Re: Value of slaves was Money, mind and the ontological status of value

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 17 2004 - 03:40:12 EDT

Hi Paul,

Thanks very much for the provocative post.  I agree that the challenge you
raise poses a serious puzzle.   I'd particularly like to know what evidence
exists regarding the questions you ask about prices in your point 3 below --
apparently there has been some effort to measure real wages from records of
what the money workers received would buy.

But I reject the proposition that the argument I offered relied on the
perspective of the juridical subject.  I was trying to recall Marx's
argument from PreCapitalist Economic Formations, and I did not get it wrong.
For me this has always raised the same problem you have raised.  There seems
a contradiction between the argument in v. III from the Chapter on Labor
Rent that

"It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of
production to the direct producers -- a relation always naturally
corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labor
and thereby its social productivity -- which reveals the innermost secret,
the hidden basis of the entire social structure . . . "

and the argument of PCEF that slaves are to be "place[d] among the
*inorganic conditions* of the conquering tribe's reproduction."  [Marx's
emphasis] (417). (All pages references are to v. 28).

He goes on "Property -- and this applies to its Asiatic, Slavonic, ancient
[classical] and Germanic forms -- therefore originally means the relation of
the working (producing) subject  (or the subject reproducing himself) to the
conditions of his production or reproduction as his own." (419)

That the producing subject here is not the slave is reflected in the
immediately following paragraph:

"Slavery, serfdom, etc., where the labourer himself appears among the
natural conditions of production for a third individual or community . . .
and where property therefore is no longer the relation of the independently
working individual to the objective conditions of labor -- is always
secondary, never original . . . ."

So when he speaks of emancipation, this is the dissolution of relations
which treated workers as themselves part of the objective conditions of

"On the other hand, dissolution, also, of the relations under which the
workers themselves, the living labor capacities, are still a direct part of
the objective conditions of production and are appropriated as such . . .

I'd be very interested in the further views you (or others) have on the
issues you raise and also on how we are to read the Labor Rent chapter idea
consistently with PCEF.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK>
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 5:04 PM
Subject: [OPE-L] Value of slaves was Money, mind and the ontological status
of value

> [HOWARD]    In the US we still wear the stains of slave markets today, so,
> yes, I believe slaves, ancient and otherwise, represented crystallizations
> of abstract labor.  Their exchange value was determined the same way a
> or other work animal was; in fact Marx somewhere, I think Pre Capitalist
> Economic Formations, suggests as much -- the direct producer is the
> patriarch and the slave treated as a productive resource of the work
> sort.  Anyway, the real issue here is abstract labor.
> _____________________________
> I am in agreement with Howard on the existence of value in the ancient
> world, but I am not sure that his formulation of what determines the value
> of slaves is right.
> What he is arguing has some coherence, but I am not convinced by it.
> Basically he is saying that it is the labour of juridical subjects
> that constitutes abstract value creating labour. Patriarchs were
> juridical subjects and could enter into contracts and hence their
> labour was value creating, whereas that of slaves, instrumentum vocalis
> was not. The analogy here is with the labour of horses - Smith could
> talk in the same sentence of the farmer's labouring animals and labouring
> servants, but only the latter's labour counted as value.
> There are problems with this because it takes the juridical representation
> of production relations as the reality. There are significant differences
> between slaves and horses, and it is only the ideology of the slave
> mode of production that equates them.

> 1. Horses are very limited in the work they can do. People are universal
>    workers who can do any type of work given the training. The fact that
>    a person occupied the legal status of slave said nothing about the
>    sort of work they could do. Slaves carried out many skilled jobs and
>    were by no means restricted to the mere supply of muscular energy.
>    It is this universal applicability that differentiates human labour
>    animal work and makes the concept of labour in the abstract practically
>    meaningful. A patriarch could chose to redeploy his slaves between
>    different tasks in a way that was impossible with horses.
> 2. Slaves and patriarchs belong to the same species and the movement
>    categories is purely juridical - relations of debt inducing slavery
>    for example. A free peasants labour would under Howard's reasoning
>    add value, but, on falling into servitude due to not paying his debts,
>    his labour would no longer count as value - this seems implausible.
> 3. The same commodities would be produced for the market by both slave
>    and free labour. Would the price of the commodity be regulated only
>    by conditions of free labour? Would conditions of production and
>    the number of hours worked by slaves growing olives for example
>    have no influence on the price?
> 4. The value of slaves is analogous to part of the value of labour power.
>    It corresponds to that part of the cost of labour power that amortises
>    the costs of bringing a human from infancy to the stage they can
>    work productively. This is met out of the wage under capitalism, and
>    is met as a capital cost under slavery.
> 5. The labour of the patriarch of his freemen overseers is labour of
>    supervision and control and should in large measure count as
>    labour.
> 6. I would argue that the labour of slaves was productive and value
>    creating, to the extent that some of this labour had to be used
>    directly and indirectly in reproducing more slaves, both in the time
>    of care of slave mothers and the embodied labour in the food
>    consumed by slave children, this value creating labour of the
>    slave population created the value of slaves themselves.

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