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“This lofty mountain of silver could conquer the whole world”: Potosí and the political ecology of underdevelopment, 1545-1800

Jason Moore ()
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Jason Moore: Umeå University

The Journal of Philosophical Economics, 2010, vol. 4, issue 1, 58-103

Abstract: By the 1570’s, Potosí, and its silver, had become the hub of a commodity revolution that reorganized Peru’s peoples and landscapes to serve capital and empire. This was a decisive moment in the world ecological revolution of the long seventeenth century. Primitive accumulation in Peru was particularly successful: the mita’s spatial program enabled the colonial state to marshal a huge supply of low-cost and tractable labor in the midst of sustained demographic contraction. The relatively centralized character of Peru’s mining frontier facilitated imperial control in a way the more dispersed silver frontiers of New Spain did not. Historical capitalism has sustained itself on the basis of exploiting, and thereby undermining, a vast web of socio-ecological relations. As may be observed in colonial Peru, the commodity frontier strategy effected both the destruction and creation of premodern socio-ecological arrangements.

Keywords: world-systems analysis; environmental history; political ecology; capitalism as world-ecology; political economy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P10 P48 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:bus:jphile:v:4:y:2010:i:1:p:58-103