[OPE-L:7658] class monopolies and class differentiation

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Sep 14 2002 - 08:36:21 EDT

Re Gil's [7655]:

> But there's a second way to interpret the term "monopoly," and I think
> it's
> consistent with Marx's usage of the term in various places  in Volume III,
> as a *class* monopoly over given means of production--meaning that
> ownership of these means is not general but restricted to a particular
> class, who thereby enjoy the power to command positive rents, *even in the
> absence of any collusion, or conscious efforts to restrict quantities and
> thus raise prices above what would otherwise obtain.*

At the point of analysis in which absolute rent is introduced there is a
presumption of a three class system of wage-labourers, capitalists and
landowners ("the three great classes in modern society").   There is
the *assumption* made that the capitalist class is the sole (monopoly)
owner of capital and landowners are the sole  (monopoly) owners of land.
It is in this sense that these classes could be said to have a class

Even if this assumption is made within the context of the discussion of
the role of  gold in a money commodity system re the  transformation
problem,  it  is an assumption which *must* be modified to explain
capitalist dynamics.   The presumption of a class monopoly on ownership
(and control) of the means of production and land is misleading for
several reasons:

a)  To explain long-term tendencial and historical processes such as
proletarianization and class polarization, it must be recognized that
capitalists do not (nor have they ever had) a class monopoly on the
ownership and control of means of production.  What that assumption
obscures is the important historical reality of "intermediate classes"
of petty-producers (e.g. small businesses) between the capitalist class
on one side and the working class on the other.  So long as this
not-capitalist  strata exists which owns and controls means of production,
they  have the capacity to survive without becoming wage-workers.
Similarly, there  are peasants (and family farmers) who own land (and
means of production) but who are not part of the landowning class (or
the capitalist class).  This must be recognized if we are to model a
dynamic process in which rather than the working class becoming
enlarged over time only by entrants from former landowners and
capitalists, but by increasingly former  members of these other layers
from  the so-called "middle classes" (used in  this sense not to refer to
income but to strata which exist "in the middle"  between the two/three
major classes).  This is required to reasonably describe the processes
of the centralization and concentration of capital which  accompany
the accumulation of capital.  I should also note that a dynamic Marxian
model should also include the industrial reserve army.

b) putting aside trivial cases (like producer cooperatives), there are
significant  ways in which the class monopoly assumption under capitalism
doesn't hold :

i)  rather than landowners and capitalists existing as two completely
distinct classes,  we must recognize that capitalists as a class in many
social formations  *are* large landowners.   Indeed, this is a historical
trend.  A current way in  which one can observe this trend is by
examining the extent to which large  industrial corporations and
agro-business have become integrated (through  e.g. mergers and
acquisitions.)  Indeed, this  is a consequence of the mobility  of money
capital and efforts by capitalists to obtain the highest possible
rate of profit (or RRI if you prefer) which is the underlying mechanism
behind the formation of a general rate of profit and POP.  (In addition,
this is also a manifestation of another characteristic of modern
corporations: increased diversification).

ii) while land may be _primarily_ owned by the landowning class,
they do not have a monopoly on that ownership.  Putting aside the
extent to which capitalists have become landowners (see above) and the
extent to which the state is a major landowner (which is very important
in many contemporary social formations), there are also strata who
_also_ own land, such as landowning peasants and small-family farmers.
Even where landowners still have monopoly _power_, a  class monopoly
would not exist in the sense that they have _sole_ ownership and control
of land.

These points are important to recognize for political comprehension as
well:  to e.g. treat small business owners as if they were just a
sub-division of the capitalist class or poor peasants as if they were simply
a sub-division  of the landowning class would confuse possible class
allies with class  enemies.

Note also that the existence of these "strata" (for lack of a better term --
I avoid the use of the "petty-bourgeoisie") is not merely a question related
to contingency.  Rather, to explain the dynamic process of capital
accumulation, they must be brought into the picture (see above) and the
assumption of class monopolies on ownership of capital and land must be

Do you (and others) agree?

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Sep 16 2002 - 00:00:01 EDT