what he calls la conjoncture, the cyclical movements within the longue durée.

 

 

Review XXXII, 3, 2009

 

Geoffrey C. Gunn, “Timor-Leste (Former Portuguese East Timor): From Colonial Anthropology to an Anthropology of Colonialism”

 

Taking the former Portuguese Southeast Asian colony of East Timor (Timor-Leste) as a field of inquiry, this article offers a discussion on Portuguese colonial discourse and practice as it developed in the first half of the twentieth century. This it does through a portrayal of the life work of key anthropologists, set against both the institutions in which they worked and alongside broader debates in Anglophone and continental anthropology. In turn the article seeks to answer larger questions as to the nexus between colonialism and anthropology, the colonial framing of subject peoples, as well as contributing to the evolving discussion of East Timor identity, appropriation, and uses of historical discourse.

 

Huei-Ying Kuo, “Agency amid Incorporation: Chinese Business Networks in Hong Kong and Singapore and the Colonial Origins of the Resurgence of East Asia, 1800–1940”

 

This article fills the gap between the period of East-West horizontal integration in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries and the resurgence of East Asia in the late twentieth century as discussed in Andre Gunder Frank’s ReOrient (1998). It examines the operation of overseas Chinese business networks in British Hong Kong and Singapore between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The analysis of newsletters of Chinese business associations, newspapers, and British and Japanese intelligence reports reveals the agency of overseas Chinese business networks. While they abided by the British colonial status quo, Chinese business elites managed to pursue their profits both within and outside of this framework. Above all, their establishment of manufacturing sectors in the interwar years in Singapore and Hong Kong was beyond the British colonial interest. To secure their nascent market of Chinese manufactures, overseas Chinese elites mobilized nationalist rhetoric to solicit support from both ethnic Chinese customers and the Chinese governmenteven to the point of competing head on with British products. In a nutshell, this article highlights the agency of overseas Chinese business groups as independent players in Asia in the age of imperialism. These business groups not only thrived as the passive recipients of the economic opportunities created by the Europeans, but also actively exploited the colonial order and established their economic influence parallel to or in conflict with the colonial order in the region.

 

Eric Wilson, “Making the World Safe for Holland: De Indis of Hugo Grotius and International Law as Geoculture”

 

This article attempts to fill in a gap in contemporary world-systems analysis by arguing that international law constitutes an understudied aspect of geoculture. Taking as its point of reference an early work by Hugo Grotius, De Indis, this article illustrates the manner in which the Grotian Heritage, the normative and intellectual foundation of international public order, is readily explicated in terms of world-systems analysis: the international rule of law is not a functional adaptation in its own right but is, rather, the epiphenomenal byproduct of the operations of the world-system. There is an unappreciated “double movement” between international law and the world-system. The world-system governs the historical development of international law, and international law is a primary means of the ideological legitimation of the world-system. The “deconstruction” of the iterable relationship between international law and the world-system illuminates the centrality of geoculture to the modern configuration of international public order.

 

Review XXXII, 4, 2009

 

Jason W. Moore, “Madeira, Sugar, and the Conquest of Nature in the ‘First’ Sixteenth Century, Part I: From ‘Island of Timber’ to Sugar Revolution, 1420–1506”

 

Madeira is a small island with a large place in the origins of the modern world. Lying 560-some kilometers west of north Africa, Madeira was home to the modern world’s first cash crop boom, a sugar revolution. In the first of two successive articles in this journal, I explain how the epoch-making acceleration of boom and bust on Madeira, during Braudel’s “first” sixteenth century (c. 1450-1557), marked a new crystallization of the nature-society relations pivotal to the rise of capitalism. This new crystallization represented an ensemble of new capacities to exploit and extract extra-human nature much faster, and on a much larger scale, than ever before. It was a mode of socio-ecological conquest and commodification that was possible because of early capitalism's “commodity frontier” strategy, one premised on global expansion as a constitutive moment in the formation of the modern world-system—as capitalist world-ecology no less than world-economy. From this standpoint, the very conditions of Madeira’s rapid ascent were also the conditions of its rapid decline after 1506. These stemmed from the rapid commodity-centered organization, and consequent exhaustion, of the relations governing human and extra-human nature: labor and land.

 

Enrico Dal Lago, “Second Slavery, Second Serfdom, and Beyond: The Atlantic Plantation System and the Eastern and Southern European Landed Estate System in Comparative Perspective, 1800-60”

 

In the first half of the nineteenth century, agricultural labor in wide areas of the American hemisphere and of the eastern and southern European peripheries was mostly associated with large landed estates. In all these areas, production of specific crops for sale in the world market led to the implementation of rigidly regimented systems of labor with different degrees of “unfreedom,” from slavery to serfdom to sharecropping. In the Americas, agricultural production on large-scale plantations was tightly linked to the rise of the second slavery in the U. S. South, Cuba, and Brazil; the economies of these three regions effectively represented the ultimate capitalist transformation of an Atlantic Plantation System that had undergone a crucial renewal in the period between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In turn, the expansion of the Atlantic Plantation System under the second slavery occurred in parallel with the renewal of the second serfdom in eastern Europe, where, in the territories stretching from Prussia to Russia, latifundia and large-scale landed estates produced grain for the world market. At the same time, grain—together with citrus, olives, and wine grapes—was one of the main crops grown in the latifundia of the southern European peripheries of southern Italy and Spain. Taken together, the large landed properties and latifundia in eastern and southern Europe formed a European Landed Estate System, whose nineteenth-century characteristics we can fruitfully compare to those of the Atlantic Plantation System. In this article, I suggest three possible areas of comparison: the structural organization of the landscapes of plantations and landed estates and the related reliance of slaveholders and landowners on hierarchical chains of command; labor management and the regimentation and pace of work; and the slaveholders’ and landowners’ efforts at implementing agricultural modernization through technological and biological innovation.

 

Staughton Lynd, “Toward Another World”

 

We can rely on crises in capitalism to continue. Three ideas for how to get to a better world are: 1) Accompaniment, that is, the idea that radical professionals should expect to spend long periods of time among particular groups of the poor and oppressed, walking beside them as equals; 2) Solidarity unionism, that is, an alternative labor strategy based on the self-activity of local groups who then link up with one another horizontally; and finally 3) mandar obediciendo, that is, the idea that rather than radicals trying to take state power, leaders should govern in obedience to what subcomandante Marcos calls “the below.”

 


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