[OPE-L:6955] the cost of slaves

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 08:58:34 EDT

Re Rakesh's [6948]:

> The costs of slaves are thus more like the faux fraix of plantation
> slavery. I say this because I do not think slaves are  means of
> production (they are not in fact speaking instruments, as the
> friendly Romans had it) the value of which can then be transferred to
> the commodity output.
> Most slaves were not however used in order to meet the personal whims
> of the master  but  subjected to alienated, value positing
> proletarian labor, yielding  value in excess of their own costs,
> including the price paid to the slave trader and the costs of their
> daily reproduction (these latter costs would be variable capital).

Let us, once again, consider your possibilities: a) means of production;
b) faux frais;  c) variable capital.

a) you seem to agree that the money advanced for the purchase of slaves
can not be considered to represent constant capital. Good.  After all,
i) the labor  of slaves is not "dead labor" but living labor;  ii) if the
money used to purchase slaves represented c, then your proposition that
slaves create surplus value couldn't be maintained unless you embraced Steve
K's proposition that means of production are themselves productive of
surplus value.

b) the money, you assert, for the purchase of new slaves represents
a "faux frais" of slave production. What are we to make of this claim?
Faux frais is understood to mean *incidental*  expenses associated with
production. To call the purchase of slaves "incidental"  is quite literally
absurd!  Perhaps there were some type of expenses associated with
modern plantation slavery that could be considered to be "incidental"
expenses (like the cost for whips and guns) but *surely* the cost of
slaves themselves can not be considered in these terms.

c) [while, you assert, the initial purchase price of slaves represents faux
frais], the costs associated with the daily reproduction of slaves would
represent variable capital.  Yet, how can this be -- unless we are to
totally discard and abandon our understanding of v?  Variable capital, let
us recall, is that part of capital which is exchanged for the commodity
labor-power.  This *requires* -- logically and historically -- that
capitalists  meet potential wage-earners in the marketplace as buyer and
seller. Yet, slaveowners do not buy the commodity labour-power in the
market -- they buy the slaves themselves.  Moreover,  the exchange (if
there is one, i.e. slaves can be directly enslaved by slaveowners without
first entering the market)  is not one between capital and wage-labourers
but between slaveowners and slavesellers -- a  very different social
relationship. And, of course, slaves are "free" in  *no* sense of the word
--  unless it is a  choice made by slaveowners rather than by slaves.
Furthermore,  variable capital must be advanced *periodically* for the
purchase of labour power  whereas slaves can be bought once and kept
until death with only 'maintenance' expenses. Now returning to Rakesh's
specific idea: it should be noted, even in regard to the latter, that
typically  many (or all) of the reproduction requirements for slaves were
satisfied  not by the purchase of commodities but through farming etc.
*within*  the plantation system.  Thus, there is no requirement or
expectation that these reproduction requirements  for slaves have to assume
the commodity-form (even when slaves produce goods which are intended
to be sold, i.e. even where commodity production in the transhistorical
and nominal sense exists) and therefore don't  necessarily even represent

What Rakesh wants us to believe is that the distinction between slave
labor and wage-labor is of no consequence in terms of the production
of the surplus product and whether that product takes the commodity-/
value-/  money- /capital-forms.  Yet, to insist that there is a significant
distinction, which is by no means "overformalist", allows us to
comprehend the *specific* ways in which under different class societies
a surplus product is produced.  I showed previously [6920; 6924] that
by concentrating only on trans-historical and trans-relational similarities
Rakesh missed the boat in terms of comprehending the *specific*
ways in which the intensity of work is increased under capitalism and
how that specific form is necessarily tied to the opposition of capital
to wage-labour.   Thus, Rakesh finds himself ensnared by widening
contradictions: e.g. he argued that slaves do not produce relative
surplus value but they produce absolute surplus value yet I have showed
-- using his definition of absolute s --  how this is a gross misconception
that leads to a huge misunderstanding re how the intensity of labor is
systematically increased under capitalism; he holds that surplus value is
produced by abstract labor but Rakesh's understanding of abstract
labor (as he has expressed it previously) can not hold for slave labor, etc.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: listproc was down most of Tuesday.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu May 02 2002 - 00:00:09 EDT