Eric Wolf

Everywhere in this world of 1400, populations existed in interconnections.

Eric Robert Wolf (February 1, 1923March 6, 1999) is best known for his studies of peasants, Latin America, and his advocacy of Marxian perspectives within anthropology. He held a joint position as a Distinguished Professor at both Lehman College and the CUNY Graduate Center beginning in 1971, where he spent the remainder of his career.

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Europe and the People Without HistoryEdit

  • Although I wrote as an anthropologist rather than as a professional historian, I think history matters. It is also important to understand how an why these systems develop and extend their sway over people, and I located the rationale in the ways power and the economy sustain and drive each other on.
    • Preface (1997), p. ix
  • There may be "pie in the sky when you die" but how the pie is dished out on the ground has considerable existential relevance.
    • Preface (1997), p. x
  • I acknowledge my debt to Marxian thought without apology.
    • Preface (1997), p. xi
  • Our methods were becoming more sophisticated, but their yield seemed increasingly commonplace. To stem a descent into triviality, I thought, we needed to search out the causes of the present in the past.
    • Preface (1982), p. xv
  • If history is the working out of a more moral purpose in time, then those who lay claim to that purpose are by that fact the predilect agents of history.
    • Chapter 1, Introduction, p. 5
  • By turning names into things we create false models of reality.
    • Chapter 1, Introduction, p. 6
  • In order to understand what the world would become, we must first know what it was.
    • Chapter 2, The World in 1400, p. 24
  • To understand how caste works concretely, one must, however, look beyond kinship organization and ritual idiom to the political economy of caste.
    • Chapter 2, The World in 1400, p. 46
  • Everywhere in this world of 1400, populations existed in interconnections.
    • Chapter 2, The World in 1400, p. 71
  • Man rises up against nature by means of what we would today call culture.
    • Chapter 3, Modes of Production, p. 73
  • Wealth in the hands of the holders of wealth is not capital until it controls the means of production, buys labor power, and puts it to work, continuously expanding surpluses by intensifying productivity through an ever-rising curve of technological inputs.
    • Chapter 3, Modes of Production, p. 78
Slaving gave rise to a division of labor ...
  • Slaving gave rise to a division of labor in which the business of capture, maintenance, and overland transport of slaves was in African hands, while Europeans took charge of transoceanic transport, the "seasoning" or breaking in of slaves, and their eventual distribution.
    • Chapter 7, The Slave Trade, p. 229
  • Before capitalist relations could come to dominate industrial production, a set of related changes was required to guarantee the new order. The state had to be transformed from a tributary structure to a structure of support for capitalist enterprise.
    • Part Three, Capitalism, p. 265
  • The major vehicle of for the transition to the capitalist mode of production was the textile industry of eighteenth - century England. In cloth production mercantile wealth was visibly transformed into capital, as it acquired the dual function of purchasing machines and raw materials, on the one hand, and buying human energy to power their operation on the other.
    • Chapter 9, Industrial Revolution, p. 267
  • Under the conditions of the new mode, capital was able to embark on a process of continual internal and international migration, drawing ever more groups of people into its orbit and reproducing its strategic relationships wherever and whenever it took root.
    • Chapter 9, Industrial Revolution, p. 295
  • Only when the stock of wealth can be related to human energy by purchasing living energy as "labor power", offered for sale by people who have no other means of using their labor to ensure their livelihood: and only when it can relate that labor power to purchased machines - embodiments of past transformation of nature by human energy expended in the past - only then does "wealth" become "capital".
    • Chapter 10, Crises and Differentiation in Capitalism, p. 298
  • The capitalist state exists to ensure the domination of one class over another.
    • Chapter 10, Crises and Differentiation in Capitalism, p. 308
  • The development of industrial capitalism did not move in a smooth ascending line.
    • Chapter 11, The Movement of Commodities, p. 311
  • Where Adam Smith and David Ricardo had envisaged a growing worldwide division of labor, they had thought that each country would freely select the commodities it was most qualified to produce, and that each would exchange its optimal commodity for the optimal commodity of others. Thus in Ricardo's example, Britain would send Portugal its textiles, while Britons would consume Portuguese wines in turn. What his vision of free commodity exchange omits are the constraints that governed the selection of particular commodities, and the political and military sanctions used to ensure the continuation of quiet asymmetrical exchanges that benefited one party while diminishing the assets of another.
    • Chapter 11, The Movement of Commodities, p. 314
  • The rise of industrial capitalism thus rested on the maintenance of slavery in another part of the world, even though that slavery was no longer dependent on the continuation of the slave trade.
    • Chapter 11, The Movement of Commodities, p. 316
American wheat, sold in Europe at lower prices than the domestic product, brought on a crisis in European peasant agriculture, sending a migrant stream of ruined peasants to seek new sources of livelihood in the burgeoning Americas. Ironically many of them made the journey westward on the same ships that carried to Europe the wheat that proved their undoing.
  • American wheat, sold in Europe at lower prices than the domestic product, brought on a crisis in European peasant agriculture, sending a migrant stream of ruined peasants to seek new sources of livelihood in the burgeoning Americas. Ironically many of them made the journey westward on the same ships that carried to Europe the wheat that proved their undoing.
    • Chapter 11, The Movement of Commodities, p. 319
  • The essence of capital is its ability to mobilize social labor by buying labor power and setting it to work. This requires a market in which the capacity of human beings to work can be bought and sold like any other commodity: buyers of labor power offer wages, which sellers accept in return for a commodity, their own labor.
    • Chapter 12 The New Laborers, p. 354
  • Even the slave owner is restricted in his ability to manipulate his labor supply, for he must protect his investment in slaves by feeding them during times when they do not labor. In contrast, capitalist entrepreneurs can hire and fire laborers or very their wages in response to changing circumstances.
    • Chapter 12 The New Laborers, p. 356
  • The capitalist mode acts to accumulate capital through the hiring of labor power, but is marked by the cyclical alternation of labor mobilization and labor displacement; each intake of labor power uproots some prior adaptation, while each sloughing off of labor power creates a new cohort of the unemployed.
    • Afterword, p. 386

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Last modified on 17 September 2012, at 01:35