Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. By Fernand Braudel; trans- lated by Patricia M. Ranum. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins. Fernand Braudel. Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. Translated by Patricia M. Ranum. (The Johns Hopkins Symposia in. I think mankind is more than waist-deep in daily routine. Countless inherited acts, accumulated pell-mell and repeated time after time to this.

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Or they might even buy these items in advance, as unshorn wool and uncut wheat. I Once again a working vocabulary must be estab’ lished. But the basic problem does not lie there.

Fernand Braudel, Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism

And what is the cuvilization if not the pinnacle, the capitalist superstructure of the whole edifice? In addition, if you make the effort to read them there are thousands of documents that tell of yesterday’s exchanges: And although economists, taught by experience, ceased defending the automatic virtues of laissez faire more than fifty years ago, the myth has not yet been eradicated from public opinion or from contemporary political discussions.

The same was true for culture and religion. Imagine the sort of break that would occur in the West as aftertoughts know it today were a free, total, and definitive opening of the Soviet and Chinese economies to occur.

Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism

Japanese society is in this respect atypical, for there the process was roughly the same as in Europe: A priori, everything should be easy; yet nothing goes well. Il capitalismo vive, in effetti, di questa regolare suddivisione in piani verticali: It is no accident that throughout the world a group of large merchants stands out clearly from the mass of ordinary dealers and that this group is, on the one hand, very small and, on the other, always connected with long-distance trade, among its other activities.

How can these tools—markets, shops, peddlers, fairs, bourses—used by the exchange help us to form a general explanation of the vicissitudes suffered by the European economy during the Ancien Regime, to ? Eighteenth’century Europe developed every’ thing, including the countermarket. But above all, the serious economic crisis, soon to be joined by the tragedy of the Black Death, played its customary role in the fourteenth century: At first glance we are surprised that, as the progress brought by the market economy affected commercial society as a whole, specialization and the division of labor increased, except at the summit, the level of the merchant’ capitalists.


So we see here admira’ bly, and on a wide scale, that what was to be called industrial capitalism was borne up by the strength and vitality of the market economy, and of the underlying economy as well, by the strength and vitality of small and innovative industry, and, no less important, by the entire process of production and exchange. By now the rather simple, plausible theory I have proposed should be easier to understand: Andre Siegfried, bom inwas twenty’ five years old when the twentieth century was born.

Isn’t it still a fact of life today? Only after Samuel Bernard’s bankruptcy in did Paris become the economic center of the French market, and only after the reorganization of the Paris Bourse in did this market begin to fulfill its role. Within these peripheral zones, life often resembles purgatory or even hell. It would be of prime importance if we could delineate the boundary between light and shadow, between routine and conscious decisions. So I do not believe that the history books I am writing will be valid for decades to come.

This historiography, which is constantly giving birth and which is never the same from one year to the next, can only be kept up with at a run and at the cost of neglecting our routine tasks and of adapting ourselves, for better or for worse, to constantly changing demands and temptations.

A few steps away from the noisy stalls of this double square the major wholesalers of the city would meet in their Loggia, built in —one could almost say in their Bourse—where each morning they would discuss confidentially their businesses, maritime insurance, and shipping. Still, it is clear that from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century the area forming the lively world of the market economy steadily increased. On the contrary, the crises of the seventeenth century gener’ ally benefited Amsterdam.

In the vast world of Islam, especially prior to the eighteenth century, land ownership was temporary, for there, as in China, land legally belonged to the prince. No capitalism before the Industrial Revolution, a stilbyoung historian shouted one day: So the rather bitter debate between those who accept only an internal explanation for capitalism and for the Industrial Revolution, seeing them as the result of an on’the’spot transformation of socioeconomic structures, and those who consider only an external explanation in other words, the imperialist exploita’ tion of the world —this debate seems pointless to me.

It is these two questions that I would like to tackle before the end of this chapter. But its success never lasted long, as if the economic edifice could not pump enough nourishment up to this high point of the economy.


After its brief moment of glory, the Florentine bank collapsed, along with the Bardi and Peruzzi families during the fourteenth century and again with the Medicis during the fifteenth.

And these tools, through either similarities or contrasts, explain for us the mecha- nisms of the non-European economy, which we have only begun to understand in recent years? The immense Turkish Empire was also a world’economy, until the end of the eighteenth century.

Although the market economy was expanding and although it already covered vast areas and had at times been spectacularly successful, it still rather frequently lacked amplitude. One might think that this exploit had already been managed by the United Provinces, but they occupied only a minuscule bit of territory, which was unable to feed its own popula’ tion.

Their policy was simply to take the place of the former winners, violence being all in the game. With only a little effort we can observe aftertthoughts reconstruct them.

With London as a go’ between, the English shires exchanged afterthhoughts exported their products, especially since England eliminated internal customs duties and tolls at a very early date. What were their houses like?

Hundreds of autopsy records have survived, going back to the sixteenth century. I think mankind is more than waist’deep in daily capitalismm. Thus, inafter some hesitation, the center of the world unquestionably shifted from London to New York. Until the eighteenth century, the population was enclosed within an almost intangible circle.

Even peddlers became more active. During the eighteenth century capital flowed through Europe and the world.

Full text of “Civilization And Capitalism by Fernand Braudel, 3 vols.”

This is virtually the same rate that Keynes allowed for the economies of twentieth’century societies. These links, these chains, these exchanges, these indispensable comings and goings—how could they fail to attract historians?

The seventeenth century has often been described as a period of economic retreat or xfterthoughts some qualifications, however, are in order. We only truly notice it when we leave the West and observe the different spectacle provided by non’European societies.

Sign In or Create an Account. Here a whole sequence of debits and credits is woven into the exchange.