[OPE-L:7052] Re: Re: slavery

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Tue Apr 23 2002 - 23:03:37 EDT

i agree with Nicky's definition of the capital/wage labour relationship,
and agree with her that slaves are on a par with donkeys. But when she
asks, why should we not treat the labour of slaves on the same footing as
the efforts of donkeys (bith greater after a beating, etc), then i think
she has missed the point that slavery is an exploitative social system,
similar to though also dfferent from capitalism. The similarity is that
surplus labour is coercively extracted in both cases, the difference is
that the mechanism of coercion and its form of appearance differs. It makes
sense to speak of surplus value being produced by slaves who produce
commodities in that the surplus labour of the slaves takes the commodity
form. it will not, of course, make sense to measure the rate of
exploitation of slaves as s/v in value terms, since there is no 'v' in the
case of slavery. In patriarchal forms of slavery, and in the case of
southern US slavery in the case of domestic slaves also, surplus labour is
extracted but clearly the rpoduct does not take a commodity form and so
there is no surplus value.

In earlier forms of slave production of commodities (on eg Roman
latifundia) there may be debate about how developed the commodity form is
and of whether it is useful to talk of surplus value rather than simply of
surplus labour, but in the case of US slavery, which was integrated into
the world market of capitalism, it is useful I think to take the surplus
labour of slaves that produce commodities as part of the total surplus
value of the US capitalist economy,

>>> 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

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Philosophy Dept, School of Humanities,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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