[OPE-L:492] Re: abstract labor -Reply -Reply

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Thu, 16 Nov 1995 14:12:37 -0800

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I think Paul M is probably right to say that commodity production
in the socialist countries was different from that under capitalism,
since although almost all output had a price, this was often just
an accounting price with no change of ownership occuring as it
moved between different state factories. It is also the case that
money in feudal europe could not in general buy land, and that
purchase of labour power, though it did exist was limited.
Land, however, is a poor example to take, as it is not a commodity
in the sense analysed in chapter 1 of capital, i.e., not a
product of labour.

Polanyi certainly makes a good case for trade in mesopotamia
and in other places like Dahomey being somewhat different from
capitalist trade, but I would have said that his analysis of
the function of the shekel as a unit of account indicates that
it was a universal equivalent.

But this argument indicates at most that there were restrictions
on commodity circulation in precapitalist economies, and that
their role in reproduction, or what amounts to the same thing,
their proportion of the labour product was lower than under
capitalism. But this does not remove the fact that there were
well developed systems of trade, money and credit with private
commodity exchange, and production for the market in a number of
pre-capitalist economies. This was certainly the case in
classical antiquity, and in europe of the middle ages and in
the arab world. In these societies products were made for
sale, purchased with money and sold on to final customers.
The resulting monetary circulation allowed the formation of
salaried state officials, a bureaucracy and army etc, supported
by monetary revenues.