Landed Property, Capital Accumulation, and Polymorphous Capitalism in Egypt and the Levant, 1850-1920
Kristen Alff is an Assistant Professor of History and International Studies at North Carolina State University. Her work focuses on business history, the history of capitalism, gender, and agrarian history of the Levant between the late Ottoman and early Mandate periods. Kristen’s manuscript in progress is a global history of capital and property in Palestine.
Kristen Alff argues for a political economic and a cultural definition of capitalism. Namely, that capitalism in Egypt and the Levant, as part of the global capitalist system, were marked by institutions approximating private property, free wage labor, and capital accumulation, but also reflective of modern rationality. Given this definition and the global processes that produced globally recognizable institutions as well as their difference, Alff argues that foundations in tax farming, industry, and urbanization laid in the early modern period produced specific results in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries: wage labor and private property in Egypt, and sharecropping in the Levant. Canonized during the Great War, both property and labor regimes rest on the objectification and depersonalization of laborer and company as opposed to more interpersonal dependencies of the early modern period.
Keywords: Capitalism, Levant, peasants, agriculture, private property, labor