[OPE-L:7366] [OPE-L:896] Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 10:41:30 -0400 (EDT)

Paul C wrote:

>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.

The analysis in *Capital* takes as its object generalised commodity
production or a fully developed capitalist mode of production which is
demonstrated to be necessarily built only on the foundation of wage labor.
As Paul Mattick Jr notes in his piece on value-price relatins, this
demonstration is best elaborated at the very beginning of "The Results of
the Immediate Process of Production". Please see pp. 950-1 of the Vintage
ed or section I of this appendix. While the demonstration is not completed
in the first few chapters of *Capital*, meaning here the first part (I
assume), Marx finishes the demonstration in the first part of the appendix.

By the way, Marx quotes Cairnes (internally quoted below) making exactly
the opposite argument you have attributed to him:

"This versatility appears to be quite distinctive mark of the free worker,
in contrast to the working slave, whose labour power is stable and capable
of being employed in a manner determined by local custom. 'Slave labur is
eminently defective in point of versatility...if tobacco is cultivated,
tobacco becomes the sole staple, and tobacco is produced whatever be the
state of the market, and whatever be the conditions of the soil." (1014;
see also 1034)

You also argue that

"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."

Here I am not convinced that the formal identity in the unfree status of
the worker is not obscuring important differences. You note for example
that slavery " [a]llows the surplus product to be readily produced as
commodities". But in modern slavery not only was the surplus product
*marketed* as commodities; the bulk of the output was *produced* to take
the value form. Meaning that the exploitation of slaves on modern
plantations was not 'restricted by more or less confined set of needs'.
Overwork of slaves was an exception in antiquity;

"hence in antiquity over work becomes frightful only when the aim is to
obtain exchange value in its independent monetary shape, i.e., in the
production of gold and silver...Nevertheless, these are EXCEPTIONS IN
ANTIQUITY...[t]he Nego labour in the southern states of the American Union
preserved a modernately patriarchal character as long as production was
chiefly directed to the satisfaction of immediate local requirements. But
in proportion as the export of cotton became of vital interest ot those
states, the overworking of the Negro, and soemtiems the consumption of his
life in seven years of labour, became a factor in a calculated and
calculating system." Capital I, p. 345 Vintage. (emphasis mine)

I don't think this distinction is made by Genovese or Hindess and Hirst.
That is, modern plantation slavery was organized around the pursuit of
exchange value while slavery in antiquity was generally undertaken for the
production of use values. This distinguishes the systems.

Yours, Rakesh