julho 12, 2012

Capitalismo e Mercados

We are used to thinking of such bureaucratic interventions­ particularly the monopolies and regulations - as state restriction on "the market" - owing to the prevailing prejudice that sees markets as quasi-natural phenomena that emerge by themselves, and governments as having no role other than to squelch or siphon from them. I have repeatedly pointed out how mistaken this is, but China provides a particularly striking example. The Confucian state may have been the world's greatest and most enduring bureaucracy, but it actively pro­moted markets, and as a result, commercial life in China soon became far more sophisticated, and markets more developed, than anywhere else in the world. This despite the fact that Confucian orthodoxy was overtly hostile to merchants and even the profit motive itself. Commercial profit was seen as legitimate only as compensation for the labor that merchants expended in transporting goods from one place to another, but never as fruits of speculation. What this meant in practice was that they were pro-market but anti-capitalist. Again, this seems bizarre, since we're used to assuming that capital­ ism and markets are the same thing, but, as the great French historian Fernand Braude! pointed out, in many ways they could equally well be conceived as opposites. While markets are ways of exchanging goods through the medium of money-historically, ways for those with a surplus of grain to acquire candles and vice versa (in economic shorthand, C-M-C', for commodity-money-other commodity)-capitalism is first and foremost the art of using money to get more money (M-C-M'). Normally, the easiest way to do this is by establishing some kind of formal or de facto monopoly. For this reason, capitalists, whether merchant princes, financiers, or industrialists, invariably try to ally them­selves with political authorities to limit the freedom of the market, so as to make it easier for them to do so. From this perspective, China was for most of its history the ultimate anti-capitalist market state. David Graeber, Debt: The First 5000 Years

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