[OPE-L:2904] Re: Re: Re: starting point and capital

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 25 2000 - 14:02:37 EDT

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Rakesh writes:

>Gil, this is an elegant and helpful formulation of your thesis.
>Unfortunately I am away from home, and don't have your paper which lays out
>in historical and microeconomic detail those "particular developments in
>the social relations corresponding to the circuit of capital." As I
>remember Marx's argument, the capitalist mode of production depends for the
>expansion of value on the production of relative surplus value through
>continuous technical change. This would mean workers are free to move to
>the most advanced techique, and out of declining industries. Without such
>labor mobility, the arteries of the capitalist system would have to be
>hardening--as they were in Nazi Germany in which there was a regression to
>formally unfree labor. Here I disagree with Patrick in that I don't think
>such slavery at a late stage in capitalism is a more perfected form of
>exploitation but rather a sign of decay and weakness. However, I do agree
>with him on the capitalist character of plantation slavery. By the way,
>this argument is supported by Kenneth Pomeranz's chapter on a new kind of
>periphery in his new book The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the
>Making of the Modern World (Princeton, 2000).
>At any rate, I have trouble understanding how a developed and dynamic
>capitalist mode of production could do without anything but mobile free
>wage labor. That a fully developed capitalism depends on mobile free wage
>labor of course does not invalidate your argument about the problem in chs
>4 and 5.

Rakesh, I don't disagree with anything you've said here. To the contrary,
your summary above puts historical flesh on the skeletal abstraction I've
called "historically contingent strategic argument." But your
characterization above only deals with the first, i.e. formal aspect of the
working class condition Marx calls being "free in the double sense." I'm
mostly concerned with the implications of the latter aspect, i.e. being
free of one's own means of production, insofar as Marx also considers it a
*necessary* condition for the capitalist mode of production. To anticipate
a bit, suppose workers were free in Marx's double sense but gained access
to the means of production only through circuits of usury and merchant
capital described in my discussion with Alfredo. Wouldn't this situation
permit, or even encourage, the sort of labor mobility you discuss above?

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