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In: Studies on Pre-Capitalist Modes of Production
In: Studies on Pre-Capitalist Modes of Production
Social and Political Change in Castile and Western Europe, 1250–1520
Author: Carlos Astarita
Translator: David Broder
Carlos Astarita's From Feudalism to Capitalism: Social and Political Change in Castile and Western Europe, 1250–1520 presents for an English-speaking readership a major intervention in a number of debates in Marxist historiography. The work has four thematic nuclei: the socio-political evolution that led to the feudal state, the genesis of capitalist rural production, the class struggle and the relationship of these factors with the commercial flow between regions. Received interpretations are revaluated through a series of original case studies that greatly enrich our understanding of theoretical terms, and suggest new interpretations of the absolutist state, the temporal validity of the law of value and the origins of capitalism.

This book was originally published in Spanish as Del feudalismo al capitalismo/i> by Publicacions Universitat de València (PUV), 2005, 978-84-370-6206-8.
Author: Carlos Astarita

Abstract

This engagement with Chris Wickham’s Framing the Early Middle Ages argues that Germanic kings settled as political authorities in fiscal lands, and granted districts to some of the loyal members of their entourage over which they exercised power. This process relates to the fact that kings preserved fiscus-taxes, but that system had already deteriorated and finally disintegrated in the sixth century. In the long run, the problem was expressed in an organic crisis of the ruling class. In consequence, popular revolts against taxation ensued. These revolts are an indicator that the collapsed ancient machinery of domination was not replaced by another in the short term, thus giving way to a political vacuum. The fugitive slaves or serfs reflected in the laws are an indicator pointing in the same direction. Under these conditions free peasant-communities multiplied. These events take us to the concept of peasant-mode societies that Wickham contributes to our understanding of the period. Despite the importance he attaches to this concept, he observes nuances; not in all regions, he claims, did peasant-logic prevail. The evidence allows us, on the contrary, to extend the scope of the concept and to establish a single theoretical basis for the construction of the feudal system on a European scale.

In: Historical Materialism