Tag Archives: Quaker Boycott

Anti-Saccharite Cultures ii) Moral Capital

27 Sep

In this second post on anti-saccharite cultures I situate the sugar boycott at the juncture between economic necessity and individual and collective forms of religious sacrifice and purging.

Moral capital and hegemonic cycles of capital

Questions surrounding the sense of personal responsibility and morality felt by the anti-saccharites have been raised by several historians. Christopher Brown argues that a variety of political actors felt that they could accrue moral capital from framing “anti-slavery initiatives as an emblem of national character” (2006:27), as a way of sustaining the reputation of an empire perceived to be declining. Drawing from Arrighi and Braudel’s work on the longue durée and hegemonic cycles of capital accumulation, and with a historian’s keen eye for hindsight, Brown suggests that creating moral capital by vindicating British liberty was a seductive way of extending the British hegemony of capitalist relations before the transition to the American cycle of dominance.

Arrighi’s cycles of capitalist accumulation based on the temporal development of Money-Capital-Money phases (1994). Diagram B  outlines M-M phases that mark the transition from one  global hegemon to another. Brown argues that the abolition of the slave trade was one of the means to ‘civilize’ power and lengthen the British dominated long nineteenth century.

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