[OPE-L] Arise ye wretched of the earth

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 29 2005 - 01:03:29 EST

Append this etymology to my previous post (slightly emended below).

O.E. wrecca "wretch, stranger, exile," from P.Gmc. *wrakjan (cf. O.S.
wrekkio, O.H.G. reckeo "a banished person, exile," Ger. recke
"renowned warrior, hero"), related to O.E. wreccan "to drive out,
punish" (see wreak). Sense of "vile, despicable person" developed in
O.E., reflecting the sorry state of the outcast, as presented in much
of Anglo-Saxon verse (e.g. "The Wanderer"). A Ger. word for "misery"
is Elend, from O.H.G. elilenti "sojourn in a foreign land, exile."

Most interesting is relation between wretch and elend, given
controversy of how to understand increasing misery thesis. The
increase of elend is the numerical increase of those cast out, exiled
from capitalist production to live within "a foreign land" which
marks not only a physical but also social space. To say the ABC's:
the question of misery thus cannot be separated from the question of
how space, far from being an a priori category, is a social
construct, of how space is specifically organized (segmented,
hierarchized) in this kind of riven society (Poulantzas was one of
the first to attempt in highly elusive prose to theorize the
time-space coordinates of the capitalist nation state, and we all
know of David Harvey's efforts).  I don't think there are any
geographers on this list, but there are a lot of economists some of
whom don't want to spell out for us the difference between money and
a numeraire!

At any rate, I think for Marx misery is a thoroughly spatial
question. Giovanni Arrighi would agree, I think.

Previous post:

This is how I understand Marx's general law in briefest terms:

Accumulation of capital raises its organic composition which in turn
depresses the profit rate, but the depression of the profit rate is
not incompatible with a rising in the rate of accumulation (see quote
below) which expresses itself in an increase in the absolute level of
employment though at a diminishing rate; the absolute rise is thus
not sufficient to absorb the new population and the population
expelled from both declining firms and industries and non capitalist
sectors. Marx assumes that capitalist industry will favor the former,
making wretches of the displaced workers whose numbers grow

Here's the quote from volume 3 I had in mind:

"[Richard] Jones is right to stress that despite the falling rate of
profit, the 'inducements and faculties to accumulate' increase. Firstly, on
account of the growing relative surplus population. 2ndly, beacuase as the
productivity of labor grows, so does the mass of sue value reprsented by
the same exchange value, ie. material elements of capital. 3rdly, because
of the increasing diversity of branches of production. 4thly through thre
development of the credit system, joint stock companies, etc, and the ease
with which the possessor of money can now transforme it into capital
without having to become an industrialist capitalist. Fifthly, the growth
in needs and desire for enrichment. 6thly, the growing mass of investment
in fixed capital, and so on." Capital 3 Vintage, p. 375

Marx's crisis theory is not based on a falling rate of profit but an
insufficiency in the mass of surplus value.

Yours, Rakesh

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Mar 30 2005 - 00:00:02 EST