Debating slavery

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Fri Oct 20 16:32:20 MDT 2000



In the _Capitalist World Economy_, the section on "American Slavery and the
Capitalist World Economy" (Inequalities of Class, Race and Ethnicity).
Wallerstein discusses  two major theoretical frameworks of American black
slavery in depth.He criticizes both Fogel and Engerman's neo-classial theory of
slavery that views slaves as retarding economic growth (it is argued to be
economically "moribund", "irrational", "unproductive"), and Genoves'
paternalistic treatment of opposing slavery to capitalist social relations, as a
pre-capitalist institution of resistance ("doctrine of protection"), where
slaves are argued  to be still better off compared to "free industrial workers"
because they resisted  paternalistically "to protect their own rights" (This is
where Post-Marxism rhetoric of Laclau and Mouffe comes from , I guess) .

Both theories, argues Wallerstein,  fail to come to terms with "slavery" as part
of the institution of capitalism as a world system. Modern slavery ( it must be
modern since we are not talking about _ancient_ slavery here) is not in
contradiction with capitalism. Just as racism and sexism, it lies at the center
of capitalist social relations for it _coexists_ with capitalism in a spatially
stratified systems of labor. W argues that slavery is one of the "varieties of
economic roles for the peripheral areas of the world economy, which have
different modes of labor control (raw material cash crops based on slave labor
for the US South contrasted  with food cash cops based on small freeholds in the
US--West)". W continues:

"But suppose the forms Genovese is describing are not  transitional or remnants
or pockets of resistance but THE HEART AND ESSENCE OF CAPITALISM  as a mode of
production, which could be seen as a system that contains within its economic
arena some firms largely based on contractual wage labor and some even most
based on one variant or another of coerced or semi-coerced semi-wage labor. If
we make this simple switch of perspective, which must of course be argued, we
see the whole picture in a very different light. The SLAVER OWNERS WERE THEN
INDEED CAPITALISTS, as Fogel and Engerman argue, NOT, however, because all
rational men are, but because they were operating in a capitalist world
economy.  And a slave owner who did not allow market considerations to loon
large in his firm's operation would sooner and later go bankrupt and be replaced
by one who did. That southern planters  developed a different ideology from that
of New England mill owners (and were they as different as Geno implies? ) is
simply the reflection of differing interests within a single capitalist world
system. THAT THEY TRIED TO USE THE STATE (WHETHER WITHIN THE UNION OR BY
CREATING THE CONFEDERACY)  TO DEFEND THEIR INTERESTS, THAT IS THE NAME OF THE
GAME. (p.219).


--

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



____________NetZero Free Internet Access and Email_________
Download Now     http://www.netzero.net/download/index.html
Request a CDROM  1-800-333-3633
___________________________________________________________





More information about the Marxism mailing list