[OPE-L:6950] Re: slavery and the multiple worlds hypothesis

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Apr 09 2002 - 08:22:06 EDT

Re Paul C's [6946-7]:

In [6946], Paul wrote:

> One may speculate whether on a multiplicity of worlds, spread accross
> the universe, on which intelligent life develops capitalism would usually
> develop without first being enmeshed in slavery. But this can only be
> speculation, we can never test it.

Then, in [6947] Paul  constructs what he recognizes to be a hypothetical
commodity-producing slave mode of production.

Yet, in constructing in [6947] his "generalized commodity producing slave
economy"  Paul has engaged in precisely the type of speculation that he
warned Nicky about in [6946]. Or, even worse, since Paul constructs a
hypothetical mode of production whereas capitalism -- even when it does
not appear in specific social formations in 'pure' form -- is a product of
and a reality.

Curiously, Paul's statement above in [6946] _and_ his hypothetical
model in [6947] reminded me of some posts I wrote last year [5746; 5752;
dated 6/2] on "the infinite quantity of logically plausible social theories
theorem (IQLPSTT)".   I guess an extension of the IQLPSTT would be the
'IQLPMPT' where MP stands for modes of production.  This form of
(idealist) speculation, though, is a far cry from a materialist analysis of

For me, the only important point in Paul's [6947] was his recognition that
such a social formation would indeed represent a particular form of the
"slave mode of production".  After that has been recognized, then we can
not meaningfully apply that hypothetical model to an analysis of the
*capitalist*  mode of production _even where_  there are remnants of
pre-capitalist relations including slavery.

I will certainly grant Paul that *given the way he defines terms*  such as
commodity, abstract labour, SNLT,  value and surplus value *then* it
makes sense to speak of surplus-value being produced by slaves.
Yet, those who reject those definitions as trans-historical will have a
different take on this issue.

For example, those who understand value as a *specific* social
relationship will not be happy with the idea that it can be usefully
applied towards the understanding of all class societies.  These is,
though, another issue: where value is the organizing principle of
society,  objects which are *not commodities*  come to be treated
*as if* they were commodities. Thus, non-produced objects come
to be treated in the market and by classes *as if*  they were
commodities. Similarly, products produced outside of the capital/
wage-labour relation  -- including those produced by slaves in
capitalist social formations -- come to be treated *as if* they
are commodities (yet, the latter is only possible if we define
commodities and value in trans-historical ways).  We should not
confuse the fact that objects can be treated *as if* they are
commodities with the belief that they therefore *are* commodities.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS to Rakesh re [6942]:  I don't have time now to hunt for the #s of
OPE-L  posts where I discussed the question. I will note, though, that I
made my ideas on this subject known on *many*  threads -- coincidentally
in looking for the posts #s for the IQLPSTT thread, I noticed that I
discussed a similar question in the "'s' is for surplus value" thread last
Spring. And, of course, there was our prior discussion on slavery.
In any event, I don't have time to respond and I'm trying to cut back
on the quantity of posts I author.

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