History aside, from our own contemporary perspective, we can get a sense of “really existing capitalism’ by virtue of the following thought-experiment, which reveals the latter in its unadorned state. Imagine that we were able, right now, to ask the 7 or so billion people living on the planet whether they would choose an economic system that would inevitably lead to massive wealth and income inequalities, that would severely limit equal opportunity, that would force whole populations to live under perpetual economic austerity, that would erode any possibility of meaningful and democratic political participation, that would devastate the health of the planet and the human body while externalizing the costs of such destruction onto everyone, with the exception of a very privileged few.
Now … how many people do you think would actually opt for such an arrangement? Honest answer: Almost no one!
Quite a way to test your pen: drawing a figure that looks like, well, Batman. The nib of medieval quills needed constant adjusting, cutting with a knife. In order to see if it had the right shape, the scribe would test it out on a blank page. This one is filled with such pen trials, most of them written vertically: nonsense words, elongated letters and wobbly lines, all at least 500 years old. The biggest trial, however, looks familiar: a hooded man in which we may see Batman. Long live the needy medieval pen, which produced such delightful creations!
Pic: Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 3475 (15th century).
Limestone model of a town house
Perhaps Third Intermediate or Graeco-Roman Period, about 800 BC - AD 200
This model shows us what an ancient Egyptian house might have looked like in the later historical periods. It is always referred to as a ‘town house’, as the vertical storeys suggests that space was confined, in contrast to the spread-out ‘villa’-like structures found in the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC) city of Tell el-Amarna. The house in this model seems to have had two storeys and an accessible roof. The windows are indicated on the first floor by two crossed bars, and on the upper storey with a criss-cross pattern, perhaps representing shutters. The roof would have been used for storage, much like houses in Egypt today.
Source: British Museum