Forwarded from Anthony (origins of capitalism)

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Sun Nov 26 11:17:29 MST 2000



Anthony asked:

i said:

"In a nutshell, what we need to do is to acknowledge the fact that
capitalism has a variety of forms of labor--*wage labor being a only
faction of all forms of labor*, not a reified category that develops
everywhere in the same manner as capitalism develops.. That is why
existence of slavery ( or "corvee labor" in Poland--18th century; "forced
free labor"; "forced unfree labor", etc..) with wage labor was not
antagonistic to the development of capitalism, but rather was part of the
same process of capitalism within a single division of labor that has
created hierarchical economic roles/labor for different regions of the
world (not only among regions but also _within_ regions)"



> >Most importantly people are using different definitions of >"capitalism".
>
> >I am not sure what Xxxx and other 'world systems' >influenced writers mean
> >when they say capitalism, other than the world system that >exists today.
> >Mine describes all kinds of relations of production - slavery, >corvee
> >labor, free, and unfree labor with the adjective 'capitalist'.
>

As written above,  I did not equate slavery or "all kinds of relations of
production" with capitalism. Evidently, ancient slavery you had in Rome was not a
capitalist institution. It could not be capitalist because the system in which it
was operating was not a capitalist economy; it was a world empire system, not a
nation state system. As the *city* based Rome expanded with imperialist plunder,
imperialism could no longer feed Rome's slave population because slaves could not
adjust themselves to the circumstances of inner lands. They died, diminished,
became less important and more costly. With that, Roman empire died. Now we are
talking about an entirely different slave system-- modern colonialism.


I only equated *modern slavery* with capitalism, as being a *faction* (subset) of
all forms of labor, and defined "plantation economy" as a *form* of capitalism
_within_ capitalism (1600-1750), rather than a different social system outside of
capitalism (ie., pre-capitalist) We are discussing forms of labor here not only
wage labor. I can only describe this development historically rather giving a
textbook definition of what capitalism means such as "society is divided into two
classes" or whatever. Accordingly,  we need to look at the historical conditions
of societies  to see how much our definitions approximate the definition of
capitalism we are talking about. In this process, one needs to see the formation
of  internal class structures in dialectical relation to the capitalist world
economy to be able to develop class categories in their own terms.  For example,
in the case of *tenure system* in Brazil, Mauro argues that "the *sesmeria* was
not a peasent tenure; it was a concession made by the *donatario* to a capitalist
entrepreneur  with a view to export agriculture... it was not intended to create
a closed economy in the manner of Carolingian domain or even of the Mexican
hacienda of the 17th century"  (W, 147) Can we discuss all these without knowing
the specifics of *hacienda or *tenure* system? No. The rise of hacienda, for
example, was a response to the economic depression of the 17 th century as the
key agricultural institution in the peripheral economies of the world economy.



>
> >For example, she writes:
>
> >"In a nutshell, what we need to do is to acknowledge the fact >that
> >capitalism has a variety of forms of labor--*wage labor >being a only
> >faction of all forms of labor*, not a reified category that >develops
> >everywhere in the same manner as capitalism develops.. >That is why
> >existence of slavery ( or "corvee labor" in Poland--18th >century; "forced
> >free labor"; "forced unfree labor", etc..) with wage labor was >not
> >antagonistic to the development of capitalism, but rather >was part of the
> >same process of capitalism within a single division of labor >that has
> >created hierarchical economic roles/labor for different >regions of the
> >world (not only among regions but also _within_ regions)"
>
> >I am sure she understands what she means by 'capitalist' - >but I do not.
>
> >I would ask Mine and others who agree with her to define >what they mean by
> >capitalism.
>

I generally agree with Samir and W's definition of capitalism. This definition
describes capitalism as a world economy that had its "genesis" in Europe (not
elsewhere) "in the long 16th century and that involved the transformation of a
particular redistributive or tributary mode of production, that of feudal Europe,
into a qualitatively different social system"--capitalism (W, p.8). This
transformation did not only take place in Britain; it took place at several
places in Europe (France, Spain, Dutch, Poland) with several *relational*
implications and class transformations. For example, in Poland, the expropriation
of peasentry from the land did not result in the rise of  capitalist farmer; it
resulted in the rise of *second serfdom*--  (corvee labor)-- who was forced to
produce for regional markets where core capitalist powers were buying their
products in exchange for other goods. In 18th century, Poland was not a feudal
economy; it was a peripheral capitalist economy (Just as Ireland in relation to
Britain at some point).


Since we are disputing over Marx here, I find Sweezy's reading of Marx more
reliable than Brenner's account of the origins of capitalism.  For example,
Sweezy attacks at the Marxist tradition represented by Balibar (who locates the
fundamental breakthrough with feudalism in industrial revolution) and Brenner
(who locates the origins in the enclosure movement led by landowners) and argues
that for Marx the period of "manufacture proper" (1500-1750) and "the period of
"modern industry" were not "two different social systems but rather two phases of
capitalism" (Sweezy, 1972 "Karl Marx and the Industrial Revolution" in Modern
Capitalism and Other Essays, MR Press, pp.147-165),  So we have * dialectical
contingencies, transitions, phases, not sudden ahistorical ruptures from one
system to another or transtion in isolation from rest of the world.



Xxxx




--

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222



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