Re: [OPE-L] Inter-species slavery

From: clyder@GN.APC.ORG
Date: Thu Nov 23 2006 - 13:43:08 EST

Quoting Rakesh Bhandari <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>:

> >In the problematic within which I am working, the key category is
> >not the free subject, whose existence I believe to be a philosophical myth
> >reflecting the requirements of the juridical/moral
> >level of the state apparattus, but labouring capacity.
> Abstract laboring capacity or potential is difficult to talk about
> because we always
> only see it instantiated in one concrete form of another.  a

No more than many other scientific abstractions. Energy, which
is a close analogue in Marx's discourse, also exists in concrete
forms, but that does not make potential energy any less valid
as a concept.

We can do empirical measurements of abstract labouring capacity, this
is what the capitalist discipline of work-study does. It quantifies
the average amount of time to perform a task with the average worker.
We know that workers can be transferd between tasks, this is the
key to the abstraction. Just as energy can transfer between forms,
so can abstract labour in two ways:

1. In any society by a reallocation of individuals between tasks
2. IN commodity producing society by the exchange of embodied labours.

> So it may
> be no less a metaphysical
> concept than free will. Slave makers have always denied that slaves
> have the same capacities
> or potentials that they do on the basis of what slaves do.

Yes, but this is class ideology, just like the racist ideologies
about different labouring capacities of black and white peoples.

I agree by the way, that race is a social rather than a genetic
category, but as such it has clearly had real effectivity.

> At any rate,there is indeed an important difference in the dynamics
> of human and
> ant slavery because in the former slaves are either individually or
> collectively
> resisting in hidden ways or struggling to buy manumission or
> ingratiating themselves to win favor or risking death in the attempt to
> escape.

I think this is an unsafe generalisation. Slaves certainly have struggled
for freedom, but whether this is universal is quite another issue. Ingratiation
is also another strategy that will have been common. But it is not
clear that either of these are uniquely human. I have a dog that is
the very image of servile ingratiation, and bulls for example, have
at times to be subject to considerable constraint.

> This is one reason why the human mode of slave production has an
> essentially different dynamic
> than the ant mode of slavery.

This may be true, but one should not assume that insect societies
are free from class conflict, recently the struggles of worker bees
have begun to be documented and understood.

> You dismiss the question of whether ants have behavioral equivalents
> to these forms
> of resistance by  saying that the question arises out of a humanist
> problematic. Saying that of course
> does not prove that ants do have behavioral equivalents.

Agreed, it just means that the significance attached to it
may be different.

> And I certainly deny that slaves (or slave masters) are free to make
> the world any way they wish--I have not  said anything which implies
> a naive belief in the power of free will; how they respond will
> depend on constraints out of their control, but those constraints
> never eliminate the degrees of freedom which slaves as members of the
> homo sapiens species have.  That is, slaves are homo sapiens not the
> beasts and animals slave masters have historically thought that they
> were.

Obviously slaves are constrained. The very ideology of free will has
always depended on the contradistinction between the situation of
the free citizen and the slave. What I was getting at was that you
locate the key difference between the situation of human and other
animal property in the subjectivity of the slave, I locate it in
their labouring capacity. Thus elephants, however cruel their treatment,
and whatever their subjective capacities - which may be as great
as our own - are not slaves as their labour is not redeployable
into any trade or profession.

The hypothetical neanderthal captives would have been slaves, since
their labouring capacity would have been equivalent to the hominids
controlling them.

> And human slavery also cannot be compared to ant slavery for
> functional reasons.
> Human slavery is motivated by  conspicuous consumption, maximal
> profit making and/or sexual pleasure. Entomology has nothing to teach
> us about this.

I suspect that there is a more basic biological imperative.
Look at the comparative survival and reproduction rates of
slave owners versus non slave owners. The slave owners will
have been better fed and more likely to see their children
survive. This trait is shared with ant slavers.

> >
> >I would say that slaves are those subordinate organisms whose
> >labouring capacity is equivalent to that of the enslaving species.
> Well this seems to say that slavery is then an intra homo sapien affair!
> YOu don't agree with Jerry that even elephants are enslaved. And wouldn't
> the domesticated ants no longer have the same laboring capacity has
> the slave making ants, so
> no slavery among ants by this definition, right?

As I understand it, the labouring capacity of the slave ants
is the same as the masters.

This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Nov 30 2006 - 00:00:06 EST