Prologue: the Great Recession Durcharbeitung
Capitalism does not invent hierarchies, any more than it invented the market, or production, or consumption; it merely uses them. In the long procession of history, capitalism is the later-comer. It arrives when everything is ready.
Fernand Braudel (1977: 75)
The Annales school historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (1983) remarks that in the period of 1350 to 1750 there was only a modest population growth in Europe. The continent was held captured by a military-state apparatus, dominated by the aristocracy, and with the monarchy as a largely military institution, implicated in the European balance of power (Le Roy Ladurie, 1983: 15). To maintain the power balance, constant wars and skirmishes tortured the European population and prevented economic development and population growth for more than four centuries. ‘From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century inclusive, the economy was servant not master’, Le Roy Ladurie (1983: 23) writes. Only after the beginning of the industrialization process, itself derived from the advancement of the bourgeoisie at the expense of the aristocracy and its primary institution the monarchy, could the economy start to grow. In this case, the facts by and large speak for themselves: ‘[i]n 1328, the French population stood at 17 million; it was 19 million in 1700 – still about the same. But by 1879, it had reached 27 million and had risen to almost 40 million by the time of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870’ (Le Roy Ladurie, 1983: 25). Roughly after 1750, midway...
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