**Project: fix, 3 days: The chapter is very raw and confused at present.
The elite continued to sneer at the bourgeoisie. It is by now widely realized that the sixteenth-century in Europe, with its increasingly literate and even rhetorically cultivated elite, came to view the keeping and finding out of secrets as a suitable occupation for a nobility recently disemployed by the invention of peasant armies with guns. Compare the making over of the samurai in Japan a century later into a Confucian bureaucracy in support of the Tokugawa state — though the samurai remained a bureaucracy with the right to use their swords on commoners at will, the commoners themselves having in the meantime been disarmed. In Japan and especially in Europe not swords but talk became the chief weapon of class. The English gentleman by 1600 is eloquent, not a mere fighter. . Lorna Hutson speaks of the “displacement of masculine agency from [military] prowess to [diplomatic and political] persuasion” in the 1560s and 1580s in England and France.244 Lord Essex’s last communication with Elizabeth before she had him executed for treason was a poem. No English lord during the Hundred Years War would have written poems to his ex-mistress and queen. Most of them left writing to clerks.
Jardine notes the suspicion generated if the intelligence is in the wrong hands: “The figure in the [Elizabethan] drama of the diabolical merchant-usurer-intelligencer is. . . a consolidated cultural manifestation of such an unease concerning mercantilism and deferred profit.”245
Alan Stewart summarizes it as “there were in early modern England dramatic uncertainties about the power of information and those who possessed it.”246 Literally “dramatic”: they were the impulses behind Elizabethan plays. The secrets of merchants in particular were detested. “The taint of usury constrained mercantile activities” (Jardine 1996, 107).
Lynne Magnussson 1999, p. 124?
Jean-Christophe Agnew has argued in the marxisant way usual in departments of literature that the Elizabethans were right to be suspicious of markets. From the late sixteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century “a volatile and placeless market” caused what he calls a “crisis of representation.” Agnew emphasizes how money — which he appears to think is a novelty in the England of 1600 — eroded face-to-face transactions “into two mutually indifferent acts: exchange of commodities for money, exchange of money for commodities; purchase and sale. ” “Commodity exchange was gravitating during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries toward a set of operative rules that fostered a formal and instrumental indifference among buyers and sellers. ” A “logic of mutual indifference” kills reciprocity — shades of Karl Polanyi. as comes to define the exchange transaction.
This is quite mistaken. It depends on a Polanyian account of the English economy before 1800 and a “competitive” reading of innovation. On the contrary the historian of the Bristol Merchant Venturers, David Sacks argues that “the new forms of commercial organization that emerged in Bristol during the sixteenth century depended … upon the existence … of close personal ties and the mutual trust they engendered among overseas merchants.’”247 Among gentlemen the “pleasuring style” of letters used a rhetoric of asked favors, granted instantly out of noble friendship. But merchants, too, used it most vigorously: there may have been a “logic” of mutual indifference, but like Hobbes’ “logic” of the war of all against all it was a mere logic, not an actual practice of properly socialized merchants with complicated and risky deals in mind. As Sacks, puts it, “nothing could be further from the truth . . . [that] the mercantile profession . . . [was] composed of isolated individuals, each single-handedly confronting the pitfalls of the marketplace.” [quoted in Magnusson 1999, p. 130] “Rather than plying their trades alone,” Sacks continues, “Bristol’s merchants habitually aided one another by dealing in partnership, by serving as factors and agents, by acting as intermediaries in the delivery and receipt of coin or goods, and by jointly transporting merchandise” (61). “Shakespeare,” writes Magnusson summarizes still another student of these matters, Michael Ferber, “brings together in Antonio’s portrayal a number of ideological discourses incompatible with Elizabethan realities in order to invent and celebrate an idealized version of mercantile enterprise separated from finance capital and consonant with Christian and aristocratic values.”248
Magnussson, however, disagrees that the fulsome and “aristocratic” rhetoric of friendship was foreign to merchants. To think otherwise is, as in Agnew, to let our desire to see merchants as “rational” get in the way of seeing them as humans. The merchant, especially abroad, was wise to use humility. John Browne’s The Marchants Avizo (1590) advises the young merchant “in any case show your self lowly, courteous, and serviceable unto every person: for though you and many of us else may think, that too much lowliness bringeth contempt and disgrace unto us: yet … gentleness and humility … will both appease the anger and ill will of our enemies, and increase the good will of our friends.”249 This is not the advice that a young nobleman would get. Where is that amazing letter by a nobleman attacking a merchant?
Lisa Jardine notes the parallels between market deals and medieval fealty. In Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta the Jew “Barabas’s ability to generate wealth with apparent effortlessness, leading to a kind of intimacy based on dependency upon access to that wealth.” Think of fair-weather friends clustering around your local millionaire. “Although ultimately this inevitably gives way to dislike and bad faith, it briefly simulates the kind of ‘friendship’ which was the basis for peer bonding and service of a more customary kind.” That is, it looks liked feudal clientage, made sacred by oaths given and received. We can’t help but feel that a business deal is a bond of trust. Humans are that way. We may know better in our more cynical moods, but “at the point of dissolution of such a bond, both parties experience the breakdown as betrayal,” as though a purchase-and-sale agreement for a condominium were a blood bond of fealty.”250
**Project: 3 days? John Milton and commerce inserted here.
Susan Wells argues that a tension emerges in Jacobean “city comedies” between commerce — she views it in Marxist terms as being about “accumulation” — and celebration, which she views in Bakhtinian terms as solidarity in carnivalesque ceremonies (Wells 1981). Put a little pep into the Lord Mayor’s show. The tension, though, is that between prudence and faith, individual money-making and bourgeois solidarity, and characterizes every bourgeoisie in history. It is nothing new, or old, no signal of a transition from traditional to bourgeois preoccupations. The occupation of every bourgeois is to be prudent and faithful, together.
Now as I said the contempt for trade is all impossible in practice. The city of London, by 1600 the **nth largest in Europe, on its way to being the largest, and in 1700 the fourth largest in the world after Istanbul, Beijing, and Edo, could not have lasted a week without the steady supply of vegetables from Kent and grain from Oxfordshire and coals from Northumberland, complements of the despised bourgeoisie. England in 1700, like the Netherlands, was urban and prosperous. It was not a place of desperate poverty like contemporary Mughal India. Use Allen. But what is false is that prosperity lead sot more prosperity. It had not before, in Athens or in Florence.
The story I am telling is easily mistaken for another old one, “the rise of the middle class.” That story says that the bourgeoisie always-already contains within itself the modern world, and so by simply multiplying the number of such up-to-date folk we get the modern world. The story imparts a mechanical necessity to history, a sort of tipping point. Get bourgeois enough and you enter the modern world. Marxism talks like this, but so did an entire long generation of historians from the eve of World I until well after World War II.
Of course there’s something to it. Obviously a country like Russia, with a tiny middle class even in 1890, would not be able to modernize. . . except that it did. Obviously a country like Holland, replete with bourgeois from the sixteenth century on, would lead the Industrial Revolution. . . except that it didn’t. Obviously a class like medieval lords wouldn’t show anything like a modern interest in profit. . . except that it did.
Anyone who thinks that the idea of the rise of the bourgeoisie has more than something to it needs to examine a classic article by the historian Jack Hexter, “The Myth of the Middle Class in Tudor England,” first presented in 1948, appearing in an early form in the journal Explorations in Economic History in 1950, and revised and extended in 1961. The myth he refers to particular to the Tudors is that the monarchs of England 1485-1603 favored the middle class. He quotes with approval Lawrence Stone who wrote in 1947, contrary to the “bourgeois Tudors” myth, that “all Tudor governments were the most resolute theoretical opponents of . . . those new bourgeois classes from which they are supposed to have derived most support.”251 Some bourgeois were benefited; most were taxed, monopolized, disdained. The “privileges of the London clique” favored by Elizabeth, Hexter writes, “hung like an anchor on other sectors of the middle class” (p. 104). In the so-called Golden Speech to the House of Commons two years before her death Elizabeth apologized: “That my grants should be grievous unto my people, and oppressions to be privileged under color of our patents, our kingly dignity shall not suffer it. Yea, when I heard it I could give no rest unto my thoughts until I had reformed it.”252
But Hexter hits, too, a larger target, the use of a “rising middle class” to explain everything from earliest times to the present, homines novi in Rome and the character of Iraqis after Saddam Hussein. “A large group of historians ascribes every major historical change in the Tudor period — and a long time before and after — to the desires, aspirations, ideals, and intentions of the rising middle class” (p. 72). “One of the odder performances in contemporary historiography,” writes Hexter, “takes place when the social historians of each European century from the twelfth to the eighteenth . . . seize the curtain cord and unveil the great secret. ‘Behold,’ they say, in my century the middle-class nobodies rising into the aristocracy’”(p. 80-81).
The character of the English countryside, for example, was supposed to have been changed by the coming of merchants buying into country estates. But Hexter explodes the claim that Tudor times saw a novel amount of such intrusion of bourgeois values into the relation of lord and peasant. For one thing, it has always been thus, from Horace buying up his Sabine valley to Robert Redford buying up Montana. “Merchant transplantation to the land was a very ancient habit”(p. 94). Further, “many country folk needed no nudging from transplanted merchants to persuade them ‘to drive the most for their profit’.” And the social advantage in Tudor times, and for a long time after, was on the other side. The merchants facing a “flexible, vigorous, self-confident landed aristocracy” adopted country habits, not the other way around. “The parvenu. . . was the captive, not the conquer, of the countryside”(p. 95). Rome conquered Greece, but Greece conquered Rome.
Hexter is hard on R. H. Tawney, whose “conception of the middle class has all the rigor of a rubber band”(Hexter 1961, p. 74). The middle class in Tawney’s writings sometimes includes prosperous yeoman, and sometimes does not. It sometimes includes the gentry, and sometimes not. It would seem that Tawney ran into trouble, as many historians have when entranced by such statistical terms as “the middle class” or “the middling sort,” into thinking of the bourgeoisie statistically rather than rhetorically.
Rising in numbers or not, bourgeois values “rose.” The rhetoric changed, and especially in the late seventeenth century in England. Epithet Donna Andrew writes, “The early-eighteenth-century critics of dueling wished to [as Mandeville sneeringly put it] ‘abolish the custom of dueling without parting with notions of honor’. . . . [The reformers] still lived in a society dominated by aristocratic values like quality and magnanimity, values which they themselves believed and accepted. While rejecting the duel and the code of honor, they as yet had nothing to put in its place.”253
Jacques Necker, the French finance minister on the eve of Revolution, wrote in DDDD, “An authority has arisen that did not exist two hundred years ago, and which must necessarily be taken into account, the authority of public opinion.”254
[back] [Usurer's Daughter, p. 89].
[back] Jardine 1996, p. 103
[back] quoted in Jardin 1996, p. 105
[back] Quoted in Magnusson 1999, p. 129. Go back to Sacks!
[back] Magnusson 1999, p. 134. Get back to Ferber!
[back] p. 3, sig. B2, quoted in Magnusson 1999, p. 127.
[back] All this, Jardine, 1996, p. 102.
[back] Stone 1947, quoted in Hexter 1961, p. 100n.
[back] Elizabeth Nov. 30, 1601, p. 339; the speech exists in multiple versions.
[back] Andrew 1980, p. 419, 420.
[back] Quoted in Taylor 2005, p. 167, and from Stephen Holmes, Benjamin Constant and the Making of Modern Liberalism, Yale UP 1985, p. 243, q.v. perhaps in Questia