‘My Capitalism Is Bigger than Yours!’

Against Combining ‘How the West Came to Rule’ with ‘The Origins of Capitalism’

In: Historical Materialism

Abstract

This article reviews Alex Anievas and Kerem Nişancıoğlu’s How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (2015). It argues that the book offers a stimulating and ambitious approach to solving the problems of Eurocentrism and the origins of capitalism in growing critical scholarship in historical sociology and International Relations. However, by focusing on the ‘problem of the international’ and proposing a ‘single unified theory’ based on uneven and combined development, the authors present a history of international relations that trades off methodological openness and legal complexity for a structural and exclusive consequentialism driven by anti-Eurocentrism. By misrepresenting the concept of social-property relations in terms of the internal/external fallacy, and by confusing different types of ‘internalism’ required by early-modern jurisdictional struggles, the book problematically conflates histories of international law and capitalism. These methodological problems are contextualised by examples from the Spanish, French and British empires’ conceptions of sovereignty and jurisdiction and their significant legal actors and processes.

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