The Return of Cosmopolitan Capital: Globalization, the State by Nigel Harris

By Nigel Harris

Nigel Harris argues that the concept of nationwide capital is turning into redundant as towns and their voters, more and more unaffected through borders and nationwide barriers, take heart level within the financial international. Harris deconstructs this phenomenon and argues for the great merits it could actually and may have, not only for western wealth, yet for economies around the globe, for overseas communique and for international democracy.

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The Asian traders evaded the Portuguese maritime guards, bypassed the Portuguese enclaves and resumed the flow of goods through the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea to Venice. ‘Asians were less dependent upon their states,’ Pomeranz and Topik (1999: 5) observe, ‘and hence could persist, even thrive, in the face of European cannon’. Furthermore, the Ottomans consolidated their new empire, taking Egypt in 1517 and Baghdad in 1534, unifying and making secure once more the land and sea trade routes between Europe and Asia.

They came as armed interlopers rather than as simple merchants, with new heavy cannon – as, from the perspective of the existing traders, 33 34 The Return of Cosmopolitan Capital essentially pirates. Their arrival constituted, in Robinson’s words, a ‘gunpowder revolution’ (1996: 134). But they were not pirates. Their aim was not merely to prey on other traders (they did that as well), but to enforce a monopoly of all the key junctions between the sources of spice and the European market, a monopoly to which all traders must conform – and pay heavily to do so (so that Portugal could control the supply to Europe).

Over time, the preponderance of trade increasingly engaged the attention of the governing orders, even to the point of creating what has been called a ‘mercantile state’. Government regulation shifted from price and market controls to taxes on trade – and by the end, it is said, commercial taxes and the yield of state monopolies produced more revenue than taxes on land and agriculture. However, even these last taxes represented a shift from traditional dues to market-oriented taxes – labour dues (corvée) of the peasantry and artisans were commuted to taxes.

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