[OPE-L:7367] [OPE-L:897] Re: Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Wed, 14 Apr 1999 16:51:15 +0100

At 10:41 AM 14-04-99 -0400, you wrote:
>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.

Yes, but this does not imply that all of the concepts used
in the first volume of Capital are exclusively applicable to
capitalist production. Some of the economic categories are
inherited from earlier periods.

>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)

That quote is from chapter II of the Slave Power, I was thinking
of where Cairnes says:
'the single merit of slave labour as an industrial instrument
consists, as we have seen, in its capacity for organisation -
its susceptibility, that is to say, of being adjusted with
precision to the kind of work being done, and of being directed
on a comprehensive plan toward some distinctly conceived end.
Now to give scope to this quality, the scale on which industry
is carried on must be extensive, and to carry on industry
on an extensive scale large capitals are required.' from
Chap III The internal organisation of slave communities.

>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.

I think that you are right, if talking of slavery in general in
antiquity, but, for the period of the later Roman Republic and
early empire, large scale commercial latifundia were operating
in Sicily and Southern Italy, (for this see Bradley, 'Slavery
and Rebellion in the Roman World, 140BC-70BC').

Somewhat later, a similar situation existed in Northern Gaul.

These large scale enterprises may, in the long history of slavery,
which must have persisted in Europe for a couple of millenia, have
been exceptional, but in another sense they represented the
appogee of the development of the slave mode of production.

It must be remembered that commodity production depends on things
other than the simple social relations of production. It also depends
critically on the possibility of transporting goods to market. This
in turns depends on the existence of road networks, harbours and
canals. The secure delivery of the product depends upon the supression
of brigandage and piracy. The relatively high quality of transport
links and the pax romana allowed a level of commodity producing
slavery that was not possible in other periods.

Paul Cockshott