[OPE-L:2703] Re: Re: slaves and value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Tue Apr 04 2000 - 09:40:36 EDT

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>You have repeated this expression many times in recent days (perhaps a
>half dozen times). Not once do you ever bother to explain its meaning, in
>particular what the anachronism supposedly is. I conclude that you just
>like the way it sounds.
Jerry, I have argued that it makes no sense to understand the early form of
capital accumulation in terms of the form of a fully developed captialism.
The early form could not have been the pure form that Marx analyzes. The
more capitalism develops, the more it approximates the model Marx uses in
his theoretical writings. It makes no sense to classify this or that early
form as non capitalist in terms of a pure model of a fully developed
capitalism. This is formalism to the point of anachronism.

>Yet, none of the above follows -- unless one believes that the production
>of a product with an exchange-value and a use-value is thereby the
>production of value. What doesn't matter in your scheme above is the
>*particular social form* that ***L-A-B-O-R*** takes when it is productive
>of *value*.

Well when labor is abstract, value positing labor, it does not confront a
limit in any immediate circle of needs. It is double charged with the task
of maintaining the value of the capital investment as well as valorizing
it. This is why I have argued that modern plantation slavery--along with
indentured and child labor--are capital positing, abstract labor. I have
granted you that the capital form was not and could not have been realized
in terms of free wage labor itself in the early stages of accumulation. But
the capital form was realized in terms of the monetization of the means of
production and the assumption of the commodity form of the product of the
plantation. I have also suggested that plantation output was not simply
surplus product some of which could (or could not) be marketed as exchange
value; rather the entire product was meant to be and actually transformed
wholly into exchange value, thereby securing the expansion of value. That
is, the production of value and surplus value dominated the organization of

>The expansion of value is the expansion not merely of monetized products,
>but becomes the expansion of capital as a particular social relation.

Well, the capital relation is multifaceted, and the early stages of capital
accumulation did not accord (and could not have accorded) with the pure

>Another repetitive assertion. Again one sees that the *particular social
>form* that *labor* takes is irrelevant for you when determining what
>constitutes variable capital.

What makes variable capital variable is whether it enables the capitalist
to expand his value over and above what he has invested by compelling the
performance of surplus labor time as objectified in a form of value, i.e.,
the commodity. The payment of wages--the only social form on which you are
focused-- alone does not ensure an investment in variable capital. There
are other criteria to look at.

>Marx uses the expression proletarians to also include labor in Ancient
>Rome. The question is not whether slaves are "proletarians" in some
>*trans-historical* definition but whether they assume the particular
>social form that proletarians take *under capitalism*.

Are you saying that slave owners were capitalists or not. Please clarify.
And if modern slaves were proletarians, it is surely not because their
conditions approximated that of ancient proletarians.

Yours, Rakesh

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