[OPE-L:7098] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: slavery

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 01:13:38 EDT

Hi Ian [7096],

>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.

I'm glad we agree that labour does not create value, and hope we can agree
still further.  When I say that 'only capital creates value' I don't mean
to imply any 'reduction' (god forbid!) of social form to the
wage-labour/capital relation (although possibly I stressed that aspect too
strongly).  What I mean is that value content (labour time) is determined
systemically by a social (value) form, capitalism (labour time in other
social forms of production does not constitute the content of value, the
latter being a specifically capitalist attribute of the relations between
products of labour).  So, the circuit of capital is a form determination
(in the sense that technical processes are subordinated to valorisation
processes, and the object of production is value in money form).  The
question, then, is where does labour come in?  In stressing the
capital-wage labour relation, I wanted to stress the use-value aspect of
wage labour. i.e. the labour power of wage labourers purchased on labour
markets is what capital makes use of to create value.
>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 guess I want to reserve the term 'exploitation' for capital's *use* of
wage labour to produced surplus value (therefore profits).  As you point
out, the term 'profit' is problematic when applied to the monetary gains of
slave owners (because slaves don't produce surplus value).  If slaves don't
produced s.v. (you agree?), and it is not possible to have profits without
s.v. (contra Steedman), then clearly slave owners don't make profits.  What
do they make?  It seems to me that in theorising what someone (Alfredo?)
called slave-capitalist relations we are in need of new concepts, if only
to avoid confusion.
>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 agree with you that value is the abstract universal concept for
capitalism.  But isn't it the case that the abstract universal concept
(value) is empty without further determination?: i.e. value has to prove
itself through ever more concrete grounding in all of the many
determinations that constitute capitalism as it *essentially* is.  Here
there is surely some need to tease out the necessary from the contingent.
Can we agree that wage labour is necessary to the existence and
reproduction of capitalism, while slave labour is not necessary?  If so,
the problem is how to theorise slavery (surviving within capitalism).  The
concepts appropriate to further determinations of surplus value (i.e.
profits) just can't be made to serve this double purpose without being
self-contradictory (in my view).
>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.

I think we have some shared understanding on the idea that labour *doesn't
create value*.  But are you suggesting a generalisation for 'exchange'?
For me, the exchange of money-capital for labour power is a historically
specific (value form), or 'mode of association' (as Mike W argues in his
CJE papers).  If the content of value is form determined, it is because of
this particular type of market exchange (in which capital purchases the
capacity to labour by paying a wage).  The concept of exchange thus takes
on a different meaning in capitalism (beyond that of merely facilitating
labour allocation).     

>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). 

Yes, but *not only*. Value is economically meaningful only as a process,
because to be self-valorising value it must take on many forms (money
capital is value, commodities are value, profit is value, etc).  I don't
think we can take value production as just a special way of allocating
labour (given certain property relations).  More important, at least for
the concept of exploitation, is that a value form (of production for
exchange) determines the *character* of labour in capitalist societies.

>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,

Thanks for the clarification.  

>>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
>>>>>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
>>>>>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
>>>>>>by labour).  Most importantly, it is a purchase external to the
>>>>>>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
>>>>>>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
>>>>>>wage advanced by capital to labour is a payment external to the
>>>>>>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
>>>>>>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
>>>>>>of the product according to their success in class struggle (i.e.
>>>>>>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
>>>>>>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
>>>>>>prices, etc.  For example, capital is nothing without wage labour,
>>>>>>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
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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