By Geoffrey Ingham
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Additional resources for Capitalism Divided?: The City and industry in British social development
The need to finance military ventures in France and the Low Countries was the immediate stimulus for the formation of the Bank of England, but similar ideas had been mooted during the previous thirty years. Over 1000 subscribers, including London's leading merchants, were incorporated as the Governor and the Bank of England in 1694. , and in 1708 the Bank was extended by Act ofParliament the privileged status ofthe country's only joint stock bank. 18 This early monopoly, which lasted for over a century, meant that other banks could only be partnerships, which 48 Capitalism Divided?
During tbis time, it has encountered the massive dislocation of the First World War; the demise of the gold standard; the drastic curtailment of its activities in the worldwide depression of the 1930s and their cessation during the Second World War; the postwar debt and its impact on sterling whose role as world money gradually passed to the dollar. Longstreth, whose work is most directly concemed with these events, does not even pose the question in these terms. And, I would argue, the conceptual confusion of his analysis and the fact that he ultimately employs an 'instrumentalist' version ofthe Marxist theory of the state - with which he sees the Treasury and the Bank of England as 'media' which are 'penetrated' by City interests - are the results of the difficulties faced by a Marxist analysis of these issues.
If, however, nation states are seen as not simply moving through almost identical evolutionary stages, but as political units within a world capitalist system where different economic processes are unevenly distributed then, as I shall argue, the City's 'anomalous' overseas activities become more explicable in general theoretical terms, rather than as contingency or 'exceptionalism'. We have, then, by a somewhat circuitous route, arnved at the problem with which I opened. On the basis of his analysis of the relations of production, Marx outlined a course of political developments for Britain in which the rule ofthe industrial bourgeoisie, by its removal of the feudal 'mask', would gradually intensify capital- labour conftict in readiness for the transition to socialism.