[OPE-L:7438] Re: The putting-out system

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Mon Jul 22 2002 - 11:49:38 EDT

Gil, I shall only reply now to a part of 7437:

>If "free" is meant in the first of Marx's "double sense," (i.e., 
>free to sell one's own labor power), as suggested by your following 
>remarks, I would say the answer is clearly yes, since Marx defines 
>surplus value as the increment (M' - M) emerging from some circuit 
>of capital M-C-M' subject to two conditions:
>(a) (Production):  New value must be produced subsequent to, and 
>dependent on, the advance of the initial M;
>(b) (Realization):  a portion of the value newly produced must be 
>appropriated via the circuit by someone--i.e., the capitalist--other 
>than the producer of that value.
>Nothing in this definition is contradicted by the use of slave 
>labor.  To the contrary, the purchase of slaves would be part of the 
>initial exchange M-C.  Then the slaves would be *directly* coerced 
>in production to yield C', which is then sold to yield M'.

Yet to take  issue with myself (!) and you, I think an argument can 
be developed on the basis of Weeks' and Brenner's  brilliant 
contributions in Capital and Exploitation and Analytical Marxism, 
respectively, that slavery stands as an impediment to truly 
capitalist production, aimed at the expansion of surplus value and 
governed by the law of value.

Once the slave owner has come in possession of slaves he has no need 
to hire or pay wages for the control of labor. He thus has no need to 
make back any outlay on monetary wages through the production of 
commodities for the market in order to reproduce over his time his 
ability to control labor. With no compulsion after the costs of slave 
purchase had been recouped to sell on the market in order to renew 
his ability to re hire the wage labor out of which surplus labor can 
be extracted, the slave owner is also under no compulsion to produce 
competitively and thus continuously introduce technical and 
organizational improvements and achieve economies of scale. In other 
words, his own consumption needs can be met without the further 
mediation of the market; once he has recovered his costs, including 
the purchase price of slaves, he has no need to alienate commodities 
at an ongoing monetary profit which could then be capitalized to 
achieve economies of scale and technological renovation so as to 
ensure the continuing viability of his enterprise in the competitive 
market through which his claim on surplus labor has to be mediated.

  While the emergent capitalist tenant farmer found that the payment 
of rent and renewal of his lease depended on the tendential sale of 
produce at prices of production, the slave owner could arguably have 
sold agricultural output at rather arbitrary prices without 
jeopardizing his continued control over surplus labor which could be 
commanded as product in kind and direct labor services.  In short, 
the plantation owner may not have been compelled to sell and sell at 
(transformed) value and was for this reason not a proper capitalist 
on whom the market operates coercively towards the end of profit 
maximization (M-C-M') and accumulation. The slave owner can thus 
seemingly retreat back from the market and the compulsions which it 
imposes into the shell of the natural economy and devote his slave 
crew to self-supply while selling physical surpluses at arbitrary 
prices. The slave plantation then differs hardly from feudalism in 
which the lord retains control over the persons of serfs.   Unlike 
English capitalist agriculture, modern slave plantations  were hybrid 
entities oriented, to be sure, to market exchange but capable of 
surviving without it--betwixt feudalism and capitalism, yet closer to 
the former.  And indeed modern plantation owners did retreat into 
this shell of natural economy  when the market for plantation crops 

Slavery is more clearly compatible with C-M-C than M-C-M+.

It is after all a mistake to infer from the marketing of commercial 
crops alone the capitalist character of plantation slavery. If in 
fact plantations were organized such that production was diversified 
and aimed at meeting the needs of slaves and slave masters (with 
dependants)  alike--though this was clearly not the case in the 
British Caribbean where cash crop production dominated over 
subsistence agriculture, thus making serious malnutrition an endemic 
problem--then it is indeed possible that only physical surpluses were 
marketed, and marketed only in order to increase in roundabout 
fashion the luxury consumption of the plantation ruling class. Jairus 
laid this out in his theory of feudalism in the Journal of Peasant 
Studies 20 years ago; perhaps it applies well to the Brazilian 
fazenda system.   That is, surpluses were marketed or commercialized 
in terms of the circuit described by Marx as commodities for money 
for commodities: C-M-C; moreover, as noted above, there need not have 
been any compulsion to alienate plantation output at value.  Through 
this circuit plantation owners were able to import luxury goods which 
their own slaves could not produce--say, fine wine or clothing.  This 
would then be unlike capitalist commodity production in which the 
reproduction of commodity producing enterprise depends on exchange 
aimed at the expansion of money value out of the increment of new 
value (roughly profit) of which the subsistence and luxury needs of 
the ruling class are primarily met.   Plantation trade thus need not 
have entailed or aimed at the expansion of money capital if 
superfluities on the plantation were traded not systematically at 
value and thus for the purpose of the valorization of capital but in 
order to diversify the luxury goods which slave masters  could 
consume. Production for exchange does not itself mean that the 
circuit of capital  (M-C-P-C'-M') rather than that of commodity 
exchange (C-M-C) is in effect.

Yet--we do seem to agree--it is a mistake to conclude that when 
apparently ancient forms of exploitation (serfdom, corvee labor, 
slavery, etc.)  are in effect, trade can only  be a moment in the 
circuit of commodity exchange (C-M-C) rather than the valorization of 
money capital (M-C-M'). However, trade and commodity exchange on 
slave plantations are indeed not evidence in themselves of the 
capitalist character of plantations as trade and commodity exchange 
could have had the same function as they did, say, in feudalism about 
which Marx wrote the following (a passage which Jairus highlighted):

In periods of the dissolution of pre-bourgeois relations, there 
sporadically did occur free workers whose services are bought for the 
purpose not of consumption , but of production; but firstly, even if 
on large scale, for the production only of direct use values, not of 
values, and secondly, if a nobleman e.g., brings the free worker 
together with serfs, even if he resells a part of the worker's
  product, and the free worker thus creates value for him, then this 
exchange takes place only for the superfluous [product] and only for 
the sake of superfluity, for luxury consumption; is thus at bottom 
only a veiled purchase of alien labour for immediate consumption as a 
use value. 

	At the same time, the circuit of capital is certainly not 
antithetical to luxury consumption the expansion of which should not 
be taken as evidence against the capitalist character of the ruling 



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