Mathur, Chandana and Dix, Dermot
The Irish Question in Karl Marx's
and Friedrich Engels's Writings
on Capitalism and Empire.
Social Thought on Ireland in the Ninteteenth Century.
University College Dublin Press, Dublin, pp. 97-107.
Few nineteenth-century formulations of Ireland's suffering under British
rule were as explicit as those of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in focusing
away from essentialist explanations cast in the language of British villainy,
and in concentrating instead on material factors, on the conjoined expansion
of capitalism in Britain and underdevelopment in Ireland. This is plainly
evident even in the very manner in which Ireland features in the chapter
organisation of their explicitly theoretical work. Ellen Hazelkorn points out
that, by placing consideration of Irish agriculture in the chapter headed the
'General Law of Capitalist Accumulation', Marx scorned the historicist
argument that focused attention on the Act of Union and English anti-
Irishness, and turned to evaluate how the transference of capital, foodstuffs,
and labour from Ireland to England formed an integral and necessary part of
their respective economic growth (Hazelkorn 198 I: 26).
The systemic underpinnings of British rule in Ireland have subsequently
tended to be under-discussed: it is hard to believe that it is still necessary to go
back to the writings of Marx and Engels to be reminded of this key element in
the relationship between England and Ireland. Indeed, Eamonn Slater and
Terrence McDonough have observed that even the rise of postcolonial theory
in Ireland has not helped to mitigate the inattention to political economy that
characterises the field of Irish studies (Slater and McDonough 1994: 63-4)-
||Karl Marx; Friedrich Engels; Ireland; Irish agriculture; Capitalism; political economy; Capitalist Accumulation;
||Social Sciences > Anthropology
Dr. Chandana Mathur
||19 Jan 2012 14:39
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