[OPE-L:2636] Re: slaves and value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 19:29:43 EST

[ show plain text ]

Re Patrick's [OPE-L:2635]:

> Finally, it is hardly correct to refer to the slave capitalist sector as
> "anomalous" in any fashion. For a huge chunk of the years between 1776
> and 1865, the South was the political and economically dominant region of
> the country.

Perhaps you are right about this, but it was Marx's term (from the
_Grundrisse_), not mine.

> So, I reiterate my basic point. Human labor is human labor. Differences
> in the political, social, cultural, and economic power of workers within
> a capitalist society does not in any way imply that the law of value is
> inoperative. Or, if I sound slightly postmodern, there are many forms of
> capitalism; hence, it is somewhat bizarre to say that unless capitalism
> assumes a particular form (that is, in this instance, the textbook case
> of libertarian capitalism) then the creation of surplus does not take
> place.

I don't disagree with the specific historical examples that you cited in
your post or the relative importance of slavery to the historical
patterns of trade under capitalism, but I do take issue with the emphasis
on "human labor is human labor" and the suggestion that the *form* that
labor takes is not central to the understanding of capitalism as a
distinct, historically-specific mode of production.

You ended your post with a reference to the "creation of surplus". Herein
lies the difference in interpretation: I am more than willing to concede
that slaves contributed a significant amount of labor that went
into the production of the *surplus product* historically under
capitalism. However, the question concerns whether slaves contributed to
the production of *value* and *surplus value* under capitalism. My answer
remains "No" since, most fundamentally, the "value relation" represents a
social relationship between *wage labour* and *capital*. Thus, even where
there is commodity production and capitalists of a special type, there
must still be "free" wage-labour for the surplus product (or some
proportion thereof) to take the form of surplus *value*.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 21 2000 - 09:47:58 EDT