Hi Nicky! I guess I disagree with you, when you say, in : "The same two possibilities arise in the case of wage labour. Your [Rakesh's] possibility: that 'relations of production' are separate from 'forms of exploitation'. In that case, wage labour is not necessary to the reproduction of capital and there are many 'forms of exploitation' (to link to Alfredo's 6903 - Hi Alfredo! - abstract labour is then simply social labour, whatever its form)." It seems to me that Rakesh's point was about the mode of labour and exploitation in a *slave-capitalist* society - i.e., a society in which commodity production (generally for export rather than domestic consumption) is carried out through slave labour. Historically, this type of production existed, for example, in the New World, subsumed within international capitalism, which I think is the case that Rakesh has in mind. I don't think he was positing slavery as an alternative to capitalism or commodity production more generally. If this is the case (i.e., if my interpretation is correct) then the dichotomy between relations of production and forms of exploitation, that you have posited, does not hold. I think that a more useful approach would depart from the relations of production: in "slave-capitalist" societies, slaves produce commodities using (by and large, though not necessarily) inputs that are also commodities; moreover, even the slaves themselves are commodities (and, therefore, the production of slaves is also a commodity-producing process). In commodity-production processes, competition for profits (what perceived as "market discipline") regulates the expenditure of labour, thus (through a long process that I am skipping) rendering it abstract *in production*. Of course, under slave capitalism this process of abstraction of labour in production is incomplete, because "market discipline" is weaker than under capitalism at every stage of the circuit of (slave) capital (again I am being imprecise, in order to keep this message short; but I hope the meaning is clear). Clearly, my conclusion, above, is different from yours, since you say: "exploitation arises only within the capital-labour relation … abstract labour is a capitalist Value form - i.e private labour verified as socially useful only when commodities exchange for money on markets" How would you interpret this difference - especially in the context of "slave capitalism", where commodities *are* produced and sold? Finally, you say: "what Marx thought of the Southern slave system isn't a question that interests me very much." I hope to have shown above that the answer to this question does matter for our understanding of capitalism, in addition to the historical question of how other modes of production worked. alfredo.
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