Defoe on the right side with the wrong argument – Robinsonade

robinsonIn Capital volume one we have Marx discussing the worldwide immiseration of the proletariat, the introduction of machinery as a weapon of dispossession – and Marx wryly reports that even the British Governor-General in India, William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, in 1834, was forced to lament that: ‘the bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains’ (cited in Marx, 1867:LW432 P558). Fluctuations of the international market – not so many years earlier, in England, as recent historical research shows, the East India Company was getting it from the other end. Marriott documents the revolt of London weavers in 1697 against the import of cheap dyed and painted calicos which became items of high society fashion. East India House in Threadneedle Street, the Spitalfields home of the Deputy Governor of the Company and Company Governor Sir Josiah Child’s house were only saved from mob demolition by military intervention (Marriott 2011:39). In the years following the English weavers’ revolt, women wearing calico were assaulted in the street and no less than Daniel Defoe championed the weavers’ cause in the 1719 journal The Manufacturer, comparing calico to the plague and destroying families by favouring employment for ‘pagans and Indians, Mohametans and Chinese, instead of Christians and Britains’ (Marriott 2011:40).

Again remembering that Marx also has a soft spot for critiques of Robinsonades (wait to see what footprints Claire Reddleman’s PhD leaves – CCS Goldsmiths),