[OPE-L:7364] [OPE-L:894] Re: Re: abstract labour

Wed, 14 Apr 1999 14:09:36 +0100

At 07:40 PM 13-04-99 -0400, you wrote:
I think that there has been some movement towards argeement.

You now conceed that abstract labour does exist in commodity producing
You are now saying, yes it did exist under slavery but that it
was only marginal in comparison to under capitalism.

I do not dispute that commodity production reaches a higher
degree of development under capitalism than under slavery. What
I would say though, is that if one were to rank the modes of
production primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism
in order of their development of commodity production, the order
would go:

primitive communism, feudalism, slavery , capitalism

This is because the slave mode of production :

1. Allows the surplus product to be readily produced as
2. Causes labour itself to appear as a commodity, so that
slave estates have to sell commodities in order to obtain
new supplies of slaves.

Of course there are differences between slavery and capitalism,
but there are also substantial continuities, and the differences
can not be identified at the level of the abstractions which
occur in the first few chapters of capital.

Both systems support the existence of an urban ruling class whose
income is in monetary form, derived from the exploitation of labour
in the production of commodities. Kautsky argues that this monetary
form of income of the ruling class was a precondition for the
development of science and philosophy as well as for the development
of republican government.

Hindess and Hirst argue that this monetary income also allowed the
operation of a standing army and imperial bureaucracy, and that
the collapse of commodity production and restriction of monetary
circulation following the advent of the colonate was instrumental
in the collapse of ancient civilisation.
One may see echoes of this in the de-comodification of the Haitian
economy after the liberation of the slaves.

I do, by the way, think that both New World slavery and classical
slavery were instances of the same mode of production. The modes
of production existing in other territories contemporaneously
obviously differed as did the global scale of commerce within
which they were embeded, but the basic social relations under
which the surplus was produced were the same.

Paul Cockshott