Anders's Reviews > Civilization And Capitalism, 15th 18th Century

Civilization And Capitalism, 15th 18th Century by Fernand Braudel
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's review
Jan 26, 2012

it was amazing
Read from February 02 to December 12, 2011

Braudel is a French historian famous for his longue duree conception of large-scale change, which he laid out in his Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, tome 1 : Les structures du quotidien, written in a POW camp in WWII (ha, what did YOU do when you were in a POW Camp in WWII? Olivier Messaien, put your hand down.) In this three volume set he lays out his argument for a conception of history as taking place on three main spheres: material life, which has developed with its limitations and physical realities over human civilization, the market economy, which came into being with the rise of international trade (and dependence thereon), and finally, capitalism, which he sees as a third sphere constructed upon the first two and he equates with large-scale transnational financial institutions. A lofty argument, and ambitious, and in the hands of a lesser historian it would be a total mess. What I find useful about this book is that it allows one to clearly bring into focus what is new to our modern capitalist world-system--to undertake the vitally important project of denaturalizing the market economy and capitalism, which tends to be dehistoricized.

Basically, the project is to show what the realities of pre-capitalist human civilization were: the problems, the limitations, and the basic structures of life. This means details, and could/would be potentially annoying if Braudel wasn't such an engrossing and knowledgeable writer. The prose is disarmingly easy to move through... and it's also one of those books that can just set your mind meditating on all the questions it brings up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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