[OPE-L:2581] Re: Classes and wage-labor

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Fri, 28 Jun 1996 04:58:05 -0700 (PDT)

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Paul C asked in [OPE-L:2580]:

> Why do you regard the ante-bellum south as a capitalist rather than
> a slave society?

The US in the pre-Civil War 19th Century was still primarily an
agricultural society, although, manufacturing was increasing in scale
primarily in the North and larger numbers of people were becoming
proletarianized. What primarily defined the US as capitalist, I believe,
was the level of integration of its economy within the world capitalist
market and its dynamic of increasing industrialization, concentration, and

Of course, specifying what the dominant mode of production is within
certain social formations historically can be tricky since all social
formations, to a lesser or greater degree, have elements and remnants of
pre-capitalist modes of production. Clearly the slaveocracy was a dominant
class in the South and it was precisely the conflict of class interest
between capitalists in the North who required a class of "free" wage
laborers and the slavocracy in the South which required the continued
existence of slavery for plantation labor which set the stage for the
Civil War.

At the same time, many other countries were primarily feudal economies
rather than being primarily capitalist (e.g. Russia) although most were
undergoing a process of social transformation and were increasingly
becoming capitalist.

Note to Andrew: would you consider small family farmers during this period
to be proletarians? Also, were the slaves themselves proletarians?

Perhaps Michael P. could tell us some more about this period since, I
believe, he has written on this subject.

In OPE-L Solidarity,