[OPE-L:2814] Re: RE: Re: RE: Slavery

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 11:36:55 EDT

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>Thanks for these points about the integration of the U.S. slave plantations
>with the world economy; but a pedant (who? me?) might complain that this
>doesn't -- except implicitly -- answer the question of "what was the
>plantation owners' *motivation*?"

Julian, ok a new question.

At any rate, that the means of production and consumption were indeed
generally monetized--that they were inputs *paid* for out of the product of
slaves already realized on the market in the commodity form--suggests to me
that they were a capital investment, part of the circuit of capital that
would not and could not have been renewed save the possibility and
probability of the valorization of capital.

Of course Chai on suggests that valorization was made possible by a
restribution of value from an enclosed commodity producing system
elsewhere. This removal of plantation slavery from the commodity producing
system does not seem convincing to me.

>The fact that the owners *had* to find a high proportion of inputs on the
>market doesn't show that they didn't *want* to maximise the proportion of
>self-produced imports, hence allowing more cash to be spent on luxuries.

Since the planation owners had to make a monetary investment to secure the
reproduction of their class rule does mean that it wouldn't have made any
sense to do so or would have been possible to continue to do so unless they
could thereby expand their capital. The same compulsion does not take hold
against a ruling class which has not had to enter into the market to secure
the basic inputs for the reproduction of its class rule. The greater the
sum of surplus value accumulated the greater the chances of continued
reproduction of their class rule. Plantation owners thus had the maximum
production of surplus value as their goal.

>My impression is that they set great store by their (self-awarded) character
>of gentlemen, as opposed to Yankee money-grubbers, which suggests that their
>motivation was not maximum accumulation of capital.

This interpretation is contested by James Oakes among others. At any rate,
maximum rate of valorization was their motivation as vividly shown by the
deathly work regiment to which slaves were subject. Of course on the basis
of constant technique--no doubt revolutionization in technique was hindered
by having had to overcome the early population shortage through
slavery--maximum accumulation could only be pursued through the spatial
extension of the slave system, which is what the Civil War was fought over.

>This may not have been a very realistic stance, given the nature of the
>South's economic relations with the world economy, but then in the end they
>turned out not to be a very successful set of exploiters.

Yes what was once a main form of accumulation later became a hindrance to
the development of generalized commodity production no greater fillip to
which hwoever was modern plantation slavery.

Yours, Rakesh

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