Debating Modes of Production and Forms of Exploitation: Introduction to the Symposium on Jairus Banaji’s Theory as History

in Historical Materialism
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Theory as History, which was awarded the Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2011, collects together several of Jairus Banaji’s essays published over the course of 30 years. This symposium comprises four essays engaging with different aspects of the powerful and provocative contributions in Theory as History, as well as an essay in response by Banaji. The Editorial Introduction sketches elements of Banaji’s work and highlights some of the main arguments advanced in the symposium.

Debating Modes of Production and Forms of Exploitation: Introduction to the Symposium on Jairus Banaji’s Theory as History

in Historical Materialism



BahroRudolf FernbachDavid The Alternative in Eastern Europe 1978 London New Left Books

BanajiJairus Agrarian Change in Late Antiquity: Gold Labour and Aristocratic Dominance 2007 Revised Second Edition Oxford Oxford University Press

BanajiJairus Theory as History: Essays on Modes of Production and Exploitation 2010 Leiden Brill Historical Materialism Book Series

BanajiJairus ‘Putting Theory to Work’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 4 129 143

BernsteinHenry ‘Historical Materialism and Agrarian History’ Journal of Agrarian Change 2013 13 2 310 329

BhattacharyaNeeladri ‘Lineages of Capital’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 4 11 35

BlackledgePaul Symposium on Chris Wickham’s Framing the Early Middle Ages Historical Materialism 2011 19 1 37 231

HaldonJohn F. The State and the Tributary Mode of Production 1993 London Verso

HaldonJohn F. ‘Theories of Practice: Marxist History-Writing and Complexity’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 4 36 70

MarxKarl NicolausMartin Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft) 1993 [1953] Harmondsworth Penguin

PostCharles The American Road to Capitalism: Studies in Class-Structure Economic Development and Political Conflict 1620–1877 2011 Leiden Brill Historical Materialism Book Series

PostCharles ‘Capitalism, Laws of Motion and Social Relations of Production’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 4 71 91

RiouxSébastien ‘The Fiction of Economic Coercion: Political Marxism and the Separation of Theory and History’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 4 92 128

van der LindenMarcel ‘Foreword’ 2010 in Banaji 2010

WickhamChris Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400–800 2005 Oxford Oxford University Press


On the latter see especially Banaji 2007. A full bibliography of Banaji’s published work appears in Theory as History (Banaji 2010 pp. 361–3). Several papers are directly available from Banaji’s SOAS web page: <>.


Banaji 2010p. 145.


Banaji 2010p. 54 (citing Marx 1993 p. 463).


This symposium was commissioned in June 2010over a year before Theory as History was announced as the winner of the 2011 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize.


Banaji 2010pp. 47–8.


Banaji 2010p. 12.


Banaji 2010pp. 13 and 15. Banaji elaborates on this point in a direct engagement with Marx: ‘The point . . . is not to deny the centrality of “free labour” to the accumulation of capital in the modern economy (modern forms of capitalism) but to undermine the particular way Marx attempts to construe the link between wage-labour and capital. In Chapter 7 [of Capital Volume I] Marx tends to argue as if the use of free labour is a logical presupposition of capital when it is clear that individual capitalists exploit labour in a multiplicity of forms and this not just when capital exists as manufacture and domestic industry.’ (Banaji 2010 p. 128; on the ‘two aspects to Marx’s handling of free labour’ see pp. 137–9.)


Banaji 2010p. 104. On the logic of deployment see especially Chapters 3 and 6.


Bhattacharya 2013pp. 16–17.


Bhattacharya 2013p. 19.


Bhattacharya 2013p. 20.


Bhattacharya 2013p. 22.


For Banaji’s (2010) reading see Chapter 10.


Bhattacharya 2013p. 32.


Haldon 1993.


Banaji 2010p. 22 also p. 354.


Wickham 2005. See Blackledge (ed.) 2011 for a collection of essays on Wickham’s book where Chapter 7 of Banaji 2010 was originally published.


Haldon 2013p. 47.


Haldon 2013p. 48.


Haldon 2013p. 55.


Haldon 2013p. 50.


Haldon 2013p. 67.


See especially Post 2011.


Post 2013p. 79.


Post 2013pp. 80 80 81.


Post 2013p. 84.


Banaji 2010p. 256 see also Chapter 2. While not in explicit reference to Dobb the following passage further emphasises Banaji’s point: ‘agrarian capitalism could and did take radically different forms even within individual countries. The entrenched orthodoxy that England’s history supplies us with an archetype of capitalist agriculture is a myth. It is much less credible today as historians begin to map the very different ways in which capitalism evolved in agriculture and continues to do so. There is no “pure” agrarian capitalism.’ (Banaji 2010 p. 355.)


Rioux 2013p. 95.


Rioux 2013p. 101.


Rioux 2013pp. 107 103.


Marx 1993p. 101.


Rioux 2013pp. 101 120.


Bernstein 2013p. 317; emphasis added.

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