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New Left Review I/108, March-April 1978


Paul Sweezy

Comment on Brenner

When I read Robert Brenner’s article, I rubbed my eyes in wonderment. [1] Robert Brenner, ‘On the Origins of Capitalist Development: a Critiqúe of Neo-Smithian Marxism’, nlr 104, July/August 1977. It was a long time since I had last looked at the debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism in which I participated along with Maurice Dobb and others some thirty years ago (recently re-issued in expanded form under the title The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, nlb 1976, cited in what follows from this edition). I certainly had no recollection whatever of having presented what Brenner calls a neo-Smithian account of the origins of capitalism (the growth of trade gives rise to increased division of labour, rising labour productivity, and a smooth transition to a self-generating process of capital expansion). Could it be that my memory had completely failed me, or was Brenner making it all up out of an apparently fertile imagination?

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