From: Rakesh Bhandari (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Mar 03 2003 - 13:54:32 EST
Dear Ian, I have not yet read your paper. It seems however that it does critique propositions which I put forward in July, 2002 on this list. Let me ask first how you are defining a simple commodity economy. I referred to Weeks' discussion of patriarchal agrarian households which largely self subsistent only alienated surplus commodities. But it seems to me that this would not count as a case of simple commodity production for you since SCP involves complete specialization and interdependence? If so, this raises the question of whether it makes sense to speak of such specialization and interdepedence in the absence of social classes. I do have my doubts. Yours, Rakesh Here's my old post: X-Sender: email@example.com Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2002 11:02:35 -0700 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Rakesh Bhandari <rakeshb@Stanford.EDU> Subject: [OPE-L:7465] Simple commodity production Reply-To: email@example.com Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org re Andrew T's 7464: >Rakesh. >Though an ope-l user I have missed this discussion about C-M-C. To pick up >on Chris Arthur, Marth Campell, Fred Mosely' s arguments that it is >capitalist, do I need to look at old ope-L files, or is it in their (your, >if your reading) published writings. I would like to study these and make a >reply. > >Just off the cuff, I am sympathetic with Gil's argument that Marx does have >a method of starting out with simple (unrealistic assumptions), like the one >that prices=values. Simple reproduction is another stage in the complexity.I >can't understand why you are frightened of simpe commodity production. Not frightened. Just don't think law of value in direct form (that is prices tending to be proportional to values) would have regulated simple or petty commodity production (self proprietorship) to the limited extent that it existed historically. This is an Engels-Meek fantasy which has been effectively criticized in my opinion by Weeks. Assume those engaged in simple commodity production are patriarchal agrarian households. As Weeks argues (Capital and Exploitation, pp. 37ff), there would be no compulsion for such units to alienate commodities at value and thereby realize the surplus labor embodied therein. First, the basis for accumulation which could result from the capitalisation of potentially realized surplus value is severely limited by the size of the family. Second, failure to sell at value would not jeopardize the reproduction of the largely self-supplying natural unit. It is exactly because simple or petty commodity producers or colonial settler peasantries are not regulated by the law of value in any form and thus willing to market physical surpluses at arbitrary prices that they pose a threat to the development of capitalism which alone is regulated by the law of value. I have quoted this passage a couple of times before: "Two different aspects must be distinguished here. First, There are the colonies proper, such as in the US, Australia, etc.Here the mass of the farming colonists, although they bring with them a larger or smaller amount of capital from the motherland, are not *capitalists*, nor do they carry on capitalist production. They are are more or less peasants who work themselves and whose main object, in the first place, is to produce *their own livlihood, their means of subsistence. Their main product does not become a *commodity*, and is not intended for trade. They sell or exchange the excess of their product over their own consumption for imported mgf commodities, etc. The other, smaller section of the colonists who settler near the sea, navigable rivers, etc. form trading towns. There is no question of capitalist here either. Even if capitalist production gradually comes into being, so that the sale of his products and the profit he makes from this sale become decisive for the farmer who himself works and owns his land: so long, as comparedwith capital and labour, land still exists in elemental abundance providing a practically unlimited field of action, the first type of colonisation will continue as well and production will therefore *never* be regualted according to the needs of the market--at a given market value. Everything the colonists of the first type produce *over and above* their immediate consumption, they will throw on the market and sell at any price that will bring in more than their wages. They are, and continue for a long time to be, competitors of the farmers who are already producing more or less capitalistically, and thus keep the market price of the agricultural product *below* its value... "In the second type of colonies--plantations--where commercial speculations figure from the start and production is intended for the world market, the capitalist mode of production exists, although only in a formal sense, since the slavery of Negroes precludes free wage labour,which is the basis of capitalist production. But the business in which slaves are used is conducted by *capitalists*. The method of production, which they introduce has not arised out of slavery but is grafted on to it. In this case the same person is capitaist and landowner. And the *elemental* [profusion] existence of the land confronting capital and labour does not offer any resistance to capital investment, hence none to the competition between capitals. Neither does a class of farmers as distinct from landlords develop here. So long as these conditions endure, nothing will stand in the way of cost price [by which we understand price of production--rb] regulating market value." TSV, part II Moscow, pp. 301-3 > Thuis >seems to be extremely useful in defining what capitalism is and isn't. Why >does it have to be capitalist? Its difficult to see on the email where you >are coming from. So as I understand Marx the law of value does not regulate pre capitalist modes of production--in particular petty commodity production the historical existence of which is questionable--in some simple, direct or unmediated form while an indirect form of the law of value (i.e., prices of production) regulates capitalist production. It is of course possible that in early capitalism the law of value operated less indirectly than it would as capitalism developed. But this is a different claim than a direct law of value regulated pre capitalist petty commodity production. I think Marx makes the first claim; Engels the second. Marx may be right; Engels seems not to be. That is, the law of value has only ever regulated production in an indirect form. Adam Smith on the other hand recognized the regulatory power of the law of value only in the direct form of beaver-deer exchanges in pre capitalist modes of production.
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