[OPE-L:1695] Petty commodity production, theory & history

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Thu, 4 Apr 1996 10:02:52 -0800

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Jerry (old)
When and where and as part of what mode of production did PCP exist as

Paul [OPE-L:1690]
PCP is itself a mode of production. On relatively impressionistic
grounds, I would say that it dominated for example the Irish Republic
in 1925.

Jerry (new)
I don't understand the above. My understanding suggests that petty
commodity production can take place within the context of a number of
different modes of production, but is not a mode of production itself.
If PCP is understood as a mode of production, please explain its
relationships to other modes of production. Do you see it as a
"transitional" m of p? Also please explain the internal dynamics of the
PCP M of P.

PCP is introduced in _Capital_, by my understanding, as a *logical* stage
in the process of explaining the transition from C-M-C to M-C-M'. I
believe, while it mirrors a actual historical period that has occurred in
many social formations, it has a logical standing similar to the concept
of simple reproduction. That is, simple reproduction was not intended to
describe the real process of the reproduction of capital, but was a
simplifying step, a *theoretical possibility*, that was needed to explain
the fundamentals of extended reproduction.

As far as Ireland in 1925 goes, wasn't it already a capitalist social
formation? If your answer is no, then when did the US economy become
capitalist? Also, what events in Ireland led to the transformation of the
PCP m of p into the capitalist m of p?

Because they are abstract categories which we use to categorise
some of the activities going on in real concrete social formations.
It is only matter in motion that undergoes development. The
material entities are the social formations.

Is capitalism merely an abstract construction or does it express a
"material entity" (a rather ambiguous term, BTW)?

Jerry (old)
No one, I think, would say that historical studies were not
a part of the process of enquiry. Are they a necessary part of the form
of presentation? If so, why?

A theory is just speculation, whatever its apparent internal consistency,
until it is confronted with the real world. As a materialist one has to
cite evidence that ones theory applies to some actually, or previously
existing reality. Scientific presentation must include the evidence.

Jerry (new)
My question, reproduced above, concerned the *form of presentation*.
While we want our theories to be rooted in material reality, on what
basis must the logical presentation and unfolding of a subject matter
include the historical evidence?

In any event, obtaining the historical evidence is relatively easy in
comparison with the task of developing a consistent theory that purports
to explain a social phenomena in which the appearances often hide and
obscure fundamental relationships.