Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value? creativity

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Thu Apr 14 2005 - 11:27:11 EDT

At 2:21 PM +1030 4/14/05, Ian Hunt wrote:
>Dear Rakesh,
>I think you have not understood my point- sorry for not expressing it
>clearly. I agree there is conflict between slaves/serfs and their
>masters. I agree that in slave commodity production, surplus value is
>produced. Labour time also plays a role. However, the drive for
>relative surplus value present in capitalism, with a salient role for
>labour displacing technical change, would not be part of the dynamic
>of slave commodity production. Capital in this form can afford to be
>technically lazy, since necessary labour time is set at the master's
>command, not through competition between labourers in the market

Dear Ian,
Yes, yes, you had not mentioned the concept of 
relative surplus value, and I certainly see the 
logic of this argument that the transition from 
absolute to relative surplus value depends on the 
attainment of the civic equality of labor; 
however, we should check this argument against 
the history of technical change on the 
plantations. For their time, they may not have 
been technological laggards. Why would  a 
plantation owner  have been more reluctant to 
carry out mechanization where this was possible 
and could be profitable. If mechanization 
rendered redundant slaves that had already been 
paid for or were inherited gratis as progeny, 
those slaves could be sold or forced to purchase 
their freedom through commodity production as 
independent peasants. Were slaves more likely to 
mishandle machines than free wage laborers (as 
Cairnes and Olmstead suggested)? Charles Post 
convincingly argues that there is no reason why 
with the right mixture of coercion and incentives 
slaves could not work machinery as effectively as 
free wage laborers. Slavery may not have fettered 

Whether indentured, slave or free wage labor had 
been used, there may have simply been limited 
possibilities of mechanization in the cleaning of 
tobacco leaves, the picking of cotton seeds and 
the harvesting of sugar. In other words, slavery 
was resorted to exactly because mechanization was 
difficult, the demands for labor were high and 
the treatment of labor terrible in these 
agricultural activities (so free labor would not 
do it).

Moreover,  the eventual lag  in the 
industrialization of the American South vis--vis 
the Northeast was probably in part the result of 
the plantations using the child and female labor 
on which early industrialization depended. 
Children and women were not as extensively used 
in the kind of farming practiced in Northeast and 

Thanks for the clarification.

Yours, Rakesh

>  Obviously, I did not mean for you to extrapolate from my words
>that there is a more fundamental difference between industrial
>capitalism and others forms of capitalism based on slavery, merchant
>or financial capital than the above.
>>At 11:47 AM +1030 4/14/05, Ian Hunt wrote:
>>>If  can chip in here too. It is not clear that in total
>>>mechanization, labour time would retain its significance: as Chris
>>>suggests, the issue is that of a conflict of interest between
>>>labourer and capitalist, when both have a formally equal social
>>>standing. Machines, no matter how ingenious or creative, would have
>>>no interests in potential conflict with capital unless they had lives
>>>of their own and consciously pursued their own interest in those
>>>lives. If they did and had formally equal social standing, then the
>>>social relations of capital would have a place. On the other hand, if
>>>they were persons but lacked equal social standing, we would have
>>>slave or feudal commodity production: labour time no doubt would play
>>>a role here but not the same as under capitalism.
>>I don't understand this--there is no conflict between slaves/serfs
>>and masters? Why is equal standing necessary for there to be a
>>conflict of interest? Why must there be a conflict of interest among
>>people of equal (juridical?) standing for surplus value to be
>>produced, and to be the aim of production. Certainly surplus value
>>can be produced even if people do have equal juridical standing, but
>>this does not prove that they must for it to be produced.
>Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
>Head, Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
>Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
>Flinders University of SA,
>Humanities Building,
>Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
>Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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