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Global Economic History as the Accumulation of Capital Through a Process of Combined and Uneven Development: An Appreciation and Critique of Ernest Mandel

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O'Brien provides a critical assessment of Ernest Mandel's 1975 monograph Late Capitalism. In so doing, he offers a historical narrative that puts into question Mandel's framing of 'waves' of capitalist development as a process of capital accumulation that was dependent upon uneven development in the Third World. O'Brien starts by problematising Mandel's argument that an initial concentration of money, capital and bullion in the hands of Europeans explains combined and uneven development. He goes on to demonstrate that Mandel's (and Lenin's) notion of imperialism as a necessary conduit for the flow of surplus capital from industrialising Europe does not stand up to the historical evidence. In fact, O'Brien maintains an alternative thesis, namely that these marginalised regions were insuffciently penetrated by European capital.

Affiliations: 1: Centennal Professor of Economic History, London School of Economics (LSE), London, UK


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