[OPE-L:4737] Re: Perelman on "Primitive Accumulation": Lenin rather than Luxemburg?

From: michael perelman (michael@ECST.CSUCHICO.EDU)
Date: Sat Jan 06 2001 - 17:39:10 EST

I am now at the economics meetings, so I can only respond to a couple of
Paul's points right now.  To begin with, I am grateful that he took the time
to read my book, and to do so carefully.
 I did not mention Luxemburg because I was trying to do something that Marx
also did, but with a narrower focus: to look at the emergence of capitalism
through the works of the classical political economists.
 Paul takes issue with my use of the citation regarding the multiplication of
the proletariat.  In early capitalism -- and Marx makes this point clearly --
technical change was minimal.  Much of the improvement in productivity came
from the extension of the working day.  Like the mercantilists before them,
the key was to engage more people into the labor force, at least within the
domestic economy.
 With regard to Marx's restriction of primitive accumulation to the
pre-history, I hope that explained myself in the text adequately.  Marx made
that restriction to emphasize that exploitation is not just a matter of
"unfair" behavior on the part of some "bad" capitalist, but it is part of the
normal functioning of the market in which workers get paid the for the value
of their labor power.
 Paul, in a private note to me, suggested that he took issue with me, in part,
because he thought that my emphasis on primitive accumulation detracted from
the accumulation of capital, proper.  I hope that he is wrong.  That was not
my intent.
 I did imply that primitive accumulation is not merely something that happens
all at once and then ceases, but I also believe that the role of primitive
accumulation diminishes as capital accumulation becomes the dominant force.

Paul Zarembka wrote:

> Perhaps I can open a discussion of primitive accumulation and see if there
> are any takers.
> I have read some of Michael Perelman's book "The Invention of Capitalism:
> Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive
> Accumulation".  I notice on his p. 36 that he considers that Marx is
> referring to "primitive accumulation" in regard to "multiplication of the
> proletariat" within Part VII (p. 764, Vintage/Fowkes edition).  However,
> that whole Part of *Capital* is discussing accumulation, not 'primitive'
> accumulation, and there is really no justification that I can see for
> saying that those pages are referring to primitive accumulation.
> Do any others on this list think that that "multiplication of the
> proletariat" in Part VII includes primitive accumulation?
> Michael's Chapter 2 seems to want to defend a broadening of the definition
> of primitive accumulation to any separation (before or after the
> establishment of the capitalist mode of production).  But he fails to
> confront Marx's definition of primitive accumulation (pp. 874-75) which
> refers to "the pre-history of capital" (or "the pre-historic stage of
> capital" in the earlier English translation; the French is also worth
> consulting).
> Andre Gunder Frank chooses another route which is to refer
> to separation AFTER the establishment of the capitalist mode of production
> as "primary accumulation" so as to better keep our concepts clear (by
> keeping the usage of primitive accumulation to the historical situation
> Marx considers).
> Of course, the point is not to deny the importance separation from means
> of production.  For myself, I would join with Rosa Luxemburg in
> emphasizing its importance to "accumulation of capital" (note the absence
> of the word "primitive").  Michael's usage, if I understand correctly,
> seems to follow Lenin's usage, while Luxemburg has it correct (altho she
> doesn't introduce a new concept as Frank does).
> How this problem affects Michael's reading of the Classicals, I don't know
> (he has a 35-page reference list, by the way, but little on Luxemburg I
> found except a comment or two which is not indexed).
> ----
> Note: There is an interesting point regarding primitive accumulation I
> discovered within Marx's chapter on Simple Reproduction.  The Fowkes
> translation (p. 714), as well as Engels' German 4th edition, refers to
> primitive in an manner which suggests separation from means of production.
> But the French edition (Marx's last) could not be so translated.  It
> reads:
> "Ne fallait-il donc pas, la première fois qu'elle se présenta au marché du
> travail, que la classe capitaliste eût déjà accumulé par ses propres
> labeurs et ses propres épargnes des trésors qui la mettaient en état
> d'avancer les subsistances de l'ouvrier sous forme de monnaie?
> Provisoirement nous voulons bien accepter cette solution du problème, en
> nous réservant d'y regarder de plus près dans le chapitre sur las
> prétendue accumulation primitive."
> In other words, the reference in the Simple Reproduction chapter in Marx's
> own last edition refers to the PREREQUISITE, the background, for the
> separation.   I suspect the Marx was sharpening up his wording by the time
> he got to the French edition (the French passage above is also a longer
> one than the standard passages we are familiar with).
> Happy New Year to all.  Paul
> ***********************************************************************
> Paul Zarembka, editor, RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY at
> ******************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka


Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321
E-Mail michael@ecst.csuchico.edu

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