Lineages of the Absolutist State

Lineages of the Absolutist State

by Perry Anderson

En la primera parte de la obra se analizan las estructuras generales del absolutismo como sistema de Estados, en Europa occidental, a partir del Renacimiento; y se discute la difícil cuestión de las relaciones entre monarquía y nobleza que se institucionalizan a través del Estado absolutista, para cuya transformación en el tiempo el autor propone un esquema general de periodización.

Se estudian después las trayectorias de los Estados absolutistas de España, Francia, Inglaterra y Suecia, comparándolos con el caso italiano, en el que no llegó a formarse un verdadero absolutismo.

La segunda parte esboza una perspectiva comparativa del absolutismo en Europa oriental, para tratar de comprender las razones por las que las distintas condiciones sociales de la mitad más atrasada del continente desembocan, no obstante, en formas políticas aparentemente similares a las occidentales.

Se estudian las monarquías absolutistas de Prusia, Austria y Rusia; el contraejemplo polaco muestra cuál es el precio histórico de la incapacidad de la nobleza y la monarquía polacas para crear un Estado absolutista; el Imperio Otomano de los Balcanes se utiliza como contraste para subrayar la singularidad del absolutismo como fenómeno europeo.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.22
  • Pages: 576
  • Publish Date: July 17th 1985 by Verso
  • Isbn10: 086091710X
  • Isbn13: 9780860917106

What People Think about "Lineages of the Absolutist State"

Andersons notes doubts that there is an Asiatic mode (in the singular), and in this sense it is a useful partner to Umberto Melottis excellent Marx and the Third World (1972/1977) which reconfigures the crude Marxist model of linear development (a product of the Soviet school of political economic education) to argue for a much more complex set of developmental paths from the primitive commune to contemporary socio-political forms.

This book can be read as a long detour - or series of detours - leading to capitalism. Capitalism, as the first universalizable mode of production, is also the beginning of a universal history of humanity. However, Anderson shows that this universal history did not come about all at once. Moreover, no revolution is so radical as to completely abolish the past, and capitalism came about embedded in premodern social formations Too often the categories of Marxism become hypostatized abstractions leaving actual history in the lurch.

I also think he is entirely correct in attributing an important role to the threat of the rise of absolutism in the West on the genesis of absolutism in Eastern Europe. In connection with this, the observation that warfare is the principal (rather than as in capitalism simply a means) means by which feudal nobilities compete with one another (since there is little stimulus and indeed even comparatively little opportunity to 'invest' in the productivity of agriculture, the individual fortunes of dynasties can largely only be buttressed and expanded by the acquisition of new land and with it new labour, whether it is enserfed or not through warfare; plunder also comes into this to an extent and the acquisition of liquid wealth can be important in this regard) is also extremely apposite. The historical sections are good, give a good sense of the conditions on which the dynastic success of various states was based and contributes to a good understanding of the character of the absolutist system of states that developed in Europe from the end of the Middle Age through to 1789. The material on the development of Swedish absolutism is particularly illuminating and brings into relief the truncated development of the Swedish social formation from one that still had a large pre-feudal sector in the 15th century to an absolutist, 'late-feudal' state in the 17th.

Lineages of the Absolutist State is the second part to Perry Andersons comparative sociological history of Europe from antiquity to the beginning of the modern era.

Anderson makes the case for a Marxist history that is grounded in evidence while still being based on a materialist theory of development. The two interact, as Marx's less theoretical journalistic work makes clear and require an intelligent interaction between theory and empirical evidence to reach the truth rather than an assumption that on mechanistically determines the other.

Anderson delivered two responses to Thompson's polemics, first in an essay in New Left Review (January-February 1966) called "Socialism and Pseudo-Empiricism" and then in a more conciliatory yet ambitious overview, Arguments within English Marxism (1980).