[OPE-L:7455] Re: Re: Formal subsumption and putting-out

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Wed Jul 24 2002 - 12:43:24 EDT

Rakesh writes

>Marx did speak of the revolutionary role merchant capital could play in 
>the establishment of capitalism proper. I think Sweezy is right about this 
>revolutionary potential of merchant capital in the old debate with Dobb. 
>This revolutionary path seems to lie in merchants reorganizing the putting 
>out system for the purposes of direct control over the production process, 
>described by Alavi thusly:
>>By contrast, in the 'putting out system' the entrepreneur took the raw 
>>materials round to the weavers, from door to door, and collected the 
>>finished cloth. He soon realised that instead of going from door to door, 
>>he could simplify his task by bringing all his weavers under one roof. 
>>That gave rise to the factory system which, in turn, led to mechanisation 
>>and a transition to the Industrial Revolution. That dynamic was absent 
>>given the financial organisation of production in India.

I agree with this characterization, for reasons given below, but it is 
interesting to contrast this with Marx's own take on the "revolutionary 
path" from the feudal mode of production:

"The transition from the feudal mode of production takes place in two 
different ways.  The producer may become a merchant and capitalist, in 
contrast to the agricultural natural economy and the guild-bound handicraft 
of medieval urban industry.  This is the really revolutionary 
way.Alternatively, however, the merchant may take direct control of 
production himself."  [KIII, p. 452, Penguin]

The reason I agree with Rakesh and Alavi's characterization is that feudal 
commodity producers, say  guild masters or rural handicraftspeople, were 
used to producing for the ultimate sake of use value, and thus weren't 
spurred by the prospect of making profit.  Not so merchant capitalists, 
whose interest in reaping (greater) profit led them to the putting-out 
arrangements of commodity producers in the first place.


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