May 12, 2003

Notes: Translations from the Trotskyist

My email has some messages accusing me of posting incomprehensible gibberish. Let me provide some help. When Perry Anderson writes:

The final effect of this general redisposition of the social power of the nobility was the State machine and juridical order of Absolutism, whose coordination was to increase the efficacy of aristocratic rule in pinning down a non-servile peasantry into new forms of dependence and exploitation.

He means:

Look: When at the early-seventeenth century start of The Three Musketeers M. d'Artagnan the Younger sets out to seek his fortune, he does so very differently than a noble predecessor of five centuries before would have. A noble predecessor of five centuries before would have spent his time (a) waging private war against his neighbors to enlarge the number of serfs under his control, (b) catching and bringing back runaway serfs, (c) participating in crusades and other episodes of pillage and destruction, and (d) making sure his peasants spent the proper amount of time working on his demesne. M. d'Artagnan the Younger sets out for Paris to join the regiment King's Musketeers, where he seeks fame and fortune by carrying out the commands of M. le Cardinal, M. le Roi, M. le Reine, and M. de Treveille. But just as his twelfth-century predecessor's wealth was based not on the land he owned but on his control over serfs--ability to use force and the threat of force to get them to work on his land--so M. d'Artagnan's fortune is based not on rent on the land he owns but on the fact that the King of France collects taxes, and gives some of the receipts from taxes to M. d'Artagnan.

The feudal nobility of the twelfth century lived (relatively) well because they were direct labor lords: would drag back serfs who ran away, would threaten to kill serfs who did not work on the demesne. The bureaucratic and service nobilities of the seventeenth century lived (relatively) well because they were indirect labor lords: they were paid by the king, and the king's tax collectors and soldiers would threaten to imprison or kill peasants who did not pay their taxes.

Posted by DeLong at May 12, 2003 06:39 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Wow. What a great translation from Marxist.

Any chance of getting a summary of the difference between Value and Price ?

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 12, 2003 07:54 PM

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Ok, my brain has run'th over. Per chance you might serve a bucket with this blog? Then I would not have to spend the hour or so it requires of me to mop up my poor brain off the floor (which is carpeted!).
And you want to know what's truly scary, I understand what you are saying.

Posted by: Rook on May 12, 2003 07:54 PM

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That book Prof. DeLong mentioned, The Human Web, discusses the military revolution that took place between the feudal knight's and Musketeers' era (particularly in Western Europe).

Absolutism developed as military might passed from a collection of knights to very expensive navies and standing armies with significant logistical needs that only an Absolutist monarch could afford. (Paying for this kind of firepower was expensive and required money, not livestock and crops seized from peasants.) Of course, this dovetails well the state's need to tap into city-dwellers who were short on chickens and pigs but did have plenty of silver.


Posted by: Stephane on May 12, 2003 08:34 PM

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This is a bit of a ramble about the absolutist state ...

If you know where to look, Absolutist States were around in the pre-Modern world. Nuremburg is an obvious example, and some of the Italian city states came close as well.

The genral popularity of the Absolutist state was in part a reaction to the chaos of what I call "Martin Luther's Wars" - that period of European civil conflict between 1525 and 1648. Remember, even "interstate" wars like the Eighty Years War between Holland and Spain, and the Thirty Years War between Catholic Europe vs Protestant Europe (-England +France), started as civil wars within what had previously been unitary states (especially if you regard the Thirty Years War as round 3 of the war between Charles V and the Schmaldatic League of Protestant princes).

OK, lets take France. It is not possible to talk about "the French State" in late 16th C France, because you had several to pick from. Most obviously, you had the 'real' French royalist state, and then you had the Calvinist state-within-a-state (based around La Rochelle, and taking it's orders from Geneva), and for a while there you had Montmorency-Damville ("the uncrowned King of Languedoc") and the Politiques telling everyone who poked their head into the Midi to go take their civil war elsewhere - or else.

Needless to say, all of them acted like States, in that they raised taxes, spent money, supported insurgencies in neighbouring enemy territories and so on.

This example wont work for you Gen Y's in the audience, but my most closest example is Lebannon in the 1970s and 1980s.

The reaction to this, once Henry IV had won by going down the middle (and by beating the absolute snot out of the Ultramontanes as and when necessary), was to empower the State so that it could defeat any group arrayed against it, thus defusing the possibiility of civil war.

Now, how did this affect the economy, especially at the lowest level ?

In my view, it didnt.

You still had the same basic set of taxes that were established during the Hundred Years War. These taxes were still farmed out to third parties (often front men for the wealthiest nobles).

But from the point of view of the economy, it doesnt matter if these are the taxes of the King of France, or of the Duke of Artois.

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 12, 2003 08:49 PM

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Well...in Western Europe in the 17th-18th century you have the phenomenon of excess labor relative to land - a situation that did not exist after the Black Death or at any time in North America where land was cheap and labor scarce. The relative cheapness of individual labor helped devalue ( relatively) the Musketeer's family holdings and forced his dependency upon the state in order to maintain the prestige of noble status. Compare that with England's primogeniture where land holdings were concentrated even when while forced labor systems were long absent.

In Russia, where neither land nor labor was scarce( though prime land like the black Earth region was)forced labor continued until the 1860's and service requirements were imposed upon the Petrine nobility by ukase without regard to land tenure or serfs held ( commoners could also " rise " into the nobility, like Lenin's father by advancing up the ladder in the state bureaucracy).

I'm not entirely sure we can generalize across 500 years of Euro-history but it was nonetheless an interesting topic

Posted by: mark safranski on May 12, 2003 09:01 PM

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Well...in Western Europe in the 17th-18th century you have the phenomenon of excess labor relative to land - a situation that did not exist after the Black Death or at any time in North America where land was cheap and labor scarce. The relative cheapness of individual labor helped devalue ( relatively) the Musketeer's family holdings and forced his dependency upon the state in order to maintain the prestige of noble status. Compare that with England's primogeniture where land holdings were concentrated even when while forced labor systems were long absent.

In Russia, where neither land nor labor was scarce( though prime land like the black Earth region was)forced labor continued until the 1860's and service requirements were imposed upon the Petrine nobility by ukase without regard to land tenure or serfs held ( commoners could also " rise " into the nobility, like Lenin's father by advancing up the ladder in the state bureaucracy).

I'm not entirely sure we can generalize across 500 years of Euro-history but it was nonetheless an interesting topic

Posted by: mark safranski on May 12, 2003 09:01 PM

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Anderson's paragraph was meaningful and easy enough to understand. We're dealing with a witchhunt here:

"He said 'dependence and exploitation'! A Bolshevik! Surround the building!"

Anderson wrote a great book (two, actually, "Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism" is another). No one has to read it, but people who brag that they can't have a problem.

In Don Quixote, Sancho Panza bargains for his pay more than once, and Don Quixote offers to pro-rate it based on time served. Don Quixote had never read in his romances of a squire behaving in such a way.

Posted by: zizka on May 12, 2003 09:38 PM

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This sort of leads to..
John Bright's 1865 assertion that "the foreign policy of this country for the last 170 years has been a system of gigantic out-door relief to the English aristocracy"

Posted by: Mark on May 12, 2003 10:04 PM

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Does anybody want to explore the Danish situation, as reported by Molesworth et al? (Though he was indirectly reflecting on England, Scotland and Ireland, a bit like Swift in "Gulliver's travels", to avoid getting into trouble for making direct comments.)

Their particular economic trick was to bind peasants AWAY from the towns until middle age, and to force individual peasants into farming on bad terms to avoid long term conscription (administered by magistrates drawn from among landowners, who picked on "bad" peasants). The sneaky thing was, someone was always bound to be conscripted - and someone else wasn't, so peasants weren't so much reacting to threats in absolute terms as competing with each other in a Darwinian sort of way, thereby reinforcing the system. A bit like the old Danish custom of hanging one man a year to appease the gods (selected regardless of crime and punishment), it concentrated the majority's minds far better than a mere "do this or else" applied to each individual.

So, looser but just as effective as serfdom proper; and all within an absolutism that had arisen after the perceived failure of a balanced system to withstand foreign threats (here, Sweden, but very like the Dutch perception of the De Witts' failure).

It would also be interesting to see why and how the nobility eventually wound back the system that at least compensated them economically for their reduced political power - and why and how the absolutism reduced too.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 12, 2003 10:16 PM

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Ian,

Calling the states of the sixteenth century "unitary" is more than a little bit misleading :-). Regradless, Henry IV's state was hardly "absolutist," and I don't think it is very easy to talk about almost any of the early modern European political communities as absolutist states, given increasing evidence about the wide divergence between royal propaganda and the way those states actually functioned in practice (Prussia is a possible exception, as is Denmark after its 1660 [?] revoluton).

Posted by: dan on May 12, 2003 11:02 PM

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Dan,

Good point about falling for propaganda. You have to watch those lying, asskissing 16th and 17th C writers. Especially the poets and playwrights, and those courtiers eg the Duke of "I was just asking those Protestants in Vassy to quieten down a bit" Guise ;)

Yeah, Henry IV's state wasnt absolutist, and there is a good argument that Louis XIV was impossible without Richelieu's earlier spadework (you've heard the story about when he took over, he wrote to all his ambassadors, asking for copies of their instructions ?).

But Henry IV's state was a big step towards a single State in France, and you cant have an absolutism without a functioning State.

Ian

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 12, 2003 11:17 PM

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Ian,

You can certainly argue that Henry IV re-established a (relatively, for the period) centralized state in France, but I'm not sure you can argue it was significnatly more centralized than that under Francis I or Henry II. There may have been a good deal more ideological impetus to take steps to preclude another breakdown of the state of the kind that happened during the sixteenth-century Wars of Religion, but I'm not sure you can argue that the state became more centralized than it would have been if Henry II had never gotten that splinter in the eye. I'm with you that the really significant changes start under Richelieu and continue into the reign of Louis XIV, but I'm still torn about how significant those changes ultimately were and how much we've distorted them in our quest to find the origins of the modern state in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century "absolutism."

Posted by: Dan on May 12, 2003 11:34 PM

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Stephane,

The Military Revolution debate isnt as clear-cut as it might seem. It actually isnt true that standing armies require things that you cant sieze from peasants - the big cost in running an army is feeding the troops and horses (cf the organised looting of peasants by the French armies under Napoleon).

See the work by Parker et al on Roberts' thesis (the topic 'The Military Revolution of the Sixteenth century' is probably the place to start).

I'm also doubtful that only an Absolutist monarch can afford a standing army. After all, what were the "national contingents" in Napoleons armies, but troops contributed from his feudal inferiors of the Confederation of the Rhine and so on ?

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 12, 2003 11:41 PM

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Ian,

I don't think you've actually answered the better military-technical "evolution" arguments, particularly the ones put forth by Chuck Tilly or Tom Ertman. First, non-capitalized-coercion (to use Tilly's term) states could field competitive militaries until relatively late, they're just not as good at doing as as their capitalized-coercive peers. The statelets you mention could not, for their part, supply *enough* troops to be power politically competitive. You also need to remember that Napoleon's army is the first of the so-called mass armies, the impact of which the advocates of the MTR and state-formation point out aren't felt in European political structures until after Napoleon's bid for European hegemony.

I think the evidence is pretty strong that a combination of economic change (increasing long-distance trade) and military-technical change (the rise of "stipendary" forces in western Europe) led to a significnat uptick in centralized state power during the fourteenth-early sixteenth centuries. Improvements in gunpowder artillery and their integreation into field tactics were a relatively *late* development in this process which finally made it impossible for most nobles to raise competitve armies without significnat support from either a wider popular base, foreign governments, or a prety extensive noble network.

This is why the Protestant Reformation wound up, particularly in the context of Calvinism, creating the kinds of cross-class, cross-regional, and trans-state networks capable of generating the resources necessary to field effective militaries against kings and princes.

By all means, people should buy the Human Web (the younger McNeil is a colleague, so I would say that even if it weren't true.. but it is :-) ), but I'd also recommend Jeremy Black's _War and the World_ for an accessible critique of some of the arguments advocated by the "military-technical school."

Posted by: Dan on May 13, 2003 03:45 AM

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OK, OK, OK, Dan! We'll buy it! Please stop!
We surrender! We'll by two copies!

Barry :)

Posted by: Barry on May 13, 2003 06:19 AM

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Actually, I don't think I'm responsible for this spamming of my post (anyone remember back in the days when "spam" didn't mean commercial email?). When I uploaded my comment it took an inordinate amount of time, something on the order of ten minutes, for the process to complete. I did not click the "post" button multiple times, however. I can only assume technical glitch. I may make plenty of typos, but...

Posted by: Dan on May 13, 2003 07:29 AM

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Actually, I thought the double posts came from a little demon in MT (Mena's demon?) who let through posts he liked more frequently than posts he didn't like. He must have really loved Dan's.

But back to d'Artagnan.

City air makes men free in two ways. It isn't simply that escaped serfs who made it to the city had freed themselves. It's also that aristocrats, in order to move to the city, had to effectively free their serfs.

M. d'Artagnan does not come to Paris solely to carry out the commands of M. le Cardinal etc. He comes to Paris because there are sexy women dressed in silk there; there are many other men just like himself there, to whom he can talk, with whom he can gamble or drink; there are amusements possible there which were unavailable in his gloomy chateau; there are fine wines and fancy food. Life in Paris is incomparably sweeter than life in the provinces.

But to live in Paris, one needs money. To get money out of one's peasants without sitting on top of them (which is difficult to do when one is in Paris), one needs to commute their labour obligation to a money rent. But then they are no longer really serfs.

Posted by: jam on May 13, 2003 07:55 AM

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Jam,

There is a second way you could do that - you "farm" your feudal estates to someone who pays you in cash.

There was a lot of this during the transition to the modern world.

Ian

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 13, 2003 03:29 PM

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Dan,

I think that it is significant that at about 1800 - five hundred odd years after the process of state centralisation began - we still have something that looks, to me, awfully like a classic feudal "armed service for protection and legitimacy" deal with the German statelets and Napoleon.

Yes, the Confederation of the Rhine etc arent soverign states - but then again, the medieval theorists (I'm thinking Aquinas here, and also Christine du Pisan) were very definite that private war was a sin, and that only soverigns could lawfully make war - and a local Count was not soverign.

It's interesting that one of the issues of the 21st century is non-State actors having independant foriegn policies.

Fun debate :) I think I've missed 2 buses contributing to it.

Ian

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 13, 2003 03:53 PM

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Ian,

Good point. An army marches on its stomach, and when far from home La Grande Armee helped itself to pretty much what it wanted. However, this strikes me as being the variable cost of being a warmonger. Did all this pillaging pay for fixed or sunk costs, or was just for feeding the troops while in action?

In terms of upfront costs, establishing large standing armies and navies must have been a hell of a burden - one that was far too great for minor nobles (and perhaps the Italian city states?).

Posted by: Stephane on May 13, 2003 03:53 PM

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Stephane,

Nope, the sunk costs of a big army werent the big cost (navies, I'm not as sure about).

Lets take our basic 16th century musketeer, who is pretty darn close to our basic 19th C musketeer. He needs (obviously) a musket, a quantity of powder, some lead shot, clothes and a pair of boots.

Now, my 1586 English numbers put the kit for a musketeer (plus a sword and a helmet) at 26s and 8d (a pikeman with a breastplate cost 32s)

Given daily wages of 8d a day, thats 240d a month, or a pound a month (at 20 shillings of twelvepence each). Note that the daily wage is pretty much survival-level wages, and they have to buy their own food out of it (Note To Intending Conquerors ; your army will go on strike and/or disintegrate if not paid).

Therefore, our sunk cost of the musketeer is equal to about five weeks worth of variable cost.

16th C cavalrymen brought their own horses, and were paid a higher wage to compensate them for this. Of course, horses could always be requisitioned from peasants, if you dont mind crappily mounted cavalry (one of the things that brought the pistoleer cavalry to the fore in the late 16th C is that you could get away with much poorer quality horseflesh than if you used advance-to-melee cavalry).

Basically, the big expense of a 16th C army isnt equipping twenty thousand soldiers. It's feeding twenty thousand men, and it wouldnt matter if they were digging canals, filling in paperwork, illuminating manuscripts or building pyramids.

Ian

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 13, 2003 04:16 PM

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Stephane,

Nope, the sunk costs of a big army werent the big cost (navies, I'm not as sure about).

Lets take our basic 16th century musketeer, who is pretty darn close to our basic 19th C musketeer. He needs (obviously) a musket, a quantity of powder, some lead shot, clothes and a pair of boots.

Now, my 1586 English numbers put the kit for a musketeer (plus a sword and a helmet) at 26s and 8d (a pikeman with a breastplate cost 32s)

Given daily wages of 8d a day, thats 240d a month, or a pound a month (at 20 shillings of twelvepence each). Note that the daily wage is pretty much survival-level wages, and they have to buy their own food out of it (Note To Intending Conquerors ; your army will go on strike and/or disintegrate if not paid).

Therefore, our sunk cost of the musketeer is equal to about five weeks worth of variable cost.

16th C cavalrymen brought their own horses, and were paid a higher wage to compensate them for this. Of course, horses could always be requisitioned from peasants, if you dont mind crappily mounted cavalry (one of the things that brought the pistoleer cavalry to the fore in the late 16th C is that you could get away with much poorer quality horseflesh than if you used advance-to-melee cavalry).

Basically, the big expense of a 16th C army isnt equipping twenty thousand soldiers. It's feeding twenty thousand men, and it wouldnt matter if they were digging canals, filling in paperwork, illuminating manuscripts or building pyramids.

Ian

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 13, 2003 04:21 PM

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"Note To Intending Conquerors ; your army will go on strike and/or disintegrate if not paid."

Not so. There were lots of models for getting the physical needs together. Suleiman the Magnificent actually charged a toll to freebooters and bashi bazouks at bridges, so they paid to accompany HIM. It was an investment in an opportunity to loot for them.

Wages and organised comissariats only mattered as a means of supply after the Thirty Years War, once the organisers realised they were devouring themselves too much by allowing irregular means of supply. It doen't mean it's a non-issue, just that you shouldn't do the accounting in a way that nets off the price of board and lodging during the earlier period.

It's also worth looking at the early 20th century general discussion at http://12.1911encyclopedia.org/S/SU/SUPPLY_AND_TRANSPORT.htm (continued at http://14.1911encyclopedia.org/S/SU/SUPPLY_AND_TRANSPORT_MILITARY.htm). Hey, why not see my whole article at http://users.netlink.com.au/~peterl/publicns.html#ADAART1.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 13, 2003 04:33 PM

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PM Lawrence,

There were various models of getting the physical needs of troops together - it's just that in the 16th Century, none of them worked.

The French system of supply contracts worked well, until the supply contractors contract ran out, as it did in the 4th War of Religion (aka the siege of La Rochelle). Note that the actual cash wages paid to troops were therefore lower.

The Dutch ran the interesting and revolutionary experiment of having only the size army that they could afford to run. They could succeed in this, because they had already lost the bits of the United Provinces that were not mostly underwater.

The Spanish were the closest to having their act together, but even they were crippled by having to maintain the river of gold to keep their armies in the field.

Basically, the key is having a good enough bureacratic infrastructure. If you have that, just about anything would work. If you dont, just about anything will fail.

There is quite a bit about 'voluntaries' (ie troops paid by loot) in 16thC military theory (Williams, La Noue, Digges etc).

And they all agree that it works, until you start losing. At that point, as they arent getting paid, they become a disintegrating rabble.

Now, voluntaries worked for Sulemain because he was winning. Once the Turks ran into the problem of marching from Constantinople and campaigning through the fortified wasteland that was the Hapsburg border districts, they started to encounter the same problems of military mutinies by unpaid troops that everyone else did (btw, they couldnt permanently keep the army near Vienna, because they occasionally needed it to fight the Persians).

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on May 13, 2003 06:27 PM

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Ah... Suleiman's trick kept "working" even after hitting difficulties, in the sense that the disgruntled soldiery were all on the other sides of the bridges. Read Flaubert's Salambo to see why you should keep the disgruntled soldiery on the other side of the water. The system had no downside for the Turks, the way they applied it.

Oh, and the Hapsburgs didn't manage to get their military frontier properly set up until quite late - and, when they did, they used a sort of static variant of the "voluntary" principle, essentially paying the militia in legal privileges they could work. And THAT could also backfire, as with the Uskoks - since the militia groups were on the Hapsburg doorstep.

I was really only getting at the fact that the raw wages numbers are not only gross amounts, the things they have to be netted off against vary in different times and places. So straight comparisons are awkward. I suspect we agree on that.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 13, 2003 09:19 PM

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wot is this website about???
i was lookinh for info on
PIKEMEN from th civil war!!!
you can't x-pect people to
read all of this!

Posted by: jack on December 13, 2003 02:18 AM

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