Herrenvolk Capitalism

in Historical Materialism
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Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams is a book on the political economy of the Mississippi basin in the six decades before the American Civil War. The book’s three aims are to show, firstly, the racial, ecological, gender, and economic contradictions inherent within this society; secondly, the mechanisms of power maintaining a slave-holding oligarchy; and finally, its attempts at imperial expansion in the Gulf of Mexico. This book is exceptional as an example of integrating a wide range of poststructuralist approaches within a Marxist framework. Johnson mixes methods to vividly portray the ‘Cotton Kingdom’ as a vital, imperialist and capitalist polity that was in no way in decline, but rather the centre of the global industrial economy. This book is excellent, but flawed for avoiding theoretical issues and because Johnson is unable to prove broad support for private imperialist adventurers (‘filibusters’).

Herrenvolk Capitalism

in Historical Materialism

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References

AshworthJohn Slavery Capitalism and Politics in the Antebellum Republic: Volume 2 The Coming of the Civil War 1850–1861 2007 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

BlackburnRobin ‘Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln: A Curious Convergence’ Historical Materialism 2011 19 4 99 128

BrennerRobert ‘The Origins of Capitalist Development: A Critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism’ New Left Review 1977 I 104 25 92

BurkettPaul Marxism and Ecological Economics: Toward a Red and Green Political Economy Historical Materialism 2009 Chicago Haymarket Books Book Series

EdwardsSteve ‘A Symposium on the American Civil War and Slavery’ Historical Materialism 2011 19 4 33 44

FieldsBarbara Jeanne ‘Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America’ New Left Review 1990 I 181 95 118

HerbertUlrich ‘Forced Laborers in the Third Reich: An Overview’ International Labor and Working-Class History 2000 58 192 219

JohnsonWalter Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market 1999 Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press

KershawIan ‘The Nazi State: An Exceptional State?’ New Left Review 1989 I 176 47 67

MorganPhilip ‘River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom’ The American Historical Review 2014 119 2 462 464

NimtzAugust H. ‘Marx and Engels on the us Civil War: The “Materialist Conception of History” in Action’ Historical Materialism 2011 19 4 169 192

OakesJames ‘Best of All Worlds’ London Review of Books 2010 32 5 30 31

RobertsAlasdair America’s First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837 2012 Ithaca Cornell University Press

3

Roberts 2012p. 32.

4

Morgan 2014p. 464.

5

Johnson 1999p. 163.

7

Edwards 2011p. 42. The most prominent proponents of a capitalist South are Sidney Mintz Orlando Patterson Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman and Jairus Banaji. The opposing camp of a non-capitalist South includes David Potter Don Fehrenbacher Eric Foner Eugene Genovese and John Ashworth.

8

Oakes 2010.

10

Blackburn 2011p. 109.

11

Ashworth 2007.

12

Brenner 1977p. 42.

13

Burkett 2009p. 12.

15

Fields 1990p. 100.

16

Nimtz 2011p. 177.

17

Blackburn 2011p. 103.

18

Quoted in Blackburn 2011p. 104.

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