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Rethinking the “other transition”: trowards an alternative marxist explanation

Blank, Gary (2013) Rethinking the “other transition”: trowards an alternative marxist explanation. Science and Society, 77 (2). pp. 153-178. ISSN 0036-8237

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Identification Number: 10.1521/siso.2013.77.2.153


After a long hiatus, Marxist historians are once again debating the "other transition": from ancient society to feudalism. Considerable improvements in empirical knowledge have not, however, been matched by bold advances in historical materialist theory. Prominent contributors now question whether any meaningful transition occurred at all, emphasizing the persistence of feudalism (Wickham) or the maturation of an incipient capitalism (Banaji). In this, they reproduce a central methodological shortcoming of Perry Anderson's pioneering work, which is a reluctance to think beyond the "mode of production" concept itself. The alternative concept of mode of exploitation focuses on the multiple "political" mechanisms by which surplus was extracted from direct producers. In Merovingian and Carolingian Gaul, the manorial exploitation of free and unfree tenants, as well as state ("public") exploitation of the landowning, arms-bearing peasantry, generated a social logic distinct from both the late Roman Empire and early Frankish feudalism. There was not just one "transition," but two.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 The Author
Divisions: International History
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2013 08:47
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:29

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