The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times

The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times

Giovanni Arrighi

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 1844673049

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Long Twentieth Century traces the relationship between capital accumulation and state formation over a 700-year period. Arrighi argues that capitalism has unfolded as a succession of “long centuries,” each of which produced a new world power that secured control over an expanding world-economic space. Examining the changing fortunes of Florentine, Venetian, Genoese, Dutch, English and finally American capitalism, Arrighi concludes with an examination of the forces that have shaped and are now poised to undermine America’s world dominance. A masterpiece of historical sociology, The Long Twentieth Century rivals in scope and ambition contemporary classics by Perry Anderson, Charles Tilly and Michael Mann.

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previous wave of struggle for world supremacy had led to the “democratization of nationalism,” was carried a step further by the “industrialization of war” – the process, that is, through which an everincreasing number, range and variety of machinofactured mechanical products were deployed in war-making activities (cf. Giddens 1987: 223–4). As a result, the productive efforts of the propertyless in general, and of the industrial proletariat in particular, became a central component of the

expenditure of a large proportion of these profits in pomp and display was in fact good business policy – quite apart from the aesthetic pleasure and other benefits that it gave the Medici family. For big business in general and high finance in particular were involved in state-making functions to a far greater extent than in later epochs. As Mattingly (1988: 59) notes, the diplomatic function of the foreign branch managers of the House of Medici was always considerable and, after 1434, “it was

propped up not just the profitability of Genoese business but the power pursuits of Imperial Spain as well. “What made the Genoese merchants so indispensable to the king of Spain was the rise of capital 129 their ability to convert the intermittent flow of silver from America to Seville into a steady stream.” After 1567, the Spanish troops fighting in the Netherlands demanded and obtained regular monthly payments in gold coin. “So the Genoese had to convert American silver into gold” (Braudel

in competition with the Lyons fairs, which were controlled by the Florentine “nation.” In spite of these early signs of an escalation in inter-capitalist competition, relationships between the main “nations” remained basically cooperative through the 1540s and early 1550s. The real escalation only began with the crisis of 1557–62. As previously noted, it was in the course of this crisis that German capital was crowded out of high finance by Genoese capital. More important, the Genoese introduced

(gold and bills of exchange) from the Lyons fairs to its own “Bisenzone” fairs. Although these fairs still bore the Italian name of Besançon – from where they had been held initially – they were in fact mobile (held at Chambéry, Poligny, Trento, Coira, Rivoli, Ivrea, and Asti) to suit the Genoese (Boyer-Xambeau, Deleplace, and Gillard 1991: 319–28, 123). By 1579, when the Bisenzone fairs settled at Piacenza in the Duchy of Parma, a tightly controlled and highly profitable triangle had been

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