Wallerstein on slavery and capitalism

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sat Oct 21 07:01:44 MDT 2000


Mine writes:

> > >The problem with Fogel & Engerman is the opposite of what Mine or
> > >Wallerstein says is their view.
>
>You don't get it. W argues that Fogel's analysis of slavery is
>_still_ inspired by
>neo-classical elements due to their exclusion of world economy from
>their analysis
>. W subscribes to the notion of slave labor as being productive, if
>not he would
>not make it central to his analysis of world capitalism. However, W does not
>subscribe to Fogel's version. That is the difference. Although F&E
>*disagree* with
>the traditional interpretation of slavery as being "unproductive",
>"inefficient",
>and "moribund",  their opposite view of treating slavery as being efficient
>WITHOUT explaining the coercive process of how this institution came
>into being as
>"parcel" of the capitalist world economy ( international slave
>trade) is to let the
>structural  slavery off the hook and in fact to imply that slaves consented to
>their situation (as *happy* beings). "The theoretical debate
>underlying these books
>concerns  the nature of capitalism as a social system. FOGEL  and
>ENGERMAN  are
>adherents of the basic Smithian view that the search for profit for via market
>exchange is a natural prosperity of human kind.... From this perspective, the
>traditional interpretation of slavery was very disturbing. Of the
>five propositions
>Fogel and Engerman say define that interpretation (vol 2, pp.169),
>the first four
>seem to indicate that slavery in the US represented economically irrational
>behavior; it was an unprofitable investment; it was economically
>moribund; slave
>labor was inefficient; slavery retarded growth. Given their stating
>point, Fogel
>and Engerman  were genuinely puzzled. were these propositions true,
>why did slavery
>last so long? the answer they come up with  is at once simple and
>comforting. The
>propositions are not true. Ergo, THERE IS NO ANOMALY. This approach
>explains also
>WHY THEY DO NOT POSE OTHER QUESTIONS  such as how then to explain
>the outbreak of
>the civil war, why slavery persisted longer in the southern states than in the
>Caribbean?... Given their neo-classical orientation, the logic unit
>for  Fogel and
>Engerman is the  FIRM,  and they tend to use it. THEY DO SO
>INCONSISTENTLY  AS DO
>MOST NEO-CLASSICAL ECONOMIC HISTORIANS, BECAUSE SO MANY QUESTIONS CAN NOT BE
>TREATED AT THE LEVEL OF THE FIRM. BUT THEY HANDLE THE DIFFICULTY ONE
>IS TEMPTED TO
>SAY, NEO-CLASSICALLY--BY BLURRING IT..... THE SOUTH CERTAINLY IN THE YEARS
>1831-61, THE YEARS WHICH *BOTH* BOOKS ARE CENTRALLY CONCERNED, WAS
>PART AND PARCEL
>OF A WORLD ECONOMY WHOSE MODE OF PRODUCTION WAS CAPITALIST, AND
>WITHIN WHICH OWNERS
>OF LARGE SCALE CASH CROP PRODUCTION WAS UTILIZED TO THE EXTEND THAT
>THEY COULD...
>TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR THEM TO EXTRACT THE LARGEST SHARE OF THE SURPLUS VALUE
>BEING PRODUCED BY ***PRODUCTIVE WORKERS"***

You should have quoted this much from the get-go.  _Your_ original
paraphrase ("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'") doesn't
manage to say what Wallerstein says above; in fact, it says the
opposite.  In debate, one should paraphrase accurately or cite
directly.  You need to work on your writing skills.

> >  Mine writes:
> > >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:
> >
> > >According to Wallerstein, what were the origins (or causes) of
> > >different modes of labor control between the U.S. South & West?
> >
>
>" Coerced or semi coerced  semi wage labor is, and has been from the
>*beginning* of
>capitalism as a world system, a phenomenon of peripheral areas of
>the capitalist
>world economy, while contractual labor is concentrated (largely but
>not exclusion)
>in core areas." (p. 219). The same logic applies to different modes
>of labor within
>one country, region, continent etc, such as the reinstitution of and
>"increase" in
>corvee labor in Poland, Elbia, Hungary, Rumania, in the 17th century
>(Modern world
>system, p.138). Corvee labor had nothing to with Polish feudalism
>since we are not
>talking about Middle Ages here. It was NOT a pre-capitalist concept (just as
>slavery). Corvee labor was needed (and in fact reintroduced) in cash-crop
>production for transcontinental capitalist trade in Europe, just as the use of
>slave labor in large scale plantations for almost the same reasons
>in the US.  Both
>of these forms constituted varieties of *productive workers* under
>capitalism and
>were central to the development of capitalist world economy as areas
>of surplus
>extraction by the core..

The only thing that Wallerstein offers above, by way of
"explanation," is that coerced or semi-coerced wage labor or corvee
labor was "needed," _so_ it was reintroduced in some parts (though
not other parts) of Europe (note the passive voice in Wallerstein's
theory), just as "the use of slave labor in large scale plantations
for almost the same reasons in the US."  Such labor was "needed"
because of "cash-crop production for transcontinental capitalist
trade in Europe" and for trans-Atlantic capitalist trade.  The above
doesn't amount to much of an explanation, except that it's
"functionalism at its best" as one PEN-L poster notes.  And it
doesn't explain the difference between the U.S. South and the U.S.
West.  Moreover, this is the sort of "just so" stories (which imply
that the growth of the market & trade automatically brought about
capitalism & the international division of labor) that Robert Brenner
has criticized as neo-Smithian.

>Carrol Cox wrote:
>
> > Louis Proyect wrote:
> > > the notion that the profits of the
> > > >slave trade were crucial to England's industrialization,
>
>Cox replied:
>
> > >A core
> > >point is that *nations* do not make profits or accrue losses
>-- >individuals,
> > >firms, groups, etc. do.
>
>If not, there is no point to discuss colonialism (one nation profiting from
>another nation).

Why?  The point of imperialism is that the _ruling class_ of the
imperial nations (as well as the comprador bourgeoisie in the
periphery, slave owners, plantation owners, landlords who leased land
to share-croppers, etc.) have benefited from imperialism, but the
slaves in the New World before emancipation, workers before or after
the emancipation of slaves, small peasants, artisans, etc. in
imperial nations not only have _not_ benefited from imperialism but
in fact _paid_ for it (through taxes, by becoming cannon fodders,
etc.), with a tiny exception of AFL-CIO bureaucrats, "aristocracy of
labor," etc.  (Herman Melville, btw, noticed this fact -- hence
"Billy Budd" & "Benito Cereno".)  Thinking only in terms of the core
and the periphery ignores class struggles.

Yoshie






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