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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Apr 20 2005 - 00:01:33 EDT

At 10:13 PM +0100 4/19/05, Andrew Brown wrote:
>Thanks Rakesh,
>I had in mind simply the overall mode of production (slave or feudal
>or capitalist), rather than individual relations and activities
>within any given mode.The world of difference between selling a
>labourer (slavery) and selling labour-power (capitalism) is to be
>considered at the level of the overall mode of production, and by no
>means rules out the functionality of slave production at the
>indiviudal level within a capitalist mode of production (it does
>rule out slavery becoming the prevalent and dominant form of
>production with capitalism).

But perhaps formally unfree labor was indeed the dominant form for
much of capitalist history. And perhaps coercion still plays a
greater role than usually recognized in liberal apologetics. Marx's
ability to deconstruct even the most flattering self image of liberal
society does not mean that society actually conforms to that image.

>  You give very important examples of the existience and functioning
>of slave production *within* the capitalist mode of production but
>this is a different matter from consideration of the slave mode of
>production as such  (where capital has no general hold of production
>and no general existence). Re. allocation, then we certainly may
>consider how slave production *within*capitalism responds to price
>My argument is that labour, in *all* societies, is not fixed by the
>external material constraints, nor internal structure of the
>labourers. In all societies we can distinguish between the power to
>labour and the actual labor done, noting the unique creative
>productivity of labour. However, in slave and feudal societies
>labour *is* pretty much fixed by the prevalent social relations. In
>the slave mode the labourer it is treated as a talking animal

doesn't Marx refer to the skinning of hides in industrial factory
production? Are you sure that Marx wants to draw sharp a distinction
between industrial and slave plantation labor on this point of
treatment in the production process?

It is true that Marx thinks that formally free wage labor develops a
greater repertoire of skills. And technologically dynamic industry
may depend on such jack of all trade workers, but for capitalism to
take over agriculture it also required a labor force that would work
in repellant gang labor in mono cropping, though slaves did carry out
different tasks and produce different crop mixes.

So there was some mobility and fluidity but too much of that would
have prevented the capitalist conquest and development of agriculture.

So I am missing the exact point of this emphasis on fluidity as it
existed historically and its importance theoretically.

>  and in the feudal mode peasants are bound to their plot of land (to
>put it very crudely). The fluid creativity of labour remains little
>more than a potential in such societies.

Different tasks had to be carried and different crops were grown on
the plantations, so I am not understanding this point. there was
mobility of task and activity.

Again though the expansion of capital into New World agriculture may
well have depended on formally unfree labor.


>It must be painfully obvious that I'm no expert on world history,
>btw, and so apolgies in advance and I look forward to be being
>       -----Original Message-----
>       From: OPE-L on behalf of Rakesh Bhandari
>       Sent: Tue 19/04/2005 20:11
>       Cc:
>       Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?
>       >
>       >I reply:
>       >I think we do need capitalism because in any other mode of production
>       >the market 'allocation' is peripheral relative to the dominant
>       >production relations (feudal or slave, say). Value is only 'fully
>       >developed' in capitalism.
>       Dear Andrew,
>       In recognizing that some forms of slavery have been part of the
>       capitalist mode of production, we are forced to deconstruct any a
>       priori opposition between the slave and the free wage laborer. There
>       is a reason why the expression wage slavery has resonance. Some
>       formally free wage laborers and slaves may have more in common as
>       dependents of capital than they have with others of their own
>       presumed type. Part of the reason for the failure to understand this
>       may come from the underlying progressivist liberal belief that
>       capitalism can be understood as a higher stage in the unfolding drama
>       of human freedom. I haven't read McCarney's defense of Hegel's theory
>       of history yet, but I doubt that I shall be persuaded!
>       At any rate, I am not quite sure what you mean here; there is good
>       evidence of crop reallocation in response to price signals in
>       American plantation slavery. African labor was not fixed by external
>       constraints and internal structure, so it too as part of the social
>       labor pool had to be organized, and it was organized in response to
>       price signals and profit requirements in a ruthlessly "calculating
>       and calculated system"--to use Marx's phrase about  New World slavery
>       in his chapter on absolute surplus value.
>       To be sure, the plantation could not allocate resources as fluidly as
>       the contemporary conglomeration (Harvey points to the conglomeration
>       as institutional form for the mobility of capital needed to effect
>       the averaging of the profit rate), but I don't think that this
>       disqualifies the plantation from having been a part and an example of
>       the capitalist mode of production.
>       Moreover without racial slavery--racialized labor extra economically
>       coerced intergenerationally--capital may never have been allocated to
>       much of New World capitalist commodity agriculture--given the
>       availability of land and the repulsive gang labor that was used to
>       ensure profitability (though that system of gang labor was studied
>       carefully by Frederick Winslow Taylor according to Keith
>       Aufhauser--just another way to deconstruct said a priori opposition).
>       Robin Blackburn contests this capitalist necessity of slavery thesis,
>       but Barbara Solow, drawing on Domar, effectively rebuts the argument,
>       I believe.
>       Yours, Rakesh

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