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Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 00:51:53 EST
Subject: slave labour
I am not convinced by Chai-on's argument that the free mobility of labour is
what determines the creation of value. This is probably my fault, but I see
no argument here, only a definition.
I tend to agree with Chris, Patrick and Duncan. Slaves produce value if they
are part of a generalised system of commodity production.
The structural disadvantage of slave labour vis-a-vis 'free' wage labour from
the point of view of capital lies on the difficulty to introduce new
technology. Hence, in a competitive struggle slave-owners will tend to lose
because they can produce more absolute surplus value, but less relative
surplus value than wage-paying capitalists.
Slave-owners tend to find it difficult to introduce new technologies because
the slave is *better* able to resist the imposition of (new patterns of) work
than wage workers. The purchase of the slave 'freezes' a substantial capital
value (the purchase of wage labour power involves much less money because
it's for a limited period only). Punishment against slave resistance can be
very harsh, but the slave-owner has to balance the 'incentive' provided to
the slave(s) with the valorisation of his capital; if he kills every
disobedient slave the capitalist may become destitute. The wage-capitalist
has a much easier time: by threatening to dismiss inefficient workers, paying
piece wages, etc, he can obtain more complete control over the labour
I am, paradoxically, arguing that slaves can resist the imposition of work
*more efficiently* than free wage workers, which reduces the capacity of the
system to produce relative surplus value. This imposes an obstacle against
the valorisation of capital. These relations internal to capital and, of
course, the desire of each slave to be free, and of wage workers not to
become enslaved themselves, tends to impose limits against the reproduction
of slave capitalism. There is, however, no reason in principle why capitalism
should be seen as being incompatible with generalised slave labour.
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