✍ El Estado absolutista [1974]

por Teoría de la historia

Perry Anderson’s work offers a notable contribution to our understanding of early modern European studies. A Marxist who has read widely in the scholarly literature of both Western and Eastern Europe, Anderson examines the relations between monarchy and aristocracy in the West-Spain, France, England, and Sweden are all contrasted to Italy and in the East-Prussia, Poland, Austria, Russia, and the House of Islam adding two lengthy notes on Japanese feudalism and the Asiatic mode of production. Although decidedly not of Marxist persuasion, I nevertheless find a considerable challenge in Anderson’s arguments. Defining Western European feudalism as a “system of parcellized sovereignty and scalar property,” Anderson says the “contractual mutuality and positional inequality” of lord and vassal-provoking continual fissions of authority-permitted the consolidation of ethnic and linguistic plurality within the framework of a common religion organized without a super- ordinate political structure. The warrior’s identification of contractual with sovereign relations caused him “to render the pride of rank compatible with the humility of homage.” But the dispersal of sovereignty also allowed towns to free themselves from direct domination by rural ruling classes, and patriciates often formed important centers of opposition to aristocratic ambitions and ideology. Moreover, the commutation of dues into money rents shifted the loci of politico-legal coercion upwards from the village and simultaneously strengthened the freeman’s property rights in that the substitution of money for personal service tended to allodialize his ownership. This two-fold process of centralization and silent allodialization-providing aristocracy with added security of ownership and greater opportunity for consolidation of larger property holdings-undermined the right of the nobility to political representation and, as a consequence, encouraged the reception of Roman law, a development contributing ultimately to a wholesalelineages-of-the-absolutist-state civic reappropriation of the classical cultural inheritance. Finally, the royal Renaissance state “created the general juridical conditions for a successful passage to the capitalist mode of production . . . in both town and country” by enhancing the social status and economic power of the nobility within a legal system altered so as to exclude them from effective exercise of rights associated with the traditional practices of auxilium et consilium We may disagree with Anderson’s general views, but the value of his treatise lies in the wealth of insights that proceed from the breadth and depth of his comparative analysis. Anderson presents for the first time a systematic discussion of major problems in Marxist interpretation at a level somewhere between the realm of pure theory and the restrictive bounds of monographic research. There is no space here to review his treatment of Eastern Europe and the Orient. But, here again, he continues to compare one institution after the other with its Western counterparts. The sheer scope of Anderson’s study raises the level of argument above the ordinary plane of scholarly literature. No serious historian will ignore this first-class work.

[Lionel ROTHKRUG. “Lineages of the Absolutist State by Perry Anderson [Review]”, in The American Historical Review, vol. LXXXI, nº 2, abril de 1976, pp. 373-374]

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