[OPE-L:7473] Fwd: Reply to Gil Skillman by Rob Albritton

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Thu Jul 25 2002 - 18:35:45 EDT


Reply to Gil Skillman by Rob Albritton
In order to fully understand my position I would suggest that Gil 
read my book A Japanese Approach to Stages of Capitalist 
Development.  In one short article critiquing Brenner, I could not 
fully develop my theoretical framework based as it is on an 
interpretation of Capital as fundamentally a theory of pure 
capitalism with two other levels of analysis implied or developed to 
some extent that I call: 'mid-range theory' and 'historical analysis'.
	In Volume Three of Capital Marx writes:
And even though the equalization of wages and working hours between 
one sphere of           production and another, or between different 
capitals invested in the same sphere of production, comes up against 
all kinds of local obstacles, the advance of capitalist production 
and the progressive subordination of all economic relations to this 
mode of production tends nevertheless to bring this process to 
fruition. Important as the study of frictions of this kind is for any 
specialist work on wages, they are still accidental and inessential 
as far as the general investigation of capitalist production is 
concerned and can therefore be ignored. In a general analysis of the 
present kind, it is assumed throughout that actual conditions 
correspond to their concept, or, and this amounts to the same thing, 
actual conditions are depicted only in so far as the express their 
own general type. (III, 241-2)
And later in the same volume Marx writes: 'The constant equalization 
of ever-renewed inequalities is accomplished more quickly, (1) the 
more mobile capital is(2) the more rapidly labour-power can be moved 
from one sphere to another and from one local point of production to 
another.' (III, 298) Marx goes on to claim the capital mobility 
depends on: (1) free trade and competition; (2) a credit system of 
mobilize social savings for capital; (3) all spheres of production 
are subordinated to capitalists; (4) a high population density. (III, 
298) Labour mobility depends on: (1) abolition of all laws preventing 
the movement of workers; (2) indifference of the worker to the 
use-value character of the production process; (3) the maximum 
reduction of skilled to unskilled labour; (4) disappearance of 
prejudices of trade and craft amongst workers; (5) the subjection of 
workers to capital. (III, 298)
	A careful reading of Capital demonstrates that throughout 
Marx assumes 'that actual conditions correspond to their concept' and 
that among other things this implies for Marx the unimpeded mobility 
of capital and labour, or in other words a fully competitive 
capitalism. While such an economy never exists in history, Marx shows 
that it can exist in theory, and furthermore, that such a theory is 
essential for understanding how an economy that operates strictly in 
accord with commodity-economic principles must operate. In short, 
Marx's theory of capital reveals precisely what capital is when it 
operates unimpeded according to its own principles. This theory of 
unimpeded competitive capital that Marx introduces and Sekine 
refines, is what I refer to, following Sekine, as  'the theory of 
pure capitalism.' Clarity at the level of the theory of pure 
capitalism is essential in any historical analysis because revealing 
capital's inner logic is a precondition to thinking about the 
externalization of this logic in any particular historical context 
where it is articulated with numerous other social forces that may 
reinforce or compromise its inner logic.
	According to Gil the labour of Appalachian coal miners must 
be commodified (fully?) or not. According to my interpretation of 
marxian economics labour-power is rarely if ever fully commodified in 
history, but because we know what full commodification entails, we 
can explore its degree of commodification. And this is important, 
especially to the coal miners concerned. Indeed, I would argue that 
the general mobility of capital and lack of mobility of labour-power 
has been a central cause of the apartheid capitalism that now exists 
in the world. Perhaps Gil does not want to theorize degree of 
commodification, but instead wants to think in either/or terms. If he 
wants to think in terms of degree (absolutely essential to avoid 
economism I would think), then he must have some criteria of more or 
less. He apparently does not like my six criteria derived from 
thinking through the inner logic of capital as a theory of pure 
capitalism, but then he must come up with some others. Defending all 
six is more than I want to do right now, but I would say two are 
absolutely fundamental to my list and to Marx. When he states that 
workers are 'free' in two senses: free of all means of production and 
free to sell their labour power, I take this to mean that they have 
no access to any means of production and must therefore sell their 
labour-power, which fortunately they are free to do. According to 
these two criteria, putting-out workers represent an in-between 
position. In my book I discuss senses in which their labour-power is 
or is not commodified. To the extent that merchant capitalists 
strictly control the inputs and outputs of the putting out system and 
the fact that the tools in this case are of little value, deprives 
the direct producers' ownership of the means of production of much 
meaning. Hence, I would interpret Marx's 'formal subsumption' as a 
useful concept to apply to putting out production.
	Finally Gil again displays his either/or thinking in 
interpreting my article to have argued something like labour power is 
not commodified in British agriculture in 1700, therefore this 
agriculture is not capitalist, while in 1875 it is. The thrust of my 
article is to show that agricultural labour is much less commodified 
in 1700 than in 1875, and that there is a tendency for Brenner and 
his followers to reify 'agrarian capitalism'. The result is for them 
to read back into history a much higher degree of capitalist social 
relations than actually existed, which is not to say that embryonic 
capitalist forms that appeared early on in British agriculture did 
not play an important role in capitalism first developing in that 
country.



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