[OPE-L:7103] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: slavery

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 23:51:27 EDT

At 11:49  2/05/02 +1030, you wrote:
>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.

Sorry, I don't understand this.  Either slaves produce surplus value or
they don't.  Either surplus value results from capital's use of wage labour
or it results from capital's use of labour in general (including both wage
labour and slave labour).  Which is it?  For myself, I agree with Rubin as
to the impossibility of reconciling a historical concept of value with a
concept of surplus value produced by labour in general. 

>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.

Is there something wrong, per se, with a search for meaningful terms in a
debate?  As a very general observation, participants in value debates often
use the same terms to mean completely different things, leading almost
always to a dialogue of the deaf.  In any search for understanding, then, I
prefer to give some idea of what *I* mean by a term, and try at the same
time to understand what *you* mean by it.  Is there something wrong with
this approach?  

Clearly you think so, since you interpret a search for understanding as
'evidence' that VFT insists on definition.  Please explain.  When I say
that a term means A within a particular system of thought, why do you
consider my usage more definitive than your use of the same term to mean
'B' within a different conceptualisation?  And where in past communications
did I "insist" that my usage of the term is definitive?  I merely said that
I consider that in a theory of how capitalism works, concepts have
relevance only to capitalist forms (whatever their historical precedents
might be).  If you prefer to have a general notion of exploitation where
capitalist forms constitute a particular case, that's fine by me (I am
simply trying to understand how that works for you since, clearly we are
talking about different things).       

In any case, let us avoid arguing over who has the *correct* use of a term;
since terms are located within an entire system of thought meaning does not
exist in isolation.  Contrary to what you seem to be implying (above),
concepts CANNOT be defined within VFT because value, surplus value, profit
etc have meaning only in relation to the INTERCONNECTION that they have
with other concepts determined within the whole.  In discussing the meaning
of concepts I am doing little more than meeting *your* request to establish
(if we can) what are the differences and similarities in our points of view.  


>>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
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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