[OPE-L:7446] slavery and the shell of natural economy

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Tue Jul 23 2002 - 09:22:23 EDT

re 7442

my mistake was to pose the question in terms of whether forms of 
exploitation other than wage labor are consistent with the production 
of surplus value rather than in terms of whether the law of value 
comes to regulate production at both the level of the enterprise and 
the mode of production only with the generalization of wage labor. 
Weeks is best understood as making the latter argument. If you have 
time, may I recommend that you consult the original, especially 
chapter 2 of Capital and Exploitation. The title of the chapter is 
Value as a Social Relation, but even you won't find this discourse on 
value to be mumbo jumbo, I believe!

>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.

But once the purchase price of slaves has been amortized--and let's 
assume that through cash crop production this could be accomplished 
in well less than a year-- why not turn slaves back to self-supply 
and patriarchal economy? If slave self supply is more or less 
adequate, then there is no need to secure on the market subsistence 
goods  the monetary cost of which then need not be valorized through 
the production of new commodities. To be sure, plantation owners may 
command slave labor to produce cash crops after the subsistence needs 
of slaves, slave masters and slave drivers have been met in order to 
diversify the luxury goods available to the ruling plantation strata, 
but while the market does present an opportunity here, it may well 
not operate coercively (as Ellen Wood may put it) on slave owners.

This is roughly how I understand Weeks' point:   when and only when 
labor is doubly free does the capitalist find that he can only secure 
labor power for exploitation through the ongoing payment of a 
monetary wage which as variable capital then has to be valorized 
through the competitive production of commodities sold tendentially 
at prices of production if the capitalist is to have command over 
surplus labor time at all, and be in a position to accumulate so as 
to achieve the ongoing viability of his enteprise.

There is thus a link between the payment of monetary wages and the 
compulsion to produce and sell commodities at prices of production 
which implies the regulation of production by the law of value since 
price of production is a transformed value.

Of course I would maintain that many plantations were not set up to 
be or even capable of being largely self sufficient estates (Braudel 
is quite clear about this) and thus inextricably tied in to the world 
market such that the means of subsistence were in fact monetized to 
the extent that it was profitable in a calculating and calculated 
plantation business.

All the best, Rakesh

>  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.
>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.

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