[OPE-L:6934] Re: slavery and value

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sun Apr 07 2002 - 23:27:15 EDT

Hi Alfredo [6907], rethinking now your important question of *how* to
theorise slave relations within capitalism:

Jerry in [6920], and in all his subsequent posts to this strand, sheds the
deepest light on your question which fundamentally concerns the problem of
how to differentiate 'historical contingencies' from 'necessity' (i.e. the
essential relations of capitalism) and the inter-relation between the two.

I have found your question and Jerry's elaboration most stimulating and
thought changing.  In fact, I now have to retract my previous statement
that the use of slaves is of no concern to me in developing a VFT
perspective.  This is because VFT theory is focused precisely on this
attempt to make the differentiation between necessity and contingency.
Slave labour is not necessary to the existence and reproduction of
contemporary capitalism, so it is a historical contingency (ie. it may have
been important in the development of capitalism in the new world in the
past, and remnants of it might persist today, but it is not absolutely
essential the to capitalism).  In contrast, wage labour is a necessity
(i.e. essential to the existence of reproduction and capitalism).  If this
is accepted, the question then arises: what role within the theory of
capitalism (the demonstration of logical necessity) does historical
contingency play?  

I think you are right to say that the question has to be answered.  To say
what is 'necessary' is by implication to say what is 'contingent' and to
pose questions about the relation between the two.  So, I was wrong to
suggest that slavery as a contingency cannot simply be set aside (any more
than the gold standard, a contingency, can be set aside in a theorisation
of money).  In other words, even if slave labour is not considered
'necessary' there is still the question of *specifying* clearly the role
that contingencies play within the VFT theory (largely a black hole at the
moment).  In this sense, understanding exactly *how* slave relations
interact with the necessary capital/wage-labour relation must indeed
increase understanding of capitalism (as you suggested at the beginning,
and as Jerry's posts amply demonstrate).

If I am right in this, then our different understandings of key concepts
(such as the capital-labour relation, the commodity, value, surplus value
and abstract labour) merely mask a shared problem.  And this is precisely
the problem that you identify in your question: *how* to *theorise* the
role that contingent social relations play in capitalism (i.e. the
interaction with essential relations).  Perhaps in answering your question,
I initially mistook the wood (the problem) for the trees (the differences
in theoretical frameworks).

Thanks again for provoking this stimulating discussion
best Nicky        

Nicola Taylor
Faculty of Economics
Murdoch University
South Street
W.A. 6150

Tel. 61 8 9385 1130 
email: n.taylor@stu.murdoch.edu.au

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