[OPE-L:3273] RE: RE: Simple Commodity Production

From: Michael Williams (mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Sat May 20 2000 - 06:32:30 EDT

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In response to this message, that I copy in full as it may not have gone to
the list:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Duncan K. Foley [mailto:foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu]
> Sent: Friday, May 19, 2000 11:29 PM
> To: mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L:3161] RE: Simple Commodity Production
> In response to my remark:
> > They [the categories of commodity and money] pre-exist
> > capitalist categories both historically and logically.
> Mike Williams replies:
> 'Logically'? Fine.
> 'Historically'? Well, up to a point. As I intimated before, the
> Commodity in
> developed capitalism is a different beast than the commodities of
> pre-capitalist formations. To me this is just part of the proposition that
> the dynamics of the reproduction of the capitalist system are
> categorically
> different from those of pre-capitalist systems.
> Duncan asks:
> In what way are pre-capitalist (or proto-capitalist) commodities and money
> different from capitalist commodities and money?

Michael W. now responds:
They are not part of a coherent self-sustaining system of labour allocation
that more or less universally dictates the social allocation of labour in
accordance with value-criteria. Rather, they are subordinate bits and pieces
either in a system within which resource allocation is driven by other
criteria or in a less than systemic social organisation in which there is no
single dominant criterion.

> In your view,
> for example,
> does the law of value apply to pre-capitalist commodity production?

Michael W.:
No - or only in a fragmented non-universal way that does not deserve the
name 'law' (of a 'system')
> I'm also a bit puzzled about the rejection of the notion of simple
> commodity production as part of capitalist "social formations". For
> example, family farms in the U.S. produce commodities for sale, but under
> circumstances where the producers own and control the means of production.
> Isn't this simple commodity production?

Michael W.:
I do not reject simple commodity production as part of capitalism. But it is
a subordinate part, in which value criteria are imposed upon it tendentially
by its location in the larger system. Similarly, for example, workers co-ops
may emerge, intending to operate other than on value-criteria, but they will
not (and have not) survive(d) unless ultimately they bow to the dominant
value criteria. Again, domestic labour within a modern nuclear family (that
can usefully be seen as what is left of a family farm when all but the core
nuclear familial activities have been commodified) is not directly ruled by
the dynamics of value, but has been tendentially incorporated into the
capitalist value system. What remains within the family survives around the
core of child bearing and rearing, the complete commodification of which
would take us into Huxley's Brave New World. It is clear that there is
widespread social resistance to such a development. An interesting
theoretical question is as to whether capitalism would survive as a system
once the production of people itself was commodified. This might take us
back to the dynamics of neo-slavery.

I hope this clarifies what I was saying.


"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>
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