[OPE-L:4747] Re: Re: Perelman on "Primitive Accumulation": Lenin rather than Luxemburg?

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Tue Jan 09 2001 - 11:22:05 EST

michael perelman <michael@ECST.CSUCHICO.EDU> said, on 01/06/01:

> 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.

What I was thinking of is that 
  1. Luxemburg had a reading of the classicals which relates but wasn't
discussed, and 
  2. so did her contemporary Lenin which is discussed quite a bit.
Actually, I think Luxemburg's is probably more germane to Michael's
concerns than is Lenin's.

> 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.

Agreed, multiplication of the proletariat does occur in primitive
accumulation as Michael describes above.  But what is it when we have
multiplication of the proletariat AFTER the establishment of the
capitalist mode of production?  This is an issue clarification of
concepts:  Abstracting from population increase, is it then "primitive
accumulation" or "accumulation"?  

The reason why I am not at all sure that Michael's discussion of the
Classicals would be affected by the answer to this question is that the
Classicals are mostly within the timing of the ESTABLISHMENT of the
capitalist mode and thus, in any case, under "primitive accumulation".

> 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.

Michael does spend most of his Chapter 2 explaining his position.  The
problem is that I don't find the argument convincing, and I was citing
Andre Gunder Frank as an example of an alternative reading.

> 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.

The above paragraph is a formulation with which I factually agree but
disagree regarding concepts.  Factually I agree that separation from means
of production remains important.  But I would disagree in calling this
separation after the ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CAPITALIST MODE as "primitive

Probably Michael and I will continue to disagree on this conceptual issue.
But suppose (as an intermediate position) we go along with Frank and
regard later separation as "primary accumulation".  Would the remainder of
Michael's book be affected?  Surely not his discussion "gaming laws", i.e.
laws which determined who can hunt for game and where (a very interesting
discussion, to my mind, on  the very deleterious effects on peasant
capacity to access meat and therefore promoted their separtion from means
of production)?  the Classicals were mostly silent on this violation of
their "free market" emphasis and, according to Michael, pointed to their
practical DENIAL of the free market.  But what of the remainder of the
Michael's book if Frank's concept were utilized?

I mention Frank, even though I rather disagree with him also.  I disagree
with Frank, since going along with him on "primitive accumulation" and
"'primary accumulation" does not settle the issue of what is
"accumulation" proper -- the focus of my own research.  Frank,
nevertheless, is useful for this dialogue with Michael.

Paul Z.

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