'accumulation' proper v. 'primitive' or 'primary' or 'by dispossession'

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Sat May 08 2004 - 20:27:15 EDT


Thanks for clarifying the personal issue, as it had been nagging at me.
We can move on.

I've not read Harvey's book but have found an article by him on the web (
http://titanus.roma1.infn.it/sito_pol/Global_emp/Harvey.htm ) "THE
DISPOSSESSION" which I guess is the same point.  There he wants "to argue
that the inability to accumulate through expanded reproduction on a
sustained basis has been paralleled by a rise in attempts to accumulate by

And Harvey goes on to say that a "general re-evaluation of the continuous
role and persistence of the predatory practices of 'primitive' or
'original' accumulation within the long historical geography of capital
accumulation is, therefore, very much in order, as several commentators
have recently observed.  Since it seems peculiar to call an ongoing
process 'primitive' or 'original' I shall, in what follows, substitute
these terms by the concept of "accumulation by dispossession."

I agree with avoiding use of 'primitive' or 'original' accumulation within
the modern context, i.e., leave it for the period Marx used it: for the
original transition from feudalism to capitalism.  You perhaps agree also.
We could stop there and cheer the agreement.

But it's not so easy.  First off, Andre Gunder Frank in 1978 offered
'primary accumulation' for the modern context to replace 'primitive
accumulation' for the historically specific context.  I don't see
recognition in Harvey for Frank (unless it's in Harvey's book), i.e.,
'accumulation by dispossession' is the same as Frank's 'primary
accumulation' (or so it seems to me).

Second, in both Frank and Harvey 'accumulation' itself retains the
ambiguity I argue it has in some of Marx's own work.

As an experiment try substituting 'capitalist development' for
'accumulation' in Harvey (whenever he does not add 'by dispossession) or
almost all other Marxist economic literature.  It will work; I don't think
you'll find a difficulty.  And that is because there is no distinction, at
least of consequence.

I'm struggling against this looseness.  Leave 'capitalist development' as
the loose (non-theoretical) expression; sharpen the meaning of
'accumulation' and, in the process 'overaccumulation' (referred to often
by Harvey).

This is my message.


Vol.21-Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds, Elsevier Science
********************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

On Sat, 8 May 2004, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> Hi Paul Z,
> >
> > Seeing your message today on a different topic, I recall that you haven't
> responded to a prior reply of mine.  I remain a bit irked by a
> personalization of myself by yourself: Do you still feel, perhaps privately:
> "To you in your academic position, all this this might be a bit of poetry,
> but to many people, including myself, it's been not a joke, but a miserable
> reality,..."?
> > I certainly do not feel as uncompassionate as your wording -- referring to
> academic position and joking -- suggests.
> I think you're a great guy, a great scholar, and I think Research in
> Political Economy is among the good journals in heterodox and Marxian
> economics. So in that sense, I have no wish to get offside with you at all.
> Let's just say I got a little polemical or tempremental inappropriately, but
> that this was not intended as a slight on your character or ability, more a
> query along the lines of: is this a serious discussion or not ?
> Substantively, I was trying to say:
> (1) that processes of dispossession occur all the time in the history of
> capitalist development, including (something I did not mention) among
> businesspeople themselves (we are not talking centralisation of capital
> here, but direct expropriation of some business people by others, by legal
> or illegal means). The central idea Marx had, was that capital must first
> gain command over a workforce, and when this has occurred, then the
> capital-relation can reproduce its own initial conditions on a larger and
> larger scale. But this neglects another important idea, implicit at least in
> Grossman's theory and explicit in Mandel's theory, namely the imperialist
> impulse contained in market expansion. And the point to be made there is,
> that at least one of the modalities of market expansion is original
> (primitive) accumulation through dispossession, and that this is an ongoing
> process, something which Marx just doesn't consider in detail, quite
> possibly because the actual way that disposession occurs, is a historically
> contingent circumstance involving a battle between social classes.
> Nevertheless I think it is important to understand this aggressive impulse
> as inherent in the capitalist mode of production, and not just some kind of
> "add-on". It's one of the reasons why I tend to be skeptical about
> globalisation theories, which do no justice to the real dynamics of
> capitalist competition in geographic territory.
> (2) the concept of "primitive accumulation" is also used as a kind of
> metaphor or joke in some circles, but it really isn't. I have since read
> your paper on the topic and realise that you understand this quite well, but
> I still do not understand why then you would restrict the concept of
> primitive accumulation to the transition from feudalism to capitalism. As I
> have said, I am closer to David Harvey on this aspect of Marx's theory.
> As regards my personal circumstances, Jerry does not permit discussion of
> this on OPE-L list, which is intended for scholarly discussion by Marxian
> and heterodox scholars, and I must strictly abide by that (it's one of his
> conditions for participation) - we can talk about that offlist if required.
> Respectfully,
> Jurriaan

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