[OPE-L:3073] RE: Re: Simple Commodity Production

From: Michael Williams (mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Tue May 09 2000 - 18:36:25 EDT

[ show plain text ]

I think two or three issues may be unhelpfully being conflated in this

1. Did Marx start Capital with a pre-capitalist mode of production called
'simple commodity production'?

2. Did Marx allow that there could be commodity production and exchange in
pre-capitalist modes of production?

3. With respect to this second, there is a question as to whether such
pre-capitalist commodities were in all essential respects the same as the
Commodity that is the 'cell-form' for conceptualising capitalism.

My take on these questions is No, Yes and No. So capitalism is the only
commodity producing *system*; earlier production of commodities was not part
of a system that could adequately be counted as dominated by commodity
production. But whatever, these questions are usefully dealt with
separately, and, of course 3. is no doubt a matter of degree.

And so to Allinn's quotes

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> [mailto:owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu]On Behalf Of Allin Cottrell
> Sent: Tuesday, May 09, 2000 8:21 PM
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Subject: [OPE-L:3071] Re: Simple Commodity Production

Allinn writes
> Me too. On the "history of thought" matter, too, it's quite
> plain that Marx did not think of commodities and value as
> existing _only_ in capitalism (although, for sure, capitalism
> represents the most developed form of these phenomena).

So here we have the matter of degree.

> Here's
> Marx stating clearly a view that is (these days) often wrongly
> presented as an aberration due to Engels:
> "The exchange of commodities at their values, or approximately
> at their values, thus requires a much lower stage than their
> exchange at their prices of production, which requires a
> definite stage of capitalist development....

I beg to differ, what Marx is 'stating clearly' is that commodity exchange
 at value occurs at a much lower stage *of capitalist development* than
commodity exchange at prices of production. What is more, it is quite
unclear from the quote whether Marx has in mind here stages of *historical*
or stages of *conceptual* development of capitalism

> "[I]t is quite appropriate to regard the values of commodities
> as not only theoretically but also historically _prius_ to the
> prices of production. This applies to conditions in which the
> labourer owns his means of production, and this is the condition
> of the land-owning farmer living off his own labour and the
> craftsman, in the ancient as well as in the modern world. This
> agrees also with the view we expressed previously, that the
> evolution of products into commodities arises through exchange
> between different communities, not between the members of the
> same community....

And this is talking about the historical emergence of the commodity form at
first at community borders that is, as far as I am aware, not in dispute
> "For prices at which commodities are exchanged to approximately
> correspond to values, nothing more is necessary than 1) for the
> exchange of the various commodities to cease being purely
> accidental or only occasional; 2) so far as direct exchange of
> commodities is concerned, for these commodities to be produced
> in approximately sufficient quantities to meet mutual
> requirements... ; 3) so far as selling is concerned, for no
> natural or artificial monopoly to enable either of the
> contracting sides to sell commodities above their value or to
> compell them to undersell."

And how we interpret this quote depends on how we read 'to cease being
purely accidental or only occasional'. Imo a discourse of systems is
revealing here. This condition is met when such exchanges have become
'systemic'. And that, as I see it, is a period stretching from the ealriest
development *of capitalism* and onwards.


"What is matter? - Never mind. What is mind? - No matter."

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes

tel: +1908 834876
[Home: +1703 768641]
fax: 0870 133 1147

mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk <mailto:mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk>
[This message may be in html, and any attachments may be in MSWord 2000. If
you have difficulty reading either, please let me know.]

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed May 31 2000 - 00:00:08 EDT