Reply to Gil Skillman by Rob Albritton In order to fully understand my position I would suggest that Gil read my book A Japanese Approach to Stages of Capitalist Development. In one short article critiquing Brenner, I could not fully develop my theoretical framework based as it is on an interpretation of Capital as fundamentally a theory of pure capitalism with two other levels of analysis implied or developed to some extent that I call: 'mid-range theory' and 'historical analysis'. In Volume Three of Capital Marx writes: And even though the equalization of wages and working hours between one sphere of production and another, or between different capitals invested in the same sphere of production, comes up against all kinds of local obstacles, the advance of capitalist production and the progressive subordination of all economic relations to this mode of production tends nevertheless to bring this process to fruition. Important as the study of frictions of this kind is for any specialist work on wages, they are still accidental and inessential as far as the general investigation of capitalist production is concerned and can therefore be ignored. In a general analysis of the present kind, it is assumed throughout that actual conditions correspond to their concept, or, and this amounts to the same thing, actual conditions are depicted only in so far as the express their own general type. (III, 241-2) And later in the same volume Marx writes: 'The constant equalization of ever-renewed inequalities is accomplished more quickly, (1) the more mobile capital isŠ(2) the more rapidly labour-power can be moved from one sphere to another and from one local point of production to another.' (III, 298) Marx goes on to claim the capital mobility depends on: (1) free trade and competition; (2) a credit system of mobilize social savings for capital; (3) all spheres of production are subordinated to capitalists; (4) a high population density. (III, 298) Labour mobility depends on: (1) abolition of all laws preventing the movement of workers; (2) indifference of the worker to the use-value character of the production process; (3) the maximum reduction of skilled to unskilled labour; (4) disappearance of prejudices of trade and craft amongst workers; (5) the subjection of workers to capital. (III, 298) A careful reading of Capital demonstrates that throughout Marx assumes 'that actual conditions correspond to their concept' and that among other things this implies for Marx the unimpeded mobility of capital and labour, or in other words a fully competitive capitalism. While such an economy never exists in history, Marx shows that it can exist in theory, and furthermore, that such a theory is essential for understanding how an economy that operates strictly in accord with commodity-economic principles must operate. In short, Marx's theory of capital reveals precisely what capital is when it operates unimpeded according to its own principles. This theory of unimpeded competitive capital that Marx introduces and Sekine refines, is what I refer to, following Sekine, as 'the theory of pure capitalism.' Clarity at the level of the theory of pure capitalism is essential in any historical analysis because revealing capital's inner logic is a precondition to thinking about the externalization of this logic in any particular historical context where it is articulated with numerous other social forces that may reinforce or compromise its inner logic. According to Gil the labour of Appalachian coal miners must be commodified (fully?) or not. According to my interpretation of marxian economics labour-power is rarely if ever fully commodified in history, but because we know what full commodification entails, we can explore its degree of commodification. And this is important, especially to the coal miners concerned. Indeed, I would argue that the general mobility of capital and lack of mobility of labour-power has been a central cause of the apartheid capitalism that now exists in the world. Perhaps Gil does not want to theorize degree of commodification, but instead wants to think in either/or terms. If he wants to think in terms of degree (absolutely essential to avoid economism I would think), then he must have some criteria of more or less. He apparently does not like my six criteria derived from thinking through the inner logic of capital as a theory of pure capitalism, but then he must come up with some others. Defending all six is more than I want to do right now, but I would say two are absolutely fundamental to my list and to Marx. When he states that workers are 'free' in two senses: free of all means of production and free to sell their labour power, I take this to mean that they have no access to any means of production and must therefore sell their labour-power, which fortunately they are free to do. According to these two criteria, putting-out workers represent an in-between position. In my book I discuss senses in which their labour-power is or is not commodified. To the extent that merchant capitalists strictly control the inputs and outputs of the putting out system and the fact that the tools in this case are of little value, deprives the direct producers' ownership of the means of production of much meaning. Hence, I would interpret Marx's 'formal subsumption' as a useful concept to apply to putting out production. Finally Gil again displays his either/or thinking in interpreting my article to have argued something like labour power is not commodified in British agriculture in 1700, therefore this agriculture is not capitalist, while in 1875 it is. The thrust of my article is to show that agricultural labour is much less commodified in 1700 than in 1875, and that there is a tendency for Brenner and his followers to reify 'agrarian capitalism'. The result is for them to read back into history a much higher degree of capitalist social relations than actually existed, which is not to say that embryonic capitalist forms that appeared early on in British agriculture did not play an important role in capitalism first developing in that country.
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