[OPE-L:7442] Re: Re: The putting-out system

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Mon Jul 22 2002 - 17:57:15 EDT

At 08:49 AM 7/22/2002 -0700, you wrote:
>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.

Perhaps so, but this is different from the question you originally posed, 
and that my above statement answers:

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

Thus I could agree with what you now say here without disowning my original 
point.  Even granting that slavery "stands as an impediment to truly 
capitalist production," I think it's theoretically legitimate, and 
consistent with the evidence, to suggest that slave labor was consistent 
with the production of surplus value, as Marx defined the term.

>Once the slave owner has come in possession of slaves he has no need to 
>hire or pay wages for the control of labor.

I don't see this.  Didn't slave owners routinely hire overseers and "slave 
drivers" for just that purpose?  Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you mean by 
the phrase "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.

I'm also not entirely sure how this follows.  In addition to the costs of 
overseers, the slave owner unlike the capitalist producer had to pay for 
slaves up front as capital assets, and arguably slave labor is not the most 
productive form of labor process.  Thus it is not at all evident to me that 
slave owners were "under no compulsion to produce competitively" etc.  To 
the contrary, if slaveowners were competing against dynamic capitalists who 
*did* continually introduce such improvements, it seems to me that they 
would soon find themselves forced to compete in the manner you suggest, 
even if they didn't start out that way.

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

I agree that slavery is *compatible* with C-M-C, but for reasons suggested 
above I don't think it is at all *incompatible* with M-C-M+, even if it 
would not have been as dynamic as capitalism based on wage labor.


>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 
>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 class

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