[OPE-L:6980] Re: Re: the cost of slaves

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Apr 13 2002 - 01:39:36 EDT

re Jerry's 6976

>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.

yes but i was referring to use of their data to infer the rate of 
exploitation. I did not express agreement with their paeans to 
slavery. There were precisely no civilizing effects to modern 
plantation slavery even though the rate of exploitation may have been 
low by the standards of a developed capitalism which does have its 
civilizing aspects.  I referred to this a cruel historic paradox.   I 
also cited Wallerstein's critique of their work. At any rate, this is 
one of the first times that you have referred to actual work in this 
field. On whose critique of their work are you relying?

>>  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).

yes that is the role the money capital laid out for slaves plays; it 
is an investment which is amortized over a period of time.

The question is what makes possible its amortization.

The answer is the value positing proletarian labor of the slave.

  Marx after all does not say that the slave himself has the same role 
in production as any other piece of fixed capital. In fact Marx says 
many times in other places that modern slaves did produce surplus 
value, not just a surplus product. Marx never says long lived 
instruments of production produce surplus value.

>>  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?

Why did Marx refer to the money invested in the purchase of slaves as 
CAPITAL at all if he did not think modern plantation slavery was a 
form of the capitalistic production of surplus value?

Which is exactly what Marx says directly elsewhere.  I feel confident 
that you know the quote in vol I to which I am referring. The 
surprising thing is that you do not feel compelled to speak about it.

>>  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.

Which means that the money capital used for the purchase of slaves is 
amortized EXACTLY like money capital laid out for long-lived 
instruments of production. It is amortized bit by bit. What do you 
think this proves? It is of course probably how the money capital 
laid out for the purchase of slaves was amortized--bit by bit.

   Marx does not say here--as you would have us believe--that slaves 
cannot be the source of new value as a new machine cannot be the 
source of new value. He said that the money laid out of them was like 
the money laid out for a machine; it was recovered over a period of 

>>  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.

Of course not. That's why I used the word suggest, to say that it's a 
piece of evidence that suggests a conclusion. At any rate, read 
Blackburn who uses this evidence along with much other to show that 
the plantations were very much run as capitalist enterprises, however 
fettered they were by slave labor.

>>  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?

No but he did write that they produced surplus value!

do you deny that?

>>  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".

well then you are refusing to read Marx. Marx did say that modern 
slaves produce surplus value.

>>  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.

That's not what I am saying. I am saying that because there are 
limits to how intensified labor can be and relative surplus value was 
ruled out, then the road to a greater mass of surplus value lay in 
extensive accumulation.

>   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

Oh so it's dubious politics that motivates me. Not you!
I disagree. It's your dubious politics that leads you to write out 
slaves, indentured labor, present day bonded Brazilian laborers from 
the proletariat.

It's dubious politics that motivates Marxists to narrow the historic 
scope of capitalism and its victims.


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