[OPE-L] 'primitive' or 'original'; "so-called" or not; expropriation and accumulation

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sun Sep 10 2006 - 10:12:56 EDT

Just quickly, I do not know what Marx had in mind here. I do know Marx &
Engels dated the beginning of the "capitalist era" in Western Europe at
1600AD. Various arguments can be made about that, using various criteria.

The origin of capital markets (long-term loan money) in North Holland can be
traced back to the end of the 14th century, using public authority records
that have been preserved - it is quite possible the capital markets
originated with public debts (in some cases Dutch state authorities borrowed
internationally); the origin of substantive markets for goods can be traced
back to the 1200s, a land market existed in the 1400s. Episodic wage labour
was already known here in the 1300s. The development of markets occurred
hand-in-hand with the development of public authorities and contracting
institutions that defined/protected property rights, thus, state and market
were "twins" from the very start.

I do not subscribe to an orthodox Marxist theory of original accumulation
though, because I think these origins involved both the gradual, incremental
expansion of markets, expropriation/indebtedness/privatisation, unequal
exchange in trade, and state policy. Thus, the question of how the original
capitals accumulated is a more complex story than Marx suggests in his brief

The actuality of the problem of original accumulation is however
demonstrated e.g. by the UNCTAD report I cited previously. How can you
create markets where none or few exist? How can local capital be channeled
into job-creating production? This is centrally a problem of property
relations and social relations, but this problem is typically expunged from
economic theory - it is said to be a "legal" or "socio-political" or
"cultural" problem, i.e. an extra-economic "environmental" problem
concerning various forces which impede the efficient operation of markets.
Basically the economic wisdom here can be summarised by saying is that "you
have markets if you have a supply and demand for goods and services with
market prices". But that is a bit of a non sequitur.

Thus the official reason given for the lack of broadbased capital
accumulation in Third World countries is typically the absence of
"institutional structures" regulating market trade. A more likely reason is
that capital seeks the best returns in the world market such as it exists,
and this often negates the requirements of balanced economic growth within a
country. Export-led development, which is the true foundation of
"globalisation", may enrich a select group of exporters, but does not
necessarily benefit the society as a whole, making the whole society
wealthier. Specifically, in the Third World you could have a lot of peasants
thrown off the land, without this propertyless proletariat becoming employed
in industrial production - in part because local industrial production could
not compete internationally, in part because the locally accumulated capital
was placed in more profitable, less risky but non-productive,
non-jobcreating  areas, or it left the country.


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