[OPE-L:7050] Re: slavery

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Tue Apr 23 2002 - 10:55:08 EDT

>> 4. Jerry has argued that I make it impossible to differentiate  how 
>> the intensification of labor is accomplished in slavery from how it 
>> is accomplished in wage labor capitalism. Does Jerry think that 
>> employers  had no rights to corporal punishment in capitalist 
>> factories in the 18th and 19th century?! At any rate, even if 
>> physical coercion is outlawed in modern capitalism, why does this 
>> mean that surplus value cannot be produced by slaves?

It seems to me that Rakesh *entirely* misses the point.  It is simply this.
 The capital-labour relation is constituted both in exchange (a wage
payment to labour) and in production (a legally enforcible time commitment
by labour).  Most importantly, it is a purchase external to the capitalist
class.  It is external because it is a payment *to workers* and not to
*other capitalists*.  This alone sets labour apart from natural and
produced inputs to production, and from slaves who are owned and
distributed among capitals just as if they were donkeys or bullocks.   If a
donkey is beaten and forced to spend 10 hours a day pushing a handle on a
well to crush olives into olive oil, do you believe it creates surplus
value?  If not, why not?  

I say not.  Because donkeys like slaves are exchanged internally among
capitals according to competitive laws of equal exchange (i.e. their price
on markets).  Exchange of slaves is no different to the distribution of
other existing resources (given that property rights under slave systems
extend to ownership of people and donkeys alike).  By contrast, the money
wage advanced by capital to labour is a payment external to the capitalist
class and is not an equal exchange.  i.e. the value of labour power (the
real wage) differs in magnitude to the value that living labour valorises
for capital during the course of the working day.  The fact that workers
sell only a capacity to labour (not labour) and share in the distribution
of the product according to their success in class struggle (i.e. success
in struggle over the terms and conditions of actual labour) alone gives the
term 'rate of exploitation' its meaning.  

As I see it, Marx's demonstration that labour time in production is the
*sole* source of an increase in value rests entirely on the fact that
capital makes an initial external payment to labour in the form of wages.
If you do not make this connection, you cannot exclude nature as a possible
source of surplus value.  The argument is *implicitly* made throughout the
Introduction to the Grundrisse, which discusses the connection between
production and distribution in different systems (including slavery) and
the importance of beginning with concepts relevant to a historically
specific mode of production.

'These classes [capital and labour] in turn are an empty phrase if I am not
familiar with the elements on which they rest.  E.g. wage labour, money,
price etc.  These latter in turn presuppose exchange, division of labour,
prices, etc.  For example, capital is nothing without wage labour, without
value, money, price, etc.' (Marx, 1857-58, p.100 [1973, Penguin ed]).



Nicola Taylor
Faculty of Economics
Murdoch University
South Street
W.A. 6150

Tel. 61 8 9385 1130 
email: n.taylor@stu.murdoch.edu.au

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