Re: [OPE-L:8609] From Ian Wright on Weeks and Simple Commodity Production

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Mon May 19 2003 - 03:30:01 EDT

Ian, I am sorry that my reply is so delayed and so brief. Where I am
more detailed, I do not really speak to your points.

>  For example,
>the guilds of the middle-ages tried to limit the number of labourers
>employed by rich masters.

But that would put restrictions on the adjustment of supply;
commodities could thus exchange above value.

>  I do not think whether
>the market participants are wholly dependent on the labour of others is
>decisive. The dependence can be partial.

Yes, this is what I don't see. Once partial independence is allowed,
the rational strategy would seem to be first self provisioning of
subsistence and then marketing surpluses only; those surpluses need
not be sold at value in order to ensure the reproduction of the
production unit.

>  For example, in Capital he
>considers a situation of private commodity producers, without workers or

No I think the class relations are in the background from the
beginning; Marx just explicitly introduces them later for logical
reasons. E.g., has to develop from the analysis of the commodity
itself the difference between exchange value and value and use value
because  free wage labor cannot be analyzed before logical
development of said real distinctions..

>  He deduces that if total money is fixed and exchange is money
>conserving then total profits are zero and therefore cannot arise from

This is tautologously true.

>This deduction motivates the introduction of an extended model
>with a new social relationship, that between workers and capitalists.
>To make such a deduction Marx must have thought that a SCE was a logically
>coherent concept.

  I disagree.

>I must confess to ignorance about the authors you mention in relation to
>Cohen. If you could tell me in a sentence or two who I should read and why
>that would be a great help to me.

Written from a non Marxist perspective, Brendan O Leary's Asiatic
Mode of production introduces very important problems for the theory
of historical mateiralism. Some critiques of Cohen include Robert
Brenner's in Analytical marxism, ed. Roemer (Brenner's critique is
implicit), a chapter in the book by Andrew Levine, Elliot Sober and
Eric Olin Wright. These critiques are from within analytical Marxism.
 From without one may consult Derek Sayer's Violence of Abstraction.
Richard Miller
I have the idiosyncratic point of view which may one day be
hegemonic: The father of historical materialism was not Karl Marx but
Richard Jones. He differentiated societies in terms of the  forms of
the wage fund and the forms of rent and then developed a theory of
the differential effects of these forms  on the development of
productive forces. That is, while many Marxists are content to define
the relations of production in terms of the ownership of the means of
production and the relationship of the direct laborer thereto (slave
master as owner of means of production and labor; Asiatic state as
owner of means of production; peasant self-ownership of land and the
use of extra economic means to pump out the surplus;  wage labor
dispossessed of the objective conditions of production which are
owned by capitalists and the basically economic compulsion to produce
the surplus),

Jones further specified those relations in terms of the form of rent
or the form in which surplus labor was pumped out and in terms of the
forms in which the wage fund appeared. He had a richer idea of what
marx would describe as the relations of production than I remember
Cohen having.

**ryot rent/tax, characteristic of the Asiatic--leads largely to
tyranny, though Jones may be more nuanced here than Marx; discourages
development of productive forces. Use of direct extra economic
coercion to secure surplus.
**labor rent/serfdom, prevalent East of the Elbe--degradation of the
laborer, degradation of juxtaposed free laborer, low productivity.
Use of direct extra economic coercion to secure surplus.
**rent in kind/metayer rentsharecropping, which developed out of the
Roman empire, and found mainly in Continental Europe (despite
presence of actual capitalist agricultural enterprises in, e.g.,
Lombard). A relatively progressive, yet limited, form for the
development of the productive forces.  Use of direct extra economic
coercion to secure surplus.
**money rent/cottier rent, dominant in Ireland as a result of its
proximity to the developed markets of England; actually entails a
step back in the living conditions. Use of direct extra economic
coercion to secure surplus.
**farmer's profit, here surplus labor is not claimed first and
foremost by the landowner but the capitalist who has himself paid
the wage out of and towards the end of making profits--only the
surplus portion of which is now appropriated by the landlord. The
wage fund is neither self produced nor subtracted from revenue for
the purposes of consumption but rather paid by the capitalist out of
and towards the end of profits. Accumulation is financed mostly out
of profits rather than self produced wages or rent.  Some forms of
West Indian slavery fit this capitalist model.   According to JOnes
this is most perfect machine for the production of wealth, and was
unique at that time to England whose tradition of common law is
claimed to undergird this new tripartite regime of
landlord-capitalist-wage earner (Robert Brenner has famously given
another explanation for the emergence of this tripartite regime in
England) . Has the most potential for on-going productivity growth
which in turn has allowed for city-based growth of industrial
capitalist enterprise--Jones emphasizes the great advantage in labor
productivity england has over France (though he says nothing about
land productivity).  No use of direct extra economic coercion to
secure surplus, though again certain forms of West Indian slavery are
subsumed under this form.

Jones's is a theory of the uniqueness and superiority of England;
Jones does suggest that this form too will find itself historically
superceded. Marx of course did not rely on the argument by analogy,
i.e., since other economic forms of society have passed into other
forms, bourgeois society will have to dissolve as well. Rather Marx
attempted to understand how exactly it was that capitalist society
would develop (its laws of motion) in such a way that class struggle
(and class struggle alone) could intervene to transform it.

Yours, rakesh

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