Jairus Banaji’s collection of essays is a stimulating and provocative assessment of recent Marxist history-writing on issues of social theory and historical development in both ancient as well as modern societies. It challenges the overly simplistic application of Marx’s categories of analysis, arguing for both complexity and a clearer theorisation of fundamental terminology and analytical tropes, including labour-process and mode of production. This review article suggests that, while the basic arguments represent a welcome corrective to some Marxist historical work, and at the same time address in an accessible way non-Marxist historians, there remain some problematic issues, in particular in respect of the criteria for differentiating between different types of mode of production, the level at which this concept has heuristic application, and the distinction between the political/institutional and the modal instances of theorisations of social-economic relations. Some of these issues are exemplified by reference to particular historical cases.
CampopianoMichele‘Land Tax alā l-misāa and muqāsama: Legal Theory and the Balance of Social Forces in Early Medieval Iraq (Sixth to Eighth Centuries)’Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient2011542239269
Moreno GarcíaJuan CarlosMoreno GarcíaJuan Carlos‘Introduction. Élites, et états tributaires: le cas de l’Égypte pharaonique’Élites et pouvoir en Égypte ancienne [Cahiers de recherches de l’Institut de papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille]2009LilleUniversité Charles de Gaulle-Lille III
SarrisPeterBowdenWilliamLavanLukeMachadoCarlos‘Rehabilitating the Great Estate: Aristocratic Property and Economic Growth in the Late Antique East’Recent Research on the Late Antique Countryside2004LeidenBrill
Banaji2010, p. 184, for example: ‘The paradox of Wickham’s conceptual choices is that, however one sees that novelty [in the economic and social institutions of the medieval world], it is not definable at the level of the mode of production, since his notion of the feudal mode is construed so loosely that it covers both the Roman empire and (probably) the whole medieval world and much else besides!’.
Banaji2010, pp. 354–5. Emphases in original.
Marx1970a, p. 217; Marx 1970b, pp. 36–7; Marx 1970c, pp. 791–2.
Banaji2010, pp. 72–87.
Marx1970c, p. 791.
Marx1970c, pp. 791–2: ‘This does not prevent the same economic basis – the same from the standpoint of its main conditions – due to innumerable different empirical circumstances . . . from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances’.
Runciman 1989a and1989b.
Banaji2010, p. 24.
Haldon1993, pp. 75–87.
Marx1970c, pp. 790–1, 796ff.
Marx1970c, p. 771; Marx 1972, p. 400.
See Marx1970c, p. 791.
See in particular Sarris2004, 2006and 2011; but for a critique, see Hickey 2007 and 2012.
Banaji2010, pp. 234–40.
On which, see my review: Haldon2008, especially pp. 336–46.
Banaji2010, p. 354.
Banaji2010, pp. 191–8.
Haldon 1998 and2009b, and see especially Campopiano 2011.
Banaji2010, pp. 67–72, 351–3.
Banaji2010, pp. 103–16 (‘Historical Arguments for a “Logic of Deployment” in “Precapitalist” Agriculture’); pp. 117–30 (‘Workers before Capitalism’).
Banaji2010, p. 25.
See especially Banaji2010, pp. 23–40.
See Angold1997, pp. 92ff.; Angold 2008.
Kunt 1974; Kunt1983. Even the devşirme elite – those taken as children from the families of the largely non-Muslim conquered populations and educated to be ‘true’ servitors of the Ottoman state – developed or maintained regional loyalties which were played out in factional struggles at court or the hiving off of fiscal resources in favour of particular vested interests.