European proto-capitalism.

26th February 2015, 23:43

Some historians claim that "capitalist relations" as such preceded their emergence in European society by merit of the existence of production conducted for profit in ancient slave-based societies as well as during the Islamic caliphates ( despotic societies - ancient China, and so on). While of course we can recognize the ridiculousness of this claim, solely by merit of the fact that "capitalism" in the caliphates eventually took an irrational role politically and divulged into oriental despotism, as well as the fact that even if production was conducted for profit in ancient societies, labor relations to production were in bondage (as well as a plethora of other reasons why calling it capitalism is beyond ridiculousness).

What struck me as interesting was this: Was the emergence of mercantilism in Europe necessarily owed to the subservience of Italian trade to the caliphates, which in turn brought proto-capitalist relations to Europe in an oddly mutated way, while the caliphates eventually collapsed and degenerated into despotism a la the Ottoman Empire (the point being that "capitalism" in Islamic societies was not "capitalism" at all but productive relations which were inevitably bound to collapse)? Can the very first roots of capitalism, in other words (a proto-proto-capitalism) be traced to the Islamic caliphates of the middle ages? It does after all make sense: culturally, these societies were incredibly influential to the emergence of the Italian renaissance and the rebirth of western philosophy (Hegel did say that the Arabs had brought philosophy to Europe).

Edit: It should be noted that the claims with regard to the societies of the caliphate being 'capitalist' are taken with skepticism. I have found efforts to find the social composition of these societies rather fruitless as far as the mode of production goes. We are told by some sources that ownership of land wasn't based on inheritance and so on. Has anyone have an idea about the details?

Originally Posted by Antiochus View Post
Europe and the Middle East had really backwards systems of production and the Caliphates did little to advance them, don't listen to the Islamists propaganda portraying them as the center of civilization, they weren't. Off course Islamists eat the propaganda up. And I suppose they were more advanced than say Britain or Germania (some of the poorest areas of the planet until the 16th century).
Well, certainly there are no illusions here, although I was indeed unaware of the nature of such Near Eastern civilizations. The reason this doesn't necessarily work anyway in their favor is that even if we assume they were paradises, their very best intellectuals were not uniquely religious with even some instances of irreligion among them. Hegel, however, had provided a rather comprehensive understanding of Islam's history with this regard which recognizes them as having brought philosophy to Europe through Italy. Certainly, the scholastic sphere of such civilizations was undeniably sophisticated, with advances in astronomy, medicine and philosophy (etc) being outright undeniable, along with its influence on the Italian Renaissance. What I had asked was not whether such societies were capitalist, but whether mercantilism in Europe formed as a result of trade relations with the Near East, subsumed by their mode of production only contingently (i.e. Of europe's condition). I suppose this has already more or less been answered, so many thanks. What is rather interesting is that a lot of the talk of the Muslim golden age actually has its origins in European orientalists during the age of reason, which is an ironic twist on those who claim the designation of these societies as backward and despotic is Eurocentric.

Also, are there any decent works on the subject which could expound upon this (Productive relations in muslim civilizations)?