[OPE-L:7096] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: slavery

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Tue Apr 30 2002 - 20:57:08 EDT

Dear Nicky,
Having found some time to reflect on the points you raise, I think that,
while i agree that labour does not create value, I think you are a bit
quick in jumping to the conclusion that "capital creates value" or even
more that "only capital creates value". certainly social relations
constitute value but these relations, even in capitalism don't reduce
entirely to the wage-labour capital relation, however much they all may
take the final form that they do because of it.

With respect to slavery, certainly the purchase of a slave is not a
contract with a formally free person, and mostly slaves were purchased from
other capitalists (merchants) although ultimately they were stolen in what
Jerry calls a bit of "primitive accumulation". The cost of the slave in
production is simply amortisation of the purchase price (as with any bit of
fixed capital) and maintenance costs. nevertheless, it would be wrong also
i think, simply to equate the profit of the the slave owner with the
earnings of a simple producer, or the earnings of a "capitalist" in a fully
automated economy, as Steedman does, when he suggests that you can have
"profits" without surplus value. Steedman is right about the fully
automated economy but this does not carry over to the slave economy, since
we have exploited people. Perhaps there is no "economic" difference between
full automation and slavery, but there is a social one that would best be
made out by speaking of slaves producing surplus-value and being exploited,
even though there is no s/v to measure it.

I found your points about value the hardest bit to deal with. I would like
to take the position that there is an abstract form of value much as there
is an abstract form of freedom in Hegel's philosophy of spirit. Hegel takes
"the most abstract form of freedom" to be the capacity to stand apart from
any committment whatsoever, and takes this as an aspect of more developed
forms of freedom, from freedom to do as one pleases through reflective
freedom to what he calls "rational freedom". Only in "rational freedom" is
free self-determination fully realised. Now I have been trying to concede
that only in capitalist self-valorising value is the substance of value
fully realised but also to hang onto the (albeit limited) theoretical
usefulness of the most abstract concept of value in relating other social
formations to capitalism.
I hope the point above about slavery involving surplus value whereas fully
automated production does not is not taken as a committment by me to the
idea that labour creates value. (I don't know what that means). My idea is
that all economies involve allocation and coordination of social labour and
that in commodity producing economies, this allocation and cordination is
achieved through exchange. Talk about the "value" (in the most abstract
sense) of commodities is thus talk of the allocating and coordinating role
of social labour performed by exchange of commodities (though not in
isolation from other aspects of the property system). Labour creates
products and these have "value" when social labour is at least in part
coordinated by exchange (the exchanges would have to be ongoing and
systematic: the occasional, accidental exchange of goods between tribes
would not constitute products as commodities).
I hope this clarifies my position,

>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

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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