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New Left Review I/178, November-December 1989


Michael Barratt Brown

Commercial and Industrial Capital in England: A Reply to Geoffrey Ingham

In response to Perry Anderson’s ‘Figures of Descent’ (nlr 161), I attempted in my contribution (nlr 167), as part of a more general critique, to defend the traditional Marxist view of British capitalism and the British Empire as being rooted in industrial and not in commercial capital accumulation. Geoffrey Ingham complains (nlr 172) of my polemical tone, of the ire he says I reserve for him and of the ‘caricature’ of his work that I have set up in order to knock it down. I sincerely regret the tone, especially since it has encouraged Ingham to reply in kind. These are important matters that should be the subject of calm and scholarly deliberation. My irritation was aroused, I am afraid, as I noted in my article, by Ingham’s persistent reference in his book, Capitalism Divided? to ‘traditional Marxist theory’, ‘theoretical Marxists’, ‘orthodox Marxists’, ‘cruder Marxist theories’, etc., from which he wishes to distance himself, without distinguishing the different writers to whom he is referring or giving us chapter and verse. As a result we cannot reply rigorously, but only with a broad brush.

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