[OPE-L:2109] pre capitalist commodities

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Wed, 8 May 1996 02:07:59 -0700

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>Alan again:
>Being abstract, it is equally true for all societies in
>which commodities exist.
>Michael W.
>Surely not? I guess Alan and I have a different notion of 'abstraction' : for
>me, that objects having some of the characteristics of the capitalist commodity
>exist in other forms of society, does not make a commodity grasped just in
>of those aspects which are in common, an 'abstraction'. When we abstract to
>a high level that we move out of the conceptualisation of the bourgeois epoch,
>we move into the realm of trans-historical categories (useful objects, being
>etc.), which are not simply the subsumption of what epochally specific
>manifestations of these categories have in common.

Paul C
I have to side with Alan on this. To say that commodities can exist in non
capitalist economies, and that the abstract analysis of commodities
in Chap 1 thus applies to these, is not to turn the commodity into
a trans-historical category.

The set of societies which produce commodities remains a subset of
the whole. Commodity production was well developed in the Roman but
not the Inca empires, and this entailed very significant differences
between the two societies.

Commodity producing societies have institutions and structures in
common that non-commodity producing societies lack. There are differences
between capitalist and pre-capitalist monetary systems, but they
are a good deal more subtle than anything brought out in the first
volume of Capital.

If Alan is wrong to say that at the level of abstraction operating in
the first part of Capital 1, the categories apply equally to pre-capitalist
commodities and money, then Michael should be able to cite features that
are presented there, which, when applied to pre-capitalist systems of
commodity production, are mainfestly false. It is not clear what he
takes these to be.
Paul Cockshott