Wallerstein on slavery and capitalism

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Fri Oct 20 21:27:21 MDT 2000

Lou posted what Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx says is Wallerstein's criticism of
Fogel & Engerman as well as of Genovese:

>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).

I myself posted several criticisms of Genovese's misappropriation of
Gramsci's concept of consent on LBO-talk, and I would also criticize
Fogel & Engerman as well.  However, are you sure that Wallerstein
criticizes Genovese, Fogel, & Engerman _in these terms_?  Is Mine
sure that she is reproducing Wallerstein's criticism accurately?

First of all, Fogel & Engerman, in _Time on the Cross_, argue that
large slave plantations were much more efficient than northern farms.
I don't recall them saying that slaves were "retarding economic
growth" because slavery was "irrational" & "moribund" and slaves were
"unproductive."  Further, Fogel & Engerman claim that "the common
belief that all slaves were menial laborers is false....While slavery
clearly limited the opportunities of bondsmen to acquire skills, the
fact remains that over 25 percent were managers, professionals,
craftsmen, and semiskilled workers....It was out of this class of
skilled workers that many of the leaders of the slave community
arose....This upper occupational stratum may have provided, as a
number of historians have argued, a disproportionately large share of
the leaders of protests, desertions, insurrections and rebellions"
(_Time on the Cross_, p. 40).

The problem with Fogel & Engerman is the opposite of what Mine or
Wallerstein says is their view.  Fogel & Engerman claim that the
American slaves, having internalized the "Protestant work ethic,"
were "diligent," "responsible," and "hardworking" -- Frederick
Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Robin Kelley, and all other radicals'
commentaries on slaves' resistance to work notwithstanding.

At 10:15 PM -0400 10/20/00, Louis Proyect wrote:
>Meanwhile, he [Engerman] also believes
>that the slave plantation system, with its high efficiency and attention to
>profits, led to a fat and happy slave workforce.

*****   The Social Consequences of Bad Research

By Daniel Tanner

... We are all familiar with the impact of revisionism on historical
and social science research, including education. It has become
increasingly fashionable in some circles of the social sciences to
build reputations and to convey the impression of scientific inquiry
by generating hard data so as to overthrow conventional wisdom.
Indeed, those researchers who have made use of elaborate mathematical
and statistical techniques and computer-generated models of analysis
have intimidated many of their colleagues, while others have taken
the research seriously.

A notable example is the two-volume study by two noted economists,
Robert Fogel of the University of Chicago and Stanley Engerman of the
University of Rochester, published in 1974 under the title Time on
the Cross. Fogel and Engerman set out to examine the economics of
American slavery through advanced statistical techniques used by
those who call themselves "econometric historians" and
"cliometricians." Fogel and Engerman amassed data proving that "the
slave diet was not only adequate, it actually exceeded modern
recommended daily levels of the chief nutrients."31 Among their other
findings was that "the slave mortality rate in childbearing was lower
than the maternal death rate experienced by southern white women."32
Fogel and Engerman presented data to support the finding that "the
average daily diet of slaves was quite substantial" and that "the
energy value of their diet exceeded that of free men in 1879 by more
than 10%."33 Their reasoning was based on a comparison of the
nutritive value of sweet potatoes, a staple of the slave diet,
against that of white potatoes, a staple of the diet of the white
population. Fogel and Engerman concluded further that "the material
conditions of the lives of slaves compared favorably with those of
free industrial workers" and that "over the course of his lifetime,
the typical slave field hand received about 90% of the income he

Following the perverse premises of Fogel and Engerman and employing
their analytical techniques, one can easily amass data to prove that
a herd of milk cows on modern dairy farms enjoys a far better level
of care and nutrition and a lower mortality rate in calf-bearing than
does the general human population in child-bearing and that the cows
receive, in the care given them, the equivalent of 90% of the income
they produce. This allows the farmer a net profit of 10%. Of course,
this defies all sense and sensibility, but it serves to illustrate
how statistical data can be used to validate research premises that
are dead wrong to begin with.

The Fogelman/Engerman study is another example of generating
elaborate quantitative measures to support a perverse qualitative
idea. One only has to read the eloquent indictment of slavery in
Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle to realize that no amount of
statistical data can convey the realities of slavery more
scientifically than the impassioned words of Darwin....

31. Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The
Economics of Negro Slavery (Boston:
Little, Brown, 1974), p. 115.

32. Ibid., p. 123.

33. Ibid., p. 113.

34. Ibid., pp. 5-6.

[The full article is available at
<http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/ktan9801.htm#31a>.]   *****

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?


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