In memoriam of the late Ellen Meiksins Wood, this piece firstly remembers the main achievements of her forty years of work. Secondly, it introduces one of her contributions, ‘Britain versus France: How Many Sonderwegs?’, until now unavailable in an anglophone publication and reprinted in the present issue. This contribution is a useful reformulation of her arguments concerning radical historicity, the concept of ‘bourgeois revolution’, and the specificity of French and British state formation and their political revolutions – in contrast to arguments for a German Sonderweg as an explanation for the rise of fascism. Wood also provides a fruitful illustration of how to apply a social-property relations approach to the development of the rule of law in each of these states, and thus furthers opportunities for debates on the potential of Political Marxism for understanding contemporary class struggles over rights.
Against Combining ‘How the West Came to Rule’ with ‘The Origins of Capitalism’
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.