Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Seasons of Self-Delusion: Opium, Capitalism and the Financial Markets

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Historical Materialism

AbstractTo grasp current trends within capitalism without abandoning the framework of Marx’s Capital we need to return to the category of ‘fictitious capital’ and make it central to our explanations. Based on the 2012 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Lecture, this essay combines reflections on Marx’s account of ‘fictitious capital’; an investigation of the role of bills of exchange; and an analysis of the recent turmoil in British and US banking. It looks at the way the opium trade, financed through the London bill market, integrated a constellation of interests in the City with the labour of peasant households in India as parts of a unified accumulation process. Opium was vital to the fortunes of British capitalism for most of the nineteenth century. The merchant banks that were the mainstay of Britain’s form of capitalism were also the key element in the re-emergence of global finance in the postwar period. The concluding part of the paper deals with the current banking crisis and follows Hilferding in arguing that by providing liquidity to the markets for fictitious capital, speculation plays a crucial role in sustaining profitability for the bigger capitals.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Altvater Elmar Panitch Leo , Albo Gregory , Chibber Vivek "‘From Subprime Farce to Greek Tragedy: The Crisis Dynamics of Financially Driven Capitalism’" Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left 2011 London Merlin Press
2. Anderson Perry "‘The Figures of Descent’" New Left Review 1987 Vol I 161 20 77
3. Augar Philip The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism: The Rise and Fall of London’s Investment Banks 2001 Harmondsworth Penguin Books
4. Augar Philip Reckless: The Rise and Fall of the City 2010 London Vintage
5. Blake Robert Jardine Matheson: Traders of the Far East London Weidenfeld and Nicolson
6. Burn Gary The Re-Emergence of Global Finance 2006 Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan
7. Chapman Stanley D. Merchant Enterprise in Britain: From the Industrial Revolution to World War I 1992 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
8. Cheong W.E. "‘The Crisis of the East India Houses, 1830–1834’" Revue internationale d’histoire de la banque 1974 Vol 9 107 133
9. Cohan William D. House of Cards: How Wall Street’s Gamblers Broke Capitalism 2010 Harmondsworth Penguin Books
10. Cohan William D. Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World 2011 Harmondsworth Penguin Books
11. Coudert Virginie , Gex Mathieu "‘Credit Default Swap and Bond Markets: Which Leads the Other?’" Financial Stability Review (Banque de France) 2010 Vol 14 161 166 available at: < >.
12. Delatte Anne-Laure , Gex Mathieu , López-Villavicencio Antonia "‘Has the CDS Market Influenced the Borrowing Cost of European Countries during the Sovereign Crisis?’" Journal of International Money and Finance 2012 Vol 31 3 481 497
13. Edgerton David "‘Liberal Militarism and the British State’" New Left Review 1991 Vol I 185 138 169
14. Engelen Ewald , Ertürk Ismail , Froud Julie , Johal Sukhdev , Leaver Adam , Moran Mick , Nilsson Adriana , Williams Karel After the Great Complacence: Financial Crisis and the Politics of Reform 2011 Oxford Oxford University Press
15. Farooqui Amar Smuggling as Subversion: Colonialism, Indian Merchants, and the Politics of Opium, 1790–1843 1998 New Delhi New Age International
16. Farooqui Amar Opium City: The Making of Early Victorian Bombay 2006 Gurgaon Three Essays Collective
17. Fry Richard A Banker’s World: The Revival of the City 1957–1970. Speeches and Writings of Sir George Bolton 1970 London Hutchinson
18. Greenberg Michael British Trade and the Opening of China, 1800–42 1951 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
19. Grossmann Henryk Das Akkumulations- und Zusammenbruchsgesetz des kapitalistischen Systems (Zugleich eine Krisentheorie) 1970 [1929] Second Edition Frankfurt Verlag Neue Kritik
20. Grossmann Henryk The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System: Being also a Theory of Crises 1992 London Pluto Press translated and abridged by J. Banaji
21. Hilferding Rudolf Watnick Morris , Gordon Sam Finance Capital: A Study of the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development 1985 London Routledge & Kegan Paul
22. Jones Geoffrey Merchants to Multinationals: British Trading Companies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 2000 Oxford Oxford University Press
23. Kynaston David The City of London, Volume 1: A World of Its Own, 1815–1890 1994 London Chatto & Windus
24. Kynaston David The City of London, Volume 2: Golden Years, 1890–1914 1995 London Chatto & Windus
25. Le Fevour Edward Western Enterprise in Late Ch’ing China: A Selective Survey of Jardine, Matheson and Company’s Operations, 1842–1895 1968 Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press
26. Lewis Michael The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine 2011 Harmondsworth Penguin Books
27. LiPuma Edward , Lee Benjamin Financial Derivatives and the Globalization of Risk 2004 Durham, NC. Duke University Press
28. Marx Karl A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy 1970 [1859] Moscow Progress Publishers
29. Marx Karl Theories of Surplus-Value, Part III 1971 [1863] Moscow Progress Publishers
30. Marx Karl Nicolaus Martin Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft) 1973 [1939/41] Harmondsworth Penguin Books
31. Marx Karl "‘British Commerce and Finance’" Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1980a [1858] Vol Volume 16 London Lawrence & Wishart Marx and Engels 1858–60
32. Marx Karl "‘History of the Opium Trade’" Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1980b [1858] Vol Volume 16 London Lawrence & Wishart Marx and Engels 1858–60
33. Marx Karl "‘Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie’" Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe 1980c [1859] Berlin Dietz Verlag Division II, Volume 2, Ökonomische Manuskripte und Schriften, 1858–1861
34. Marx Karl Fernbach David Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume Three 1981 [1894] Harmondsworth Penguin Books
35. Mayhew Nicholas Sterling: The Rise and Fall of a Currency 1999 Harmondsworth Allen Lane
36. McDonald Larry , Robinson Patrick A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers 2009 London Ebury Press
37. McRae Hamish , Cairncross Frances Capital City: London as a Financial Centre 1985 London Methuen
38. Norfield Tony "‘Derivatives and Capitalist Markets: The Speculative Heart of Capital’" Historical Materialism 2012 Vol 20 1 103 132
39. Richards John F. "‘The Indian Empire and Peasant Production of Opium in the Nineteenth Century’" Modern Asian Studies 1981 Vol 15 1 59 82
40. Richards John F. "‘The Opium Industry in British India’" The Indian Economic and Social History Review 2002 Vol 39 2/3 149 180
41. Royal Commission on Opium Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Royal Commission on Opium from 3rd to 27th January 1894. Volume III 1894a London Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
42. Richards John F. Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Royal Commission on Opium between 18th November and 29th December 1893; with Appendices. Volume II 1894b London Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
43. Siddiqi Asiya Siddiqi Asiya "‘The Business World of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy’" Trade and Finance in Colonial India, 1750–1860 1995 New Delhi Oxford University Press
44. Stulz René M. "‘Credit Default Swaps and the Credit Crisis’" Journal of Economic Perspectives 2010 Vol 21 1 73 92
45. Trocki Carl A. Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy: A Study of the Asian Opium Trade, 1750–1950 1999 London Routledge
46. Whitcombe Elizabeth Agrarian Conditions in Northern India. Volume I: The United Provinces under British Rule, 1860–1900 1971 Berkeley University of California Press
47. Wigan Duncan "‘Credit Risk Transfer and Crunches: Global Finance Victorious or Vanquished?’" New Political Economy 2010 Vol 15 1 109 125
48. Williams Hywel Britain’s Power Elites: The Rebirth of a Ruling Class 2006 London Constable
49. Wong J.Y. Deadly Dreams: Opium and the Arrow War (1856–1860) in China 1998 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
50. Zhang Yangwen The Social Life of Opium in China 2005 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Historical Materialism — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation