[OPE-L:953] Re: Pure and Normal

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Mon, 5 Feb 1996 11:42:07 -0800

[ show plain text ]

A follow-up on Patrick's post. He questioned the following passage:

> In a recent posting, Gil Skillman writes (in part):
> <Since it remains the case that capitalist
> <exploitation may exist without the capitalist mode of production, both
> <on the authority of Roemer's formal argument and Marx's oft-repeated
> <historical argument, and that such exploitation *necessarily*
> <involves the non-equivalence of prices and values, my conclusion
> <that Marx's chapter 5 argument (which insists, remember, that any
> <setting in which surplus value is appropriated is isomorphic to the
> <case of price-value equivalence) is invalid remains intact

Patrick asks:

> How precisely does capitalist exploitation take place without the
> capitalist mode of production?....

Marx is quite clear about this conclusion, and repeats it
emphatically throughout his historical work. The analytical answer
to Patrick's question is that "the capitalist mode of production"
involves subsumption of labor under capital, at least in the formal
sense, but subsumption is not required as a matter of definition for
capitalist exploitation to exist. The latter only requires that
capitalists appropriate surplus value from value producers via some
circuit of capital. Marx argues that this occurs in the cases of
usury and merchant's capital, when extended to small producers.

In a mini-exchange with Jim Devine on PEN-L about a year ago I gave a
set of citations from Marx's work corroborating his belief that
capitalist exploitation historically arose without the capitalist
mode of production. Thanks to Alan Freeman I've since found a whole
new layer of Marx's writing which supports this conclusion and offers
supplementary material.

A sampling: From the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863 (COLLECTED
WORKS, Vol. 34, pp. 118-120):

[Under usury] labour is not yet formally subsumed under capital. It
*does not employ the ryot as labourer*; he is not a wage labourer,
any more than the usurer who employs him is an industrial
capitalist....And yet the usurer appropriates not only the whole of
the the surplus value created by the ryot, i.e. all the surplus
produce over and above the means of subsistence necessary for his
reproduction, but he also takes away from him part of the latter...
The usurer functions as a capitalist in so far as the valorization of
his capital occurs *directly* through the appropriation of alien
labour...[it] combines together capitalist exploitation without a
capitalist mode of production...

Marx subsequently adds: "...What we have said of usurers' capital is
true of merchants' capital."

Capital, Vol. III, p. 732: "Usurer's capital has capital's mode of
exploitation without its mode of production."

Grundrisse, p. 853: "What takes place [with usury] is exploitation
by capital without the mode of production of capital."

One finds parallel and supplementary passages in Capital Vol. I, the
Resultate, and Theories of Surplus Value Part III, in addition to the
sources listed above.