[OPE-L:7065] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: slavery

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Thu Apr 25 2002 - 06:56:54 EDT

Hi Ian [7062],
I too think it a will be an interesting exercise to separate and clarify
our agreements from disagreements:

>Well, we can take the most abstract definition of value as social labour in
>the form of exchange-values (even in the case of cxommodities with 'empty
>form', we have exchange values).

For me, labour does *not* create value.  Capital creates value out of
labour (i.e. wage labour is the *source* of value; but labour in general is
not value). 

Since capital (not labour) produces value, the reformulation of your
question would then be: can capital produced value out of non-wage labour?
To date I have argued that this is not the case, because the pre-requisite
for capital to produce value is that money capital be transformed into
productive capital, and that requires a purchase on labour markets (i.e.
exchange of money-capital for labour power). The purchase of a slave is a
purchase of a capacity to labour, no question about that (but like purchase
of other means of production - such as a donkey, which also has a capacity
to labour - it is an exchange internal to the capitalist class, hence a
distribution of existing values).  

In order that capital create surplus value (out of its exploitation of
living labour in production) is, then, the external purchase of labour
power from workers (on the market).  We probably can reach some sort of
agreement on this, right?

>A more developed concept of 'value' might
>take it as having all the attributes of value in the capitalist mode of
>production. Some of this is terminological: if we can agree that slaves
>produce commodities that have 'value' in the most abstract definition of
>'value', as above, then all slaves producing commodities produce surplus
>value in that sense.

The problem here is indeed terminological in that we don't agree on the
meaning of 'value' as an abstract universal concept for capital.  For me
value is *process* rather than a fixed definition: i.e. value is
self-valorising only by way of its transformations through the successive
forms.  As Marx argued against Bailey, value is fundamentally a comparison
of itself with itself at different points in time.  For this to happen
capital has to metamorphose through its 3 forms (money-capital,
productive-capital, commodity-capital, returning to money-capital).  Since
an essential part of that metamorphosis is the transformation of money
capital to productive capital (with the purchase of labour power for wages)
I don't see how anyone could say that value (in its most abstract sense as
process) exists. 

If 'value' does not exist without wage labour, then the process of surplus
value creation cannot take place without an exploitation of wage labour.
This is not to say that wage labour creates value.  Only capital - in
productive form - creates value, and only because capital - in money form -
has already set the value producing process in motion. (I hope this
distinction between the initiating creative cause of value, and the source
of value is clear). 

So what of the products of slave labour?  Graziani in his writing on Marx's
theory of money made much of a distinction between the the capital-labour
(external) exchange relation and the capital-capital (internal) exchange
relation.  The former to do with the process described so far, of proving
that capitalists exploit wage workers.  The latter, to do with the
distribution of produced commodities among capitalists.  Borrowing this
distinction I see no reason why, in principle, the products of slave labour
would not be distributed among capitalists along with commodities produced
by wage labour.  After all, money capital can leave the circuit of capital
or re-enter it at any time.  Hence, the products of slave labour might
enter or re-enter into a new circuit - a new value producing process - as
inputs (means of production) or as workers' wage goods.  

It should be clear why I have no problem with this.  Basically because I
see no need whatsoever to establish any fixed identity between two totally
different magnitudes (values and prices), relating to two totally different
orders of exchange relations.  Imo, the capital-labour relation, which has
to do with the proof of capital's (class) exploitation of wage labour (a
class), is not of the same order as the competitive exchange relations
among individual firms, which have to do with distributive issues of
relative prices and the rate of profit.  On this, I agree with Tony Smith's
remark in his 1990 book that to try to establish magnitudes between
exchange values [belonging to the first order of relations] and prices of
production [belonging to the second order of relations], makes very little
[no] sense. my innovations to Tony's statement in []           
>You might say that no commodities outside capitalism have value in its most
>developed form. Where slaves produce commodities in a capitalist market you
>have a choice between saying that these commodities lack developed value
>(call it "Value') because they are not produced by wage labour, or that
>they have value in that sense because they circulate as all other
>commodities with Value do. In any case, they will be indiscernible from
>commodities with value.

In circulation there is, of course, no way to distinguish olive oil
produced by slaves (or the olive oil produced by donkeys) from olive oil
produced with wage labour.  I hope to have shown, though, that this is not
a conceptual problem since the exit and entry of capital (in money or
commodity form) from any point in the circuit is not precluded.  The
conceptual problem occurs, rather, at the level of the capital-labour order
of relations (at least that's how I have understood it so far).  
>I think we can and should separate issues where there is fundamental
>agreement from issues where there is dispute. Everyone seems to agree that
>commodities have 'value' in the most abstract sense, whatever system they
>are found in (and so that slaves producing commodiites produce 'value' in
>that most abstract sense). Some might think that capitalism is essentially
>characterised by a more developed value, others might think value is the
>same wherever it is found.

Well I hope to have clarified (this time): 1) my agreement with you that
commodities have value (are a form of value); 2) my disagreement that
labour produces value, albeit wage labour is the source of value, and 3)
why slaves do not produce either commodities (a value form) or values.  On
the other hand, this is a new terrain that I've never before considered, so
very much a trial and error process going on here to work out a position.
I'm not even sure that it's useful to do so, but certainly its interesting. 


>>Thanks Ian.  Of course, I never denied that the labour of slaves creates
>>'products' that can be exchanged.  Perhaps in the case of commodity form
>>without a value content, we are back in the realm of 'empty forms'??
>>Best Nicky
>>At 12:33  24/04/02 +0930, you wrote:
>>>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
>>>> 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
>>>>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
>>>>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
>>>>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
>>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
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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