[OPE-L:6907] slavery and value

From: Asfilho@aol.com
Date: Fri Apr 05 2002 - 08:41:17 EST

Hi Nicky!

I guess I disagree with you, when you say, in [6904]:

"The same two possibilities arise in the case of wage labour.  Your 
[Rakesh's] possibility: that 'relations of production' are separate from 
'forms of exploitation'.  In that case, wage labour is not necessary to the 
reproduction of capital and there are many 'forms of exploitation' (to link 
to Alfredo's 6903 - Hi Alfredo! - abstract labour is then simply social 
labour, whatever its form)."

It seems to me that Rakesh's point was about the mode of labour and 
exploitation in a *slave-capitalist* society - i.e., a society in which 
commodity production (generally for export rather than domestic consumption) 
is carried out through slave labour. Historically, this type of production 
existed, for example, in the New World, subsumed within international 
capitalism, which I think is the case that Rakesh has in mind. I don't think 
he was positing slavery as an alternative to capitalism or commodity 
production more generally.

If this is the case (i.e., if my interpretation is correct) then the 
dichotomy between relations of production and forms of exploitation, that you 
have posited, does not hold.

I think that a more useful approach would depart from the relations of 
production: in "slave-capitalist" societies, slaves produce commodities using 
(by and large, though not necessarily) inputs that are also commodities; 
moreover, even the slaves themselves are commodities (and, therefore, the 
production of slaves is also a commodity-producing process). In 
commodity-production processes, competition for profits (what perceived as 
"market discipline") regulates the expenditure of labour, thus (through a 
long process that I am skipping) rendering it abstract *in production*. 

Of course, under slave capitalism this process of abstraction of labour in 
production is incomplete, because "market discipline" is weaker than under 
capitalism at every stage of the circuit of (slave) capital (again I am being 
imprecise, in order to keep this message short; but I hope the meaning is 

Clearly, my conclusion, above, is different from yours, since you say: 
"exploitation arises only within the capital-labour relation … abstract 
labour is a capitalist Value form - i.e private labour verified as socially 
useful only when commodities exchange for money on markets"

How would you interpret this difference - especially in the context of "slave 
capitalism", where commodities *are* produced and sold?

Finally, you say: "what Marx thought of the Southern slave system isn't a 
question that interests me very much."

I hope to have shown above that the answer to this question does matter for 
our understanding of capitalism, in addition to the historical question of 
how other modes of production worked.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu May 02 2002 - 00:00:08 EDT