Gramsci, Laclau, Mouffe (and Bhaskar)

wpc at wpc at
Tue Mar 7 10:11:01 MST 1995

Andy writes
Still, I want to defend my point.  I routinely teach that chattel slavery as
practiced in the New World is a fundamentally different social system from
classical slavery; from the point of view of the plantation owner, I
contend, plantation slavery in fact resembles capitalism to a large degree.
>From the point of view of the slave, it's a little bit different...

In other words, I look at plantation slavery as an intermediate mode between
feudalism and capitalism, so I see a transition from slavery to feudalism as
It is also arguable that in terms of technology the transition from
slavery to capitalism in Europe was regressive - incipient mechanisation
of farming in Gaul for example came to a halt.

Slavery of the Roman type was a commodity producing mode of production
and in many ways closer to capitalism than was feudalism, hence
bourgeois historians like Momsen, Rostostozeff, Hichelheim etc
routinely describe the roman economy as capitalist. Similarly the
adaptation of roman law by bourgeois society shows their similarity.

I do not see therefore that the development in the Americas is
radically different from the classical form.

Well, even though I have no evidence that it's happening, I don't think it's
on the order of pigs flying.  For example, I wouldn't be real surprised if
feudal forms arose in Yugoslavia or Chechnya, following the almost total
collapse of the social order.

When I was in El Salvador in 1992 I visited a "cooperative" farm, which in
its heyday had been owned by a member of the oligarchy and had been one of
the most efficient  mechanized cotton plantations in the country.  The labor
force was resident but they were wage workers (I should add that wages were
extremely low, and attempts to unionize were met with murder).  At the
height of the war, the owner abandoned the property and a cooperative was
formed.  Now it's a big subsistence farm, and its organizational structure
is much more like an Indian village than anything else.

In the case of former Jugoslavia, I would find the reversion to
feudal production relations very surprising. During wartime production
technology regresses, but an industrial society recuperates very
fast once peace comes. A non industrialised  country like El Salvador
is a different matter.


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