[OPE-L:7343] [OPE-L:874] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Mon, 12 Apr 1999 11:59:27 +0100

At 02:20 PM 09-04-99 -0400, you wrote:
>Paul C wrote:
>>Just as well as it is a complete fantasy when it comes to portraying the
>>ancient economy. Slaves could be, and were, used for the production of
>>many of the same goods as free citizens.
>Certainly slavery put some constraint on the mobility of labor. Abstract
>labor is both cause and consequence of the generalisation of commodity
>production: only if labor can 'freely' move to any branch of commodity
>production can all needs be met through commodity exchange.

This is either overstated or plain wrong.
There are constraints on the mobility of labour in the capitalist
world as well, the existence of nation states with frontiers inhibits
the movement of labour. There is never complete mobility of labour.
In historical terms however, slave economies are characterised by
high mobility of labour. What else was the slave trade but labour

There is no need for labour to be free for it to be mobile, that is
just a modern prejudice unsupported by history. Labour in chains
can be readily moved, and indeed for most of history, servitude
has been a precondition for labour mobility.

Slave economies also show highly developed levels of commodity
production, developed monetary and credit systems - international credit
crises are described by Tacitus in the first century. The general
view of economic historians is that European trade, in particular
seaborn commodity trade, did not regain Roman Imperial levels until
the early capitalist period ( say the 17th century ).
The legal framework of property law developed under slavery was
essentially the same as that required for capitalist production,
which, Marxist legal historians hold, was the key reason for
the re-introduction of Roman law into in the early capitalist
period in Europe.

Roman law provides the perfect juridical reflection of generalised
commodity production, arguably it is an even more complete
reflection of generalised commodity production than is modern
capitalist law. Modern capitalist law incorporates a very significant
constraint on the generalisation of commodity production by prohibiting
the buying and selling of human beings. Real generalised commodity
production necessitates a trade in slaves, the breeding and
raising of slaves under profit maximising conditions etc.

I suggest that rather than concentrating your reading on third
hand sources (comentators on marx indirectly commenting on
historians) you pay more attention to economic historians
and writers on slavery.

>>>What do you think of Geoffrey Hodgson's criticism of your and Paul's ideas
>>>about socialist planning in his latest book?
>>Could you give me a reference to his book?
>Yes, it is in latest book from Routledge, 1999. Economics and Utopia.
>Yours, Rakesh
Thanks for the reference.

Paul Cockshott