the role of forced labor

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Nov 25 11:34:30 MST 2000

Title: Re: the role of forced labor

George Snedeker wrote:

I don't
think that we should get hung up on the concept of waged labor.
various forms of forced labor have existed along side of wage labor.
this is still the case in the world economy.  Marx does not solve
this problem with his discussion of capitalism in England. it is true
that he stresses the role of wage labor. perhaps he was not fully
aware of the role forced labor played in the accumulation of capital.
I am not here addressing the question of the origin of capitalism, but
rather its operation. The Jamaican slave did later become a wage
laborer. English capitalism was never confined to England. it always
depended upon world trade. I think we are getting back to the either
or or reasoning which is so common.

Wage labor has expanded as capitalism developed.  Chattel
slavery, while expanding in the period of the mercantile system, got
abolished with the development of industrial capitalism & the
doctrine of laissez faire (see Eric Williams, _Capitalism and
Slavery_).  Marx emphasized wage labor not because he was unaware
of the roles played by forced labor in the development of capitalism,
but because he thought that (1) it is the logic of M-C-M' rooted in
"Freedom, Equality, Property, & Bentham" that
distinguishes capitalism from other modes of production; and (2) the
exploitation of free labor -- unlike slave labor -- under market
discipline tends to compel capitalists to extract relative (as opposed
to absolute) surplus value through rising productivity via
technological innovation.  And (1) & (2) -- not moral
teachings of abolitionists -- were the root causes of abolition of
chattel slavery; moreover, the rhetoric of many white abolitionists --
Eric Williams, David Brion Davis, etc. argue -- was colored by the
developing ideology of laissez faire.

It goes without saying that forced labor of various forms has
remained a part of the capitalist mode of production.  Beyond
this general statement, however, we need to have a closer look at
concrete combinations of wage & forced labor; when & where
wage labor expanded; when and where forced labor expanded; when and
where wage labor contracted; when and where forced labor contracted;


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