This article and another also cited above this one are important studies, but Marx’s historical analysis, not surprisingly perhaps, is not quite correct. The modern world did not invent capitalism, or slavery, or capitalism and slavery. I recommend the different view in the study of the eonic effect In our Decoding World History. Everything we see in the modern period existed already in the ancient world including capitalism, in a slightly less developed form. If we study the history of slavery as endemic in that regard we begin to realize that slavery is a disease of civilization that did not appear except in a fringe way at the dawn of higher civilization in Sumer, or Egypt, but then developed in the middle period such that it became a fixed social fact, as is obvious by any examination of the Roman Empire, a terminal case. The data here is confusing, since prisoners of war and ‘slaves’ are not always different categories. We should be wary of our own generalizations, and the idea of slavery probably appeared marginally in even the Neolithic.
But slavery is not connected to core economic function until later in the second millennium.
In Rome slavery has become grotesque and has stalled the development of civilization.
Here the ‘stream and sequence’ argument can help to clarify the confusion. The modern period produced abolition, finally, and the factor of slavery started to wane. So which is it, the modern period produced capitalism and slavery or abolition?
We have no consistent or adequate categories for historical analysis.That results in part from the narrow economic view of marxism. But the emergence of modernity was far broader: it produced innovative effects in religion, science, art, philosophy, ethics, etc, in a long list. We cannot turn around and reject modernity because it produced slavery via capitalism.
These points are clearer if we adopt the larger view of total cultural evolution. At that point we can’t equate modernity with capitalism.
Check out Decoding World History, in its several iterations/drafts on this blog….
For Marx himself, bloody conquest in the Americas – often involving genocide against indigenous peoples – and chattel slavery on a scale the world had never previously seen were twin cornerstones of a newly emerging capitalism that would, over a remarkably short period in historical terms, bring under its ambit diverse and far-flung societies across the globe. “The different momenta of primitive accumulation [of capital] distribute themselves now,” he wrote in the first volume of Capital, “over Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and England. In England at the end of the 17th century, they arrive at a [systematic] combination, embracing the colonies, the national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system. These methods depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system.”