[OPE-L:7347] [OPE-L:877] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 12 Apr 1999 10:27:54 -0400 (EDT)

Paul C,

>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.

That the nation state may regulate the movement of people hardly proves
that those restrictions impede the mobility of labor required for the
system of generalised commodity exchange in and through which most human
needs are met.
One cannot assume these restrictions inhibit the movement of labor. For
example, workers are not allowed to bring their families under the H1 visa.

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

Of course slavery involved the massive forced movement of people, but
slaves were confined to the range of productive activities on the estate or
plantation. Displacement does not prove mobility. The bulk of labor was
free peasant proprietors producing at or near subsistence. Neither such
peasant proprietors nor slaves comprise that pool of unattached labor, that
is people needing to work for moeny wages as their only way of acquiring
use value values for a living, that is the absolute precondition for the
development of capital markets. The market in labor was nothing more than
seasonal or casual. Money could generally be advanced, in order to grow,
only through circulation, or buying and selling, and it was not possibile
to use production in general as a means to this end, because money did not
have the command over labor that is required to achieve that; in other
words, money did not serve as capital.

Scott Meikle's chapter "The Ancient Economy and Its Literature" in his
Aristotle's Economic Thought. Clarendon, 1995. 162

>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.

"Virtually all lending was *erranos* lending, and as Millett notes, a
survey of the known motives behind eranos-or friendly loans reveals no
instance of its productive use. The purpose of comercial lending, which in
any case was very restricted in sclae, was consumption, not productive
investment. The main reasons for loans of all kinds 'were almost invariably
asociated with the unpleasant necessities of life--ransoms, fines, burials,
foot shortages, tax palyments and public serice. Wage labor, where it
existed, was entirely seasonal or casual, and free men would do almost
anything to avoid it, because they regarded it as a more demeaning
condition even than slavery....Unless ther are siginficant markets in
capital and wage labor, market relationships cannot be the way in which the
surplus of society is extracted and appropriated, as they are in market
society. In that case, such relationships can have been no more than
important marginal aspects of the essential life processes of that

Meikle, p. 164

>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.

Perhaps it could be argued that Roman law alone provided the basis for
generalised commodity production in that it allowed the sharp development
in the distinction between between property and mere possession. Perhaps
this in part explains why capitalism developed in "The West" first?

Modern capitalist law incorporates a very significant
>constraint on the generalisation of commodity production by prohibiting
>the buying and selling of human beings.

That 'constraint' is of course a prerequisite for the commodification of
labor power, which is necessary for the creation of a pool of unattached
labor, that is people needing to work for money wages as their only way of
acquiring use value values for a living,

And thanks for the advice.

Yours, Rakesh