[OPE-L:2636] Re: assumptions, assumptions, assumptions

Michael Williams (100417.2625@compuserve.com)
Wed, 10 Jul 1996 15:13:37 -0700 (PDT)

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Jerry asks:
aren't there major features of
capitalism which aren't explicitly investigated? For instance, what about
foreign trade and the world market? It would seem to me that these
subjects need to be incorporated into a systematic dialectical
presentation rather than being relegated to "conjunctural accounts."

To which Michael W:

Oh yes, of course. I was not making any claims for the adequacy of R&W (1989) -
my reference to it was only as an example for (hopefully) clarifying levels and
axes of abstraction. As to foreign trade:

1. It is mentioned briefly prior to reference in conjunctural accounts, in
chapter 7 (along with that other great - and probably in this case systemically
necessary - missing section on the 'private sphere'.)

2. It raises some interesting methodological issues:
a) clearly it is to be introduced AFTER the account of the state, and
will be immediately preceded by a particularisation of The State into many
(nation) states.
b) it may be a case of a complex of phenomenon which is empirically very
significant, and structurally very important - but is never the less contingent.
Would you want to make a case that many nation states and foreign trade were
systemically NECESSARY to the reproduction of the capitalist economy and the
bourgeois epoch? The issue can only be settled by immersion in the available
information about foreign trade, in the light of the systematic
conceptualisation, but there are reasons to suspect that the structure of nation
states is a pre-bourgeois historical sediment, so that its passing away would be
associated with a development rather than the transcendence of the bourgeois
c) Once again systemic necessity/contingency need not carry with them the
everyday connotation associating them somehow with major and minor
significance, importance or whatever in any general sense.
d) Of course 'international competition' is a major alibi for would-be
social democratic governments as to why they have to emulate right wing policy
stances. (In the UK, reference to 'globalisation' of the economy lies behind the
New Labour arguments for almost all of their rigthward policy shifts.) However,
even in the hypothetical case of a single world state, the same imperatives of
the value-form, valorisation, accumulation and so on would be brought to bear on
any progressive policy moves in some other form. (BTW, I understand that the
trendy notion of 'globalisation' has been subject to serious empirical critique
- anybody got any references?)

Jerry goes on:
Also, how is landed property and wage-labor (where there is subjectivity
for wage laborers *as* wage laborers rather than only as members of civil
society) incorporated into the presentation?

Michael W.:

I am not quite sure what you are getting at. As I recall, both landed property
and wage-labour are dealt with in R&W (1989), in outline, at the level of
capitalist production, and as income sources.

Comradely greetings

Michael W