[OPE-L:6976] Re: the cost of slaves

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Apr 12 2002 - 18:34:45 EDT

Re Rakesh's [6975]:

>  Fogel and  Engerman present data which I believe can be interpreted as
> suggesting  <snip, JL>

F&E's (reactionary) work was discredited decades ago.

> Jerry, may I remind you that fixed and circulating capital are not
> Marx's own categories.

May I remind you that in Volume 2 Marx did not merely critique
the categories of fixed and circulating capital, but he defined and
applied the categories of fixed and fluid (or circulating) capital within
the context of  comprehending the turnover of capital?

> Of course the purchase of slaves was amortized over the course of the
> slave's active labor time. Of course the plantation owner kept his
> books to make sure he recovered this expenditure of value.

Marx in the passage from V2 is not talking about mere accounting and
bookkeeping --  he wrote that the money capital laid out for slaves
"plays THE ROLE OF fixed capital in money form" (emphasis added, JL).

> This only underlines that
> Marx is getting at: slavery was a calculated and calculating system
> for the production of surplus value!

How good of you to put words into his mouth.  How do you know
that was what he was "getting at"?  And, _if_  that was what he was 
"getting at", then why didn't he get there?

> No Marx is saying the purchase price of slaves was amortized as if
> that value had been expended on a piece of fixed capital.

No, that's not what he wrote. He didn't write that the purchase price of
slaves was treated "as if" it was fixed capital -- he wrote that it plays
"the role of" fixed capital.

> That the plantation owner so
> carefully kept his books, tracking expenditures and profits, strong
> suggests as Blackburn underlines that we are dealing with capitalist
> enterprise.

Careful bookkeeping does not by itself  "suggest"  capitalist 
enterprise and even *if* that were true, suggestion does not necessarily
equate with actuality. 

> Marx no where says that slaves did not in fact in the abode of
> production operate as a piece of fixed capital and did not produce
> surplus value.

What else didn't he write?  Did he *ever* write that the money invested 
in slaves represents variable capital?  Did he *ever* write that the
purchase price of slaves represents faux frais for the slaveowner?  

> So I guess the robot theory of slaves is now dead.

Who advanced such a theory?  I know I didn't.

> >  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.
> Oh so you do recognize that Marx himself thought slaves produced surplus

No, read again carefully -- note "if any".

> This whole idea here is that if we understand that modern plantation
> slavery was in fact part of the early capitalist production of
> (absolute) surplus value,

I have already answered this claim about the production of absolute
surplus value in depth.  We have already seen how the context in which
the intensity of labor can be increased under slavery is *fundamentally*
different from how it can be increased under capitalist relations.  By
continuing to assert that the production of surplus value took the form
of absolute surplus value via an increase in the intensity of labor, you
entirely misunderstand how the intensity of labor can be increased under
*both* capitalism and slavery.  And this is precisely the danger: by trying
to grasp slavery even when it interacts with capitalism with the categories
appropriate for comprehending capitalism you eternalize those categories
and render them transhistorical and lacking in analytical meaning. All of
this for what appears -- to me at least -- to be very dubious political

In solidarity, Jerry

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