Posted by: Johan Normark | September 21, 2011

Deaths in the golden age of Liberal Capitalism

I have brought up the Late Victorian droughts before on this blog. These droughts and famines, together with the potato famine in Ireland and modern famines in Ethiopia, are the best examples of how famines always are affected or intensified by anthropogenic causes. These examples provide me with plenty of ammunition to shoot down the mega-drought hypothesis for the Maya collapse as it stands on top of colonial analogies.

The estimated famine mortality of the three global Late Victorian droughts (1876-1902) in India, China and Brazil ranges between 31.7 and 61.3 million. The European empires, Japan and the USA “exploited the opportunity to wrest new colonies, expropriate communal lands, and tap novel sources of plantation and mine labor” (Davis 2001:7). During the same period peacetime famine more or less disappeared in Western Europe but increased tremendously in the colonial world. Millions died alongside railroad tracks and on the steps of grain deposits. These people had been incorporated into the modern world system that at this time centered on London. Davis states that “they died in the golden age of Liberal Capitalism; indeed, many were murdered […] by the theological application of the sacred principles of Smith, Bentham and Mill” (Davis 2001:9).

Davis, Mike (2001). Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño and the Making of the Third World. Verso.

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