[OPE-L:7244] Re: fundamentalism

From: Michael Perelman (michael@ecst.csuchico.edu)
Date: Thu May 23 2002 - 18:13:13 EDT

I have not been following this debate -- too close to the end of the
semester.  I did agree with what Rakesh said here.

To me, slaveowners were a mix of capitalist and precapitalist mentalities.
No single characterization would apply, outside their profiting from of the
abomination of slavery.

Many certainly used the slave-produced food to lower variable capital, even
though the South imported an enormous amount of food.  One of the problems
was that theft of food -- reports of stolen hogs seem to be the most
commonly reported problem.

Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> Nicky wrote in 7227
> >Hi Riccardo,
> >Thank you for the following comment on the nature of 'flames', which I
> >interpreted in the exactly the same manner as you did:
> >
> >>  (ii) may be it is a problem of language and culture, but translated
> >>in Italian, a parenthetical like "even Nicky who seems to be Jerry's
> >>good friend etc.", implying that an argument by Nicky in favour of
> >>Jerry should be due to the fact that she must be "a good friend" of
> >>him, would be judged as a flame.
> Nicky and Riccardo,
> I don't see how pointing to my putative bad behavior in any way
> answers the question of whether the moderator has offended. That I
> may have flamed someone  does not mean that someone else  hasn't also
> flamed someone. Sharing the blame with someone does not obviate his
> own blameworthiness.
> At any rate, I meant to say that disagreement between Jerry and Nicky
> over x (moderation) cannot be plausibly attributed to their not being
> good friends while disagreement between Jerry and me over x  could be
> understood to have been motivated by  strong (if not nasty)
> disagreements over y (the capitalist character of plantation
> slavery).  In other words, I was attempting to free myself of a
> charge of hidden motives, not to flame my good friend Nicky.
> [By the way, one of the interesting things about that previous debate
> over y was the non intervention by Michael P who after all argues
> that in some cases where  capitalists can  extra economically coerce
> proletarians to engage in commodity production even after they have
> already produced much of their own subsistence,  capitalists can
> enjoy a higher rate of surplus value than if it had to make money
> payments which are in themselves sufficient for the reproduction of
> labor power--in other words, Michael argues that the self production
> of subsistence may not only not make the production of value
> impossible,  it may in certain cases work to raise the rate of
> surplus value by decreasing the money that capitalists have to pay
> for the reproduction of labor power (the Cuban historian Fraginales
> and Robin Blackburn both made the same point).
> Of course  plantation capitalists still had to spend  sums of money
> for the reproduction of slave power (on cotton clothes, shoes,
> housing and church materials, fish, etc).  The value of that expended
> money was of course less than the new value which slaves objectified
> in what were commodities from the start: there was less labor time in
> the former than the latter.  Which is why Marx thought it was
> meaningful to speak of the rate of exploitation of modern slaves  and
> compare that rate to free wage workers.
> Of course a plantation capitalist must have reached the conclusion
> that the commodities (sugar, cotton, tobacco, indigo, etc.) which
> could have been produced in that time  slaves were allowed to produce
> their own subsistence would have yielded less  money value than the
> money it would have required to have purchased on the market those
> subsistence goods that slaves themselves produced. Of course if those
> subsistence goods were not even available on the market, then the
> capitalist had no choice than to have slaves produce their own
> subsistence.  And in a calculating and calculated system it often
> made  sense to allow slaves to produce much of their own food
> subsistence even if that meant condemning them to a bland, uniform
> diet while higher quality food stuffs could be bought on the market.
>   Capitalists also figured that  those slaves who could be used to
> produce food for immediate consumption were too infirm to  engage in
> say the backbreaking work of sugar production. So for plantation
> capitalists  the decision to use some slaves to produce food may have
> entailed little opportunity cost in  the form of foregone
> commodities. It did however allow them to reduce (but not eliminate!)
> variable capital (the money that they had to lay out for the
> reproduction of slave labor power) and thus raise the rate of
> exploitation. While condemning slaves to a miserable diet.
> Capitalism did not approach the pure form in these historical
> instances which their "impurity" should not make them any less
> historically relevant to Marxists (has anyone read Hamza Alavi's
> Capitalism and Colonialism?). And what was the pure case in the 15 to
> early 18th centuries anyway? Servants in husbandry in the English
> countryside seem to have produced much of their own food needs as
> well.  And which example better approximated the cooperative, large
> scale, intense, gang like nature of the labor process that is usually
> a mark of real subsumption?  At any rate, let it be noted that
> Michael P's historical research and theoretical model are very much
> in my favor: slaves (not all slaves, Nicky, though this would include
> those Scottish mining slaves of Adam Smith's time) can  produce
> surplus value despite being slaves and even if they produce their own
> food subsistence.
> Or in other words: despite owning slaves slave owners can at times
> primarily appropriate surplus labor not through the command of a
> product in kind or a product meant for immediate consumption or
> direct labor services but through the production of those
> capitalistic Commodities which are tendentially realized at prices of
> production. Not only that: modern plantation slavery was such a
> system that commodities had to be tendentially realized at prices of
> production if plantations were to remain viable enterprises. Marx
> thus compared slave plantations as capitalist enterprises to settler
> colony peasantries which were under no pressure to realize prices of
> production for those commodities that they dumped on the market after
> their consumption requirements had been met.
> Maybe Michael P will say a word about his excavation of the history
> of primitive accumulation and hiw own views as to whether extra
> economic coercion has been incompatible with capitalist exploitation?
> In referencing Grossmann, Eric Williams, William Darity, Fraginales,
> Blackburn, Dobb, Sweezy, Brenner, Wood, Albritton and others, I have
> tried to underline that my interest here is not an idiosyncratic one.]
> Rakesh


Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929
fax 530-898-5901

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