[OPE-L:7436] Re: Re: Re: Re Aoki on K and M on money

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Jul 20 2002 - 13:28:22 EDT

re Gil's 7433:

>>  production.
>Viewing the putting-out system through the lens of Marx's analytical 
>categories, I understand the putting-out system to be an instance of 
>the circuit of merchant's capital that involves the commodification 
>of labor power but *not* the subsumption of labor under capital, in 
>even the formal sense.  Insofar a this system is a form of surplus 
>value production, then subsumption is not required for capitalist 
>exploitation, or at least wasn't required under the class conditions 
>obtaining in that era.

But how is labor power commodified in the putting out system? The 
craftsman does not alienate labor power to the merchant.

>If this is an accurate summary, it prompts two questions:  first, 
>what made it possible for capitalist exploitation to occur without 
>even the formal subsumption of labor under capital, and second, 
>would it be possible for surplus value to exist--if perhaps not at 
>the same magnitude as in the circuit of industrial capital 
>characterized by wage labor and capitalist production--on the basis 
>of putting-out production under modern class conditions?

Well to the latter question I would say no because putting out 
production will tend not to be economically competitive vis a vis 
large scale, cooperative enterprise.

Let me add another question. Is free wage labor necessary for the 
production of surplus value?

In The Origins of Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review, 1999): 70-71 
Ellen Wood simply asserts at one point that only when workers are 
dispossessed and thus dependent on money wages and the market for 
their subsistence goods does the market begin to operate coercively 
by compelling competition, accumulation and profit maximization. 
However, Wood provides no clear reason  why only with the emergence 
of free wage labor and the consequent dependence of direct producers 
on the market for their subsistence does the market cease to provide 
only opportunities for exchange and trade but become the kind of 
coercive institution which is uniquely capitalist

(While Wood makes no use of Marx's value theoretic reasoning,  John 
Weeks however does make  a Marxian argument in his brilliant Capital 
and Exploitation, pp. 39-40; however, Weeks does not argue with Nicky 
and Jerry that surplus value can only be produced by free wage labor 
but rather that value only regulates production when free wage labor 
is generalized and the means of subsistence thereby monetized--Nicky 
and Jerry would have been on stronger grounds if they had pursued the 
latter argument, in my opinion, though as I tried to show Marx 
himself rejected it for very good reasons in the case of modern large 
scale plantation slavery in which the means of production and much 
subsistence were in fact largely monetized despite the formal 
unfreedom of the direct producers and [the law of] value did more or 
less regulate production as evidenced by the shifting of slaves to 
the most profitable activity and the bankruptcy of plantations which 
could not maintain profitability).

At any rate,  Wood proceeds to focus not on free workers at all (this 
seems to be an implicit concession to Albritton who has underlined 
that early agriculture workers were often servants in husbandry) but 
on farmers or tenants who had to produce cost effectively or 
capitalistically in order to ensure the renewal of their leases. That 
is, Wood's actual argument does not in fact demonstrate a link 
between free wage labor and characteristically capitalist dynamics 
but between competitive landlord/tenant relations and dynamic 
productivity growth. And indeed Wood comes to realize that this is 
the argument which she has presented:

Šit is important to keep in mind that competitive pressures, and the 
new 'laws of motion' which went with them, depended in the first 
instance not on the existence of a mass proletariat but on the 
existence of market-dependent tenant-producers. Wage laborers, and 
especially those who depended entirely on wages for their livelihood 
and not just for seasonal supplements (the kind of seasonal and 
supplementary wage labor that has existed since ancient times in 
peasant societies) remained very much a minority in seventeenth 
century EnglandŠIn other words, the specific dynamics of capitalism 
were already in place in English agriculture before the 
proletarianization of the work force. (95)

Indeed! Yet if the work force did not have to be free wage 
proletarians in order to labor in capitalist agriculture enterprise, 
then why could have slave plantations also not been capitalist 
enterprises? Wood thus does not present a case against the capitalist 
nature of that peculiar institution which depended on the unfreest of 
labor and thus does not justify the almost total excision of the 
barbaric trade and institution from her parochial history of early 
capitalism (save one sentence with no mention of Inikori, Solow, 
Blackburn and others) and the apartheid division she in effect 
maintains between English agriculture and plantation agriculture in 
theorizing the origins of capitalism.

All the best, Rakesh

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