[OPE-L:2810] Re: slaves and value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 10:09:13 EDT

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Previously, in [2687], I wrote:

> The above also represents a reply of sorts to Paul C's [2686], to
> which I would only add that whether one views
> this position as "counter-factual" depends on whether one views the
> categories of commodity and value from a trans-historical perspective.

Paul replied in [OPE-L:2809]:
> I do not regard commodities from a trans-historical perspective, if by
> that you mean that I think all modes of production depend on commodity
> production.

No, that's not what I meant. What I meant, rather, is that your
definitions of commodity and value are not specific to the capitalist
mode of production. Thus, from your perspective (I gather), if a product
was produced in order to be sold and has a use-value and an
exchange-value, it therefore has value. I insist, rather, that for a
product to have value, and therefore be counted as being a commodity in
the fullest and most meaningful sense of the term, there must exist a
class relation between wage-labour and capital. I.e. value is not merely
production of products with the intention of sale but expressive of a
particular social and class relationship specific to capitalism.
> However, I suspect that
> your conception of the historical range of commodity production is
> narrower than mine.

Correct. That is because we are defining this term differently.

> I understand commodity production to have occurred in a number
> of pre-capitalist modes of production including slavery and feudalism.

I know you do. And *if* we are referring to products that are produced
with the intention of being sold, then I agree with you. Our difference in
interpretation, in other words, isn't over what happened historically in
pre-capitalist modes of production but is rather centered on how we
*define* commodities and value.

Would it also be correct to say that you believe that commodity production
is possible under socialism?

> We have good historical evidence for this, not least in the form of
> surviving currencies, price lists and records of trade. It is counter
> factual to deny this.

I don't deny this. I am saying, rather, that terms such as commodity and
value should not be used to describe this process -- unless we wish to
use those terms in a looser and popular metaphorical way (like calling
slaves proletarians).

In solidarity, Jerry

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