[OPE-L:6974] Re: the cost of slaves

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Apr 12 2002 - 10:19:28 EDT

We have seen a number of arguments advanced by Rakesh
and others who have claimed that slaves can produce surplus

i) the claim has been made that the money advanced for
the purchase of slaves represents constant capital (Rakesh
claimed in 6956 that, although he disagrees with this position
he doesn't think that it's an unreasonable position [more on this
below] given how *he* thinks Fred and TSS define c);

ii) the claim has been made by Rakesh in 6948  that the money
advanced for the purchase of slaves represents faux frais of
slave production. Yet, as I explained in 6955,  faux frais are
understood to represent "incidental" expenses related to
production and there is nothing "incidental" about money
advanced by slaveowners for the purchase of slaves.

iii) the claim was made by Rakesh in  6948  that the costs
associated with the daily reproduction of slaves represents
variable capital. Paul C goes further in 6960 and claims that
the money spent for the purchase of slaves represents v. Then,
in 6972 Rakesh claims that this is a "good argument" (even
though he has already classified this expenditure as faux frais
rather than v).

Of course, if one claims iii) then slaves can be productive of
surplus value. The case is a bit less clear with respect to faux
frais but I think that -- understood properly -- the agents on whom
faux frais are expended don't themselves produce value or surplus
value but rather help to establish the 'setting' under which s can be
created.   In any event, despite Rakesh's gymnastics in 6956,
it _should_ be clear that expenditures in the form of constant
capital do not result in the self-expansion of value.

What hasn't been mentioned explicitly  yet is another position
-- one advanced by Marx -- years after he wrote what
became the _Theories of Surplus Value_:  namely, that "in the
slave system, the money laid out on the purchase of labour-power
plays the role of fixed capital in the money form, and is only
gradually replaced as the active life of the slave comes to an
end" (_Capital_, Volume 2, Penguin ed., p. 554 -- full paragraph
extends to p. 55).

Yet, Marx is *very* clear  (and we should be as well) that  fixed capital,
in contrast to a portion of capital  which takes the form of *fluid*
(or circulating) capital, does *not* have characteristic of  resulting in
self-expansion  of value.   Moreover, Marx (and we) should be clear
that that part of the productive capital which is spent on fixed capital
is for *means of production* ("of which the fixed capital consists").

Nonetheless, I think that the perspective that the money allocated for
slaves takes the form of fixed capital is fundamentally confused since
slaves *clearly*  are not "means of production" (and thereby come to be
represented as "dead labor").  Perhaps the reason for this is that Marx,
as well as Rakesh, was confused by the role that slaves play (if any)
in the creation of surplus value.  Thus, he was consistent in terms of
believing that the production of a surplus product is a common
characteristic of all class societies, but he was inconsistent in terms of
comprehending whether surplus *value*  production was specific to
"modern society" (i.e. the bourgeois mode of production). Engels,
it seems to me, was *more*  consistent in claiming that surplus value
is a trans-historical category (and I think that Paul C in his
understandings of abstract labor, commodity, surplus value, etc.
is following in the tradition of Engels -- and later Kautsky, the
German-Austrian Social Democrats, the Bolshevik theoreticians,
and later the "diamat" school).  So, I guess if we are to "blame"
anyone, besides ourselves, for this confusion then it should be Marx
himself who was wrestling with how to distinguish categories
associated with capitalism from concepts that have transhistorical
application for all class societies.  Where the confusion seems most
apparent is where you have social formations where one mode of
production is dominant but remnants of other pre-existing modes of
production persist and *interact*  with the dominant mode.  One might also
claim that this issue has been a source of confusion by many Marxists
in comprehending special so-called "transitional" social formations
where the organizing principles of alternative modes of production
confront one another and struggle for dominance.

In solidarity, Jerry

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