[OPE-L:6902] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: value-form

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 05 2002 - 04:35:53 EST

Nicky writes in 6900

>Interesting... I see two clarifications are required:
>1) when I say 'capital-labour' relation I emphatically **DO NOT** mean a
>relation of production.  The capital-labour relation describes a
>relationship constituted in circulation (i.e. by the whole capital circuit
>of production and exchange, within which the moment of production lies).

No, I disagree. The capital-labor relation and exploitation are 
exactly not constituted in circulation!  This is the superficial 
relationship, a deceptive appearance which is not the true essence of 
the relationship. To focus on circulation is precisely to gloss over 
the essential nature of the capital-labor relationship, extinguishing 
its differentia specifica. Which is the production of surplus value 
and capital.

>This is so because the exchange of labour-power for wages (prior to
>production) is the key part of it

key part of what? the reference here is unclear. Moreover, why must 
wages take the form that you specify? In the Journal of Peasant 
Studies you will find scholars who argue that there are many hidden 
wage forms.

Perhaps more importantly, this exchange for wages is at best a 
necessary but not  sufficient condition for the capital-labor 

What are the other conditions? And why can't those other conditions 
be sufficient?

>(see also, Marx's volume 2, ch.1 argument
>for the *necessity* of wage labour as the initiating moment of the
>transformation of money-capital into productive capital).

what is this argument? Marx also  refers to the proletarian male as a 
slave dealer who sells his wife and child to the capitalists.

>   From this
>perspective, the *owners* of slaves and serfs are not faced by the same
>Value Form 'requirements' as the *employers* of wage labour.

Why not? I am just trying to get a clear answer here.

What are value form requirements? And why cannot they appy to the 
owner of slaves or serfs?

Slave owners in the modern plantation system were in fact faced with 
task of the valorization of capital yesterday and today in the 
forests of Brazil.  As slaves become widely available on the market, 
slave owners amortized them in a period between 3mos to 1 year; the 
rate of return averaged that on industrial enterprise.

With the easy and cheap availability of new slaves, the overwork of 
slaves ensured the expansion of capital though it killed them off 
sometimes in no more than seven years (Marx emphasized this; so did 
JE Cairnes in the Slave Power in his attempt to differentiate modern 
plantation slavery from the slavery of the ancients and Aristotle; 
even John Hicks notes how with the full development in the market for 
slaves, slaves were subjected to a lethal work regiment).

Iron, tools and clothes (for the masters and the slaves) were 
purchased on the market by planation owners--these were capital 
investments made by capitalists in what Marx characterizes as a 
calculated and calculating system.

That market purchases by slave owners were often debt financed only 
intensified the pressure to amortize their investments as quickly as 

Land was very quickly destroyed--which suggests how continuous and 
intense slave production in fact was; the rapid destruction of 
fertile land  forced the geographical expansion of the slave system 
and brought on the American Civil War in which Marx had a great 

My reading of Marx's articles and correspondence on the American 
Civil War do not turn up references to the Southern slave system as 

In fact I read Marx as agreeing with the slaveowners' defensive 
propaganda (see for example George Fitzhugh) that they were no 
different than Northern industrialists in exploiting the working 

Keith Afhauser would later show in "Slavery and Scientific 
Management" Journal of Economic History, 33 (1973) that Taylor in 
particular would study the slave system in detail in order to 
understand how to control the movement and maximize the exploitation 
of the factory proletariat. It's been a long while since I read the 
piece and can't find my copy , but it's quite revealing.

>  For me, only
>the latter relation - as constituted by Marx's circulation of capital, is a
>capital-labour relation.

I just don't follow the argument.

Do you think the plantations and mines of colonial Southern Africa 
and Zimbabwe--I mean Rhodesia--were not capitalist enterprises just 
because they were often based on formally unfree (or rather formally 
the unfreest) labor relations?

How do you make sense of the history of your own homeland?

>2) I emphasis that 'exploitation' is concept specific to the capital-labour
>relation (as I have defined it).

>   This is because exploitation has to do
>not only with the split between labour power and means of production (which
>would indeed give rise to a variety of 'forms of exploitation'),

It seems to me that you are reducing exploitation by definition to 
the relation between capital and free wage labor.

  I don't follow the argument.

>  but with a
>prior payment of wages and as a result of that, the subsumption of living
>labour under the aspect of time

why does the subsumption "under the aspect of time"--I am not clear 
as to what you mean here; please define--only obtain as a result of 
the prior payment of wages?

There were debt pressures to quicken amortization in the modern 
plantation slave system; amortization and valorization were 
accomplished as quickly as possible without due consideration for the 
lives of slaves.

This was true as well in the mines and the plantations of colonial 
Africa in which labour was by no means formally free.

>(by which I mean that the measure of labour
>by time and intensity is a 'formula' peculiar to the capital-labour
>relation; also, Marx, vol.1, ch.1).  Slaves and surfs are not 'exploited'
>in this sense.

This is not true as a matter of fact. On what studies are you relying 
to reach the conclusion that intensity or squeezing out as much 
effort per unit of time were not root concerns of slave owners or 
employers of formally unfree laborers (which let's not forget 
includes millions of Asian indentured servants or "coolies" after 
slavery was abolished in the Caribbean and many former slaves 
attempted to become peasants)?

   Intensity is what all too often defined modern plantation slavery 
and exploitation in the mines and planations of colonial Africa and 

There was life denying obsession on the greatest appropriation of the 
surplus value produced by slaves in the shortest period; hence, the 
expression from sun up to sun down.

>3. I don't want to deny that Banaji's different definition and use of
>exploitation (which implies that exploitation can take 'forms' other than
>the one defined by the wage and the clock) is wrong or irrelevant or not

Banaji does not deny that the clock or pressures to quicken turnover 
are absent if there is not free wage labor as you are defining it (he 
also has a broader definition of what wage payments can be).

>   Also, I don't want to say that your call for a distinction between
>'forms of exploitation' and the 'relation of production' is unviable.  IMO,
>the only test of this is whether these concepts are applicable and valid
>for the *specific* inquiry and the *particular* problem you have in mind.
>My object of inquiry is the fully developed capitalist economy where
>wage-labour is purchased as an input to the production of commodities
>intended for markets.

It is fine and quite important to study a pure capitalism--a 
capitalism in which all products take the form of commodities and are 
all produced by the formally freest wage labor.

But real capitalism is not, has not been and never will be Marx's 
pure capitalism the theoretical nature of which is most interestingly 
discussed by Robert Albritton and other Unoists.

I think the mistake made here by both you and Jerry is the mistaking 
of Marx's model of reality for the reality of the model.

The consequence of such overformalist Marxism is the cutting out of 
huge swaths of capitalist history in the periphery and millions of 
the human victims of capitalism in the past and even the present 
(though vagrancy laws were used to provide capital with a formally 
unfree European labor force in early capitalism as well).

This overformalism thus feeds the racism and Eurocentrism of Marxism.

It removes the common history of the exploited proletariat as an 
exploited proletariat and leads to divisiveness. It feeds the 
European and white workers' reactionary calls for immigration 
controls against people whose common history they do not recognize in 
face of the arbitrary differences that are instead fetishized; it 
leads black workers away from class politics into the reactionary 
utopias of defensive and bourgeois nationalisms.


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