Friday, April 8, 2011

Cross reference

Usually I'm reading several books at the same time. Most of the time they do not "interact". But these two books  enter each other's territory in interesting ways.

Speculative Capital: The Invisible Hand of International Finance by Nasser Saber describes how this new form of capital is taking over the world and reshaping it for it's own uses. The fact that the book was written in 1999 - long before the financial crisis - makes this even more chilling. But the book contains an interesting historic observation, that merits further research:
  • Credit capital in the form of money provided by usurers and money-changers has a constant presence on the early economie scene. The money-changers whom Jesus drove away from the temple come back in the Middle Ages as usurers. Their demand for high interest rates played an important role in driving the landed aristocracy to bankruptcy and paving the way for the rise of capitalism. With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, credit capital came of age.
The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages by Norman Cohn describes the itinerant preachers and messiahs that roamed medieval Europe in the time of the crusades and the hordes that followed them. (It is also the book that Milgrim is reading in William Gibson's Spook country.) The book describes economic phenomena that are also visible in this modern age:
  • Merchants wanted to be rid of laws which, originally formulated for a population of dependent peasants, could only impede commercial activity. They wanted to escape from dues and levies which had once been the price of protection but which seemed mere arbitrary exactions now that burghers were able to defend themselves. They wanted to govern their towns themselves and according to laws which recognized the requirements of the new economy. In many cases these aims were achieved peacefully; but where the suzerain or lord proved intransigent, the merchants would organize all the men of the town into an insurrectionary society to which each member was bound by solemn oath. Insurrections occurred chiefly in episcopal cities. Unlike a lay prince, a bishop was a resident ruler in his city and was naturally concemed to keep his authority 'over the subjects in whose midst he lived. Moreover the attitude of the Church towards economic matters was profoundly conservative; in trade it could for a long time see nothing but usury and in merchants nothing but dangerous innovators whose designs ought to be firmly thwarted.
Both these books deserve 5 stars (*****) and I will write more about them in future posts. Especially the Nasser Saber book, because that is dedicated to an "invisible" phenomenon.

Speculative Capital: The Invisible Hand of International Finance, Nasser Saber
The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, Norman Cohn
Spook country, William Gibson

No comments:

Post a Comment