[OPE-L:7435] definitely not about Ch. 5

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Date: Sat Jul 20 2002 - 13:21:55 EDT

At 03:44 PM 7/19/2002 -0400, Gil wrote:
>Don't worry about summarizing the key elements of the Zmolek--Albritton 
>exchange, Rakesh, I just went and scanned it myself. Despite some annoying 
>aspects I found it quite interesting--many thanks for bringing it to my 
>attention.  I'm also interested in pursuing our point of agreement re the 
>putting-out system.  I believe we can do this without risking a return to 
>the Chapter 5 quagmire.

Hi Gil,
    I'm off on that isolated island again and so have no access to that 
exchange (unless it's available on-line); I'd love to hear what you found 
interesting and what you found annoying. As for avoiding a return to the 
Chapter 5 'quagmire' (although, as you know, I've always felt the 
problem--if any-- is in Chapter 6), that remains to be seen.

You wrote:

>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.
>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?

         There are two questions that, in my view, need clarification: (1) 
what do you mean by formal subsumption and (2) what do you mean by the 
putting-out system? Consider several alternative states. In each, the 
craftworkers own some of their own means of production (e.g., a loom) and 
work within their own homes.
         A. The craftsman (X) obtains raw materials (RM) from the merchant 
(Y), transforms them in some way and yields all the finished products 
(P)  to Y and receives in return a money-payment.
         B. X obtains RM from Y, transforms them and yields a portion (q) 
of P to Y; the remaining portion X sells as commodities (in C-M-C). q is 
determined in accordance with a contractual ratio of P/RM.
         C. X obtains RM from Y, transforms them and yields a portion (q) 
of P to Y; the remaining portion X sells as commodities (in C-M-C). q is 
determined as a given proportion of P.

         There are obviously other variants but these may suffice. How 
would you distinguish among these? Ie., do you see these as qualitatively 
         I would describe A as a case where the worker is formally subsumed 
under capital. The worker here has property rights in neither the raw 
materials nor the finished products, works in accordance with the goal of 
that merchant and only in and through the merchant- manufacturer's capital. 
Obviously, the limited surveillance means that workers are cheating as much 
as possible in order to extract themselves from this relationship but this 
would not alter the nature of the relation.
         Now, if my deduction holds (and the putting-out system encompasses 
A), your premise above is faulty. So, either you don't consider A as part 
of the putting out system or you don't view it as formal subsumption. In 
either case (or both), it would be interesting to know why.

         in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: Phone (604) 291-4669
         Fax   (604) 291-5944
Home:   Phone (604) 872-0494
         Fax   (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810

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