Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Michael Perelman)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Aug 26 08:50:42 MDT 2000

I think I understand Ricardo and Marx on the subject
of differential and absolute rent - but it has been
decades since I thought about the stuff.

What I am really interested in is anything Marx,
Engels, or any other classical Marxist wrote about the
price of land - and any other thing that has a price
but may not be a commodity.

And on that note, here is a quick shot about why I am

I think the argument that Marx was a sociologist, not
an economist, is off the wall. But right now I am not
interested in debating the subject. I think Marx was
trying to construct a "model" that would explain
social, and social-economic relaitons, including
price. That's why Vol. II equates value and price.

What I am interested in, and what Marx specifically
said he was not going to examine in Volume three, is
the economic and social interaction between different
modes of production - like subsistence farming,
slavery, and capitalism - which coexist in one
actually existing social reality. And hence, the
interaction of the classes based on those different
modes of production.

(The "transformaiton problem" as I understand it, is
the problem of trying to measure exchange value, when
what exists empirically are prices. This problem can
never be solved simply or in an obvious way, because
some of those things with prices - like land - may not
be commodities, and may not have exchange values- or
at least not prices determined by the socially
necessary labor required to rpoduce an average unit.)

The thing is there never has been "pure capitalism",
the capitalist mode of production became the dominant
mode of production, but within the "capitalist system"
there have always been other modes of production
producing commodities - but without wage labor.

This is why this question is related to "primitive
accumulation of capital". Marx and Engels took this
concept from Adam Smith (prior accumulation), and gave
it a new twist. Smith meant the piles of money people
had aquired priod to the formation of capitalism. Marx
and Engels made two basic points: 1) it was mostly
aquired by theft, war, extorition, and exploitation of
one sort or another. 2) the piles of money were not
capital, until coupled with "variable capital", i.e.
people who would work for wages. And those people did
not exist in England until they were forcibly removed
from the land.

Most Marxists after Marx and Engels simply ignored the
process of primitive acumulation to focus on strictly
capitalist accumulation (Rosa L. and Prebozhensky as
notable exceptions). In this they stopped where Marx
ahd stopped - but probably not where he would have
stopped if he had lived longer and kept working.

One thing is that capital accumulation by confiscation
- theft, etc. continues to be important - look at the
Trebca mine people keep writing about on your list, or
the expulsion of subsistence farmers frpom their land
here in Colombia by 'violence' and its expropriation
by  drug producers, or look at the two million
subsistence farme4rs in Poland - mentioned in your
post - or look at the formation of the mafia
bourgeoisies of the former worker states, or look at
how privatization really works in a place like
Colombia , etc.

The other thing is that the creation of propertyless
proletarians with only their labor to sell - from
other social classes - is an ongoing phenenenom. The
"modernization" of China now underway has as its
primary objective the creation of the world's largest
proletariat from its largest peasantry. But all of the
civil wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are part
of the same process (albeit in a less conscious and
planned way.)

And so were WWI and WWII. So was Naziism and Fascism
in Europe.

And so, I am out of time. I hope some fo the above
makes some sense.


> Marx's theory of rent is more complicated than Peter
> or Jim indicate.  The
> simplest version may be in Mandel's 2 vol. book on
> Marxist thought.  Marx uses
> Ricardo's differential rent, but he also describes
> absolute rent
> --
> Michael Perelman
> Economics Department
> California State University
> Chico, CA 95929

Louis Proyect
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