[OPE-L:7100] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: slavery

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 21:19:46 EDT

Dear Nicky

>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.
Well, to avoid confusion, I would like NOT to reserve the term
"exploitation" for capital's use of wage labour, and I would like to be
able to say that merchants, userers and slave-owners make profits because
they amke money on  money capital advanced in trade, loans and slave
labour. I don't agree that slaves producing commodities do not produce
surplus value, though I agree that they do not produce surplus value as a
result of a capitalist's use of wage-labour. That you need to find new
terminology is evidence I think that the value-form theory as you have
interpreted it is insisting that its theoretical use of various terms is
definitive. I would prefer to talk about the specifically  CAPITALIST forms
of exploitation, surplus value and value, rather than appropriate Marx's
conceptual machinery solely for the analysis of the CMP.

>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.

The most abstract form of value always receives further determination (see
above where I emphasise that commodity exchange is not to be understood in
isolation from other aspects of a property system), but I don't think that
this is necessarily the further determinations of CMP. I am prepared to
accept that the CMP bestows on value its most complete expression, but it
is surely an empirical matter whether there is or is not a pattern behind
the phenomena of exchange in other systems of commodity production,

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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