From the back cover of issue 2.1

Following the publication of James Mill’s History of British India (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1817), David Ricardo offered the author, in a private letter, a few doubts of his own about the ability of one people to govern another:

In the Government of so distant a country as India, connected with us as it is by very peculiar ties, there must be the greatest difficulty in securing it against misrule. The people of England, who are governors, have an interest opposed to that of the people of India, who are the governed, in the same manner as the interest of a despotic sovereign is opposed to that of his people. In both cases there are no other limits to the abuse of power but those which the Governors themselves chuse to impose. That apathy of the public which you deplore as one of the causes of bad government in the country in which almost all their interests are centered, acts with tenfold effect when the question is respecting a foreign government which is chiefly regarded as it will afford revenues and power. On the mal administration of such a government public opinion will not be very active and will therefore not much tend to the correction of abuses (The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, vol. 7, letter 246).

Why was so much that was known in 1817 forgotten later?





From the back cover of issue 1.2

“‘Poor and yet happy’—these words have been a source of confusion for men who study 
letters and search for rhymes.” So speaks a rich samurai’s money when it appears before him, incarnated as a strange little human-like creature, in Ueda Akinari’s On Poverty and Wealth (Osaka and Kyoto, 1776). In the small hours of the night, money appears to the samurai and, until dawn, money and man debate poverty and wealth and the morals thereof. This book was published the same year as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: the matter of money was on everyone’s minds, it seems. Haruki Murakami, an admirer of Akinari, recently borrowed this literary technique in Killing the Commendatore. In volume 1, “The Idea Made Visible” (顕れるイデア編, Arawareru idea hen), an idea materializes and speaks to the narrator. As both Akinari and Murakami remind us, ideas hold the key to great mysteries. They can certainly converse, but they don’t feel like us. And their morals differ from ours. But maybe balance sheets can rhyme? - MF



From the back cover of issue 1.1

It was the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who perhaps said it best: “The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.” In this idyllic image of a nineteenth-century plantation (Cardiff Hall from James Hakewill, Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica, 1825), we see the verdant outlines of a bucolic dream, where pleasure and profi t appeared to walk placidly, hand in hand. Nowhere, the sight of bondage. Nowhere, the perturbing human face on what was deemed mere “property.” Nowhere, the horrors of the middle passage. As it is with the sources of revenue, so it is with a wider variety of epistemological gardens that we cultivate simply for the purpose of shielding our eyes from that which disturbs us. This fi rst issue of Capitalism seeks to illuminate how ways of seeing or not seeing have been integral to the historical (and ongoing) distribution of power, plenty, and poverty. - Carolyn N. Biltoft