Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. By Fernand Braudel; trans- lated by Patricia M. Ranum. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins. Fernand Braudel. Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. Translated by Patricia M. Ranum. (The Johns Hopkins Symposia in. I think mankind is more than waist-deep in daily routine. Countless inherited acts, accumulated pell-mell and repeated time after time to this.

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Fernand Braudel, Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism

The splendors of Amsterdam can easily blind us civipization more ordinary achievements. A close look at one example will enable me to avoid excessive discussion on this point.

There we find few free peasants, few freemen, imperfect exchanges, incomplete banking, financial organizations that are often directed from outside, and relatively traditional industries. It has always civipization carnivorous.

Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism

Lacking other and more profitable places for invest’ ment, the capitalist would be tempted to acquire land, a safe investment and one that conferred social distinction, but sometimes he would also buy land that could be farmed in a modern manner and become a source of substantial income, as was the case in England, the Venetian state, and elsewhere.

And these tools, through either similarities or contrasts, explain for us the mecha- nisms of the non-European economy, which we have only begun to understand in recent years? To see, if possible, with his own eyes. A world’economy always has a pole or a center, represented by one dominant city, in the past a city-state, today a capital city—that is, an economic capital, New York rather than Washington, D.


Likewise, the regular trade resulting in the great wheat shipments from the Baltic was transpar’ ent trade: Naturally, all of this occurred without any mathematical regularity; a prolonged economic crisis constitutes a test: Take Venice as an example.

Until Peter the Great, Russia Muscovy, to be exact was one of these self’ contained world’economies, living essentially by and upon itself.

Should we view this swarm of village markets in India as a flaw preventing urbanism from taking hold? It also multiplied its links with other still’autonomous world’economies: In other words, it created an essentially stable social regime. The only sure thing is that facile civilizwtion traditional explanations have been pushed aside. We already know enough to ask the following question: At the middle level, let us take the garment manufacturer: This is familiar and traditional history.

In short, for better or for worse, some sort of economy links the various world markets, and this economy drags in its wake a very few luxury commod’ ities and also precious metals, those firstrlass travel’ ers who were already making around’the’world tours.

Thus, the modem state, which did not create capitalism but only inherited it, sometimes acts in its favor and at other times acts against it; it sometimes allows capitalism to expand and at other times destroys its mainspring.

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All the more reason, of course, for him to become excited about discovering these origins, which so routinely elude him, thumbing their noses all the while.

Accordingly, Braudel offers a set of terms with which capitalism and social hierarchy which underlies capitalism can be criticized, without necessarily civilizatioh of market economy and therefore dismissing the advantages which have been created by economic exchange.


During the past few years we have been going through a world crisis of cwpitalism own that shows every sign of being serious and of long duration.

Each society has its type of success.

Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism by Fernand Braudel

Present’day capital’ ism, in which monopolies reign supreme, is character’ ized by the exportation of capital. Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. In late’fourteenth’century Flor’ ence, the old feudal nobility and the new merchant upper bourgeoisie matterial become one, forming a mon’ eyed elite that in a logical fashion set about gaining political control.

All these observations are valid for Europe. I do not believe that either. To those in the West who attack the misdeeds of capitalism, politicians and economists reply that these wrongdoings are a lesser evil, the indispensable reverse side of the free’enterprise’and’market’ economy coin.

Indeed, Moslem cities, overdeveloped and overdynamic, stressed the mechanisms and instruments of the upper exchange level.

In reality, everything rested upon the very broad back of material life; when material life expanded, capitalsm moved ahead, and the market economy also expanded rapidly and reached out at the expense of material life. Capitalism is still based upon exploiting inter national resources and opportunities; in other words, it exists on a world’wide scale, or at least it reaches out toward the entire world.