[OPE-L:2665] Re: slaves and value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sat Apr 01 2000 - 12:24:02 EST

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Rakesh wrote in [OPE-L:2664]:

> We cannot determine from the relation of exchange (or absence thereof in
> the case of slave production) whether slave labor was capital-positing,
> capital producing labor. Like the political economists, you are defining
> such labor in terms of the realm of circulation, not in terms of the
> relation between living labor to capital. One cannot resort to the sphere
> of circulation--the very Eden of the innate rights of man--to determine
> whether modern plantation slave labor was abstract, value producing labor.

It is an illusion to believe that the realms of production and circulation
can be divorced under capitalism since the reproduction of capitalism
requires the *unity* of the processes of production and circulation. To
not consider the sphere of circulation as central to the nature of the
capitalist mode of production ignores the nature of *commodity* production
and the institution of the market. Indeed, without exchange, *capitalist*
reproduction is inconceivable. Oddly, by focusing only on production one
errs in the direction of the political economists by not recognizing the
specific social relations associated with the capitalist mode of
production and thereby making that system appear eternal and natural.

> I don't agree that the defining feature of capitalism is simply what has
> become statistically preponderant in the realm of circulation--labor power
> as a commodity.

The relationship between capital and labor in the capitalist mode of
production is *based* on labour power as a commodity. It is only by
ignoring this distinction that one is able to make the claim that
generalized slave labor is compatible with capitalism (Alfredo's position,
it appears).

> Well wage labor is not distinct to capitalism (see Duby) but the general
> subordination of labor to task of value expansion is.

What *kind* of labor? It's as if you are suggesting that the *form* that
labor takes makes not a difference to our understanding of value. Thus,
labor could take the form of labor performed by serfs, slaves,
independent artisans, or whatever and still be productive of value under
capitalism. Once we cease to associate particular forms of labor with
particular modes of production, then we might as well throw the concept of
modes of production out the window and start from scratch.

> formalistic and anachronistic focus on circulation.

I do not "focus" on circulation. Rather, I assert the unity of the
processes of production and circulation in terms of understanding the
nature and reproduction of capitalism. *By only focusing on production*,
it is you who are being formalistic and (highly) anachronistic since you
have thereby asserted the irrelevance of essential and specifically
capitalist characteristics (such as the importance of commodity production
and exchange, the market, labor power as a commodity, wage-labor, etc.).
What connection your understanding has to Marx is unclear, although it
seems to have been widely believed in by the "diamat" school.

> Again uniqueness for you is to be found in the nature of the exchange
> relation.

And, again, you ignore the process of capitalist circulation. Let us
recall, after all, that for Marx this subject was an *essential* one
comprising the subject matter for Volume 2 (and also discussed in the
beginning of Volume 1). And the subject matter of "Capitalist production
as a whole" (Volume 3) is introduced by Marx in the following way:

        "In Volume 1 we investigated the phenomena exhibited by the
         *process of capitalist production*, taken by itself. i.e. the
         immediate production process, in which connection all
         secondary influences external to this process were left out of
         account. But this immediate production process does not exhaust
         the life cycle of capital. In the world as it actually is, it is
         supplemented by the *process of circulation*, and this
         formed our object of investigation in the second volume. Here
         we showed, particularly in Part Three, where we considered the
         circulation process as it mediates the process of social
         reproduction, that the capitalist production process, taken as a
         whole, is a unity of the production and circulation processes. It
         cannot be the purpose of the present, third volume simply to make
         general reflections on this unity. Our concern is rather to
         discover and present the concrete forms which grow out of the
         *process of capital's movement considered as a whole*. In their
         actual movement, capitals confront one another in certain
         concrete forms, and, in relation to these, both the shape
         capital assumes in the immediate production process and its
         shape in the process of circulation appear merely as particular
         moments. The configurations of capital, as developed in this
         volume, thus approach step by step the form in which they appear
         on the surface of society, i.e. in competition, and in the
         everyday consciousness of the agents of production themselves."
         (Penguin ed., p. 117, emphasis in original).

Marx clearly, thus, believed that the capitalist production
process was a unity of the processes of production and circulation. Why
don't you?

In solidarity, Jerry

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