chapter  3
Marx’s theory of history reappraised
Pages 14

Marx’s theory of history, as set out in the chapters on ‘primitive accumulation’ in Capital, is still valid when expanded into a historico-theoretical conception of the capitalist mode of production worldwide. His account of primitive accumulation, especially in Chapter 24, ‘So-called primitive accumulation’, in volume one and in Chapter 47, ‘Genesis of capitalist groundrent’, in volume three (Marx 1965, 1966), should not be read simply as a history of English capitalism as a unique phenomenon. In Capital Marx (1965: 8) identified England as the ‘classic case’ for his study of capitalism in general. He argued that advanced English capitalism presaged the future for other developing nations; he maintained that vision from the time of his early works in the 1840s. His account of primitive accumulation thus has the potential to generate a theory of history that would enable us to understand the structure and trends of primitive accumulation in contemporary developing nations. His theory reveals that these nations are following basically the same path as past Western primitive accumulation. In the process of primitive accumulation, capitalism generally forms ‘rentier-state capitalism’, sometimes referred to as ‘developmental dictatorship’. Early English capitalism offers a classic example of ‘rentier-state capitalism’. In the present chapter I define and illustrate this.