Dependency theory (Charles)

Julio Huato juliohuato at
Tue May 29 09:47:22 MDT 2001

Charles Brown:

>CB: Here are some samples of Marx dealing directly with politics and state
>power in _Capital_:
>Section 1 - The Limits of the Working-Day
>Section 2 - The Greed for Surplus-Labour. Manufacturer and Boyard
>Section 3 - Branches of English Industry without Legal Limits to
>Section 4 - Day and Night Work. The Relay System
>Section 5 - The Struggle for a Normal Working-Day. Compulsory Laws for the
>Extension of the Working-Day from the Middle of the 14th to the End of the
>17th Century
>Section 6 - The Struggle for the Normal Working-Day. Compulsory Limitation
>by Law of the Working-Time. The English Factory Acts, 1833 to 1864
>Section 7 - The Struggle for the Normal Working-Day. Reaction of the
>English Factory Acts on Other Countries

The purpose of Marx's Capital is NOT to describe the particular way in which
the capitalist mode of production evolved in England.  The historical parts
of Capital are important (they form a unity with the logical parts of
Capital), but Marx is clear in that his real purpose is not to provide a
historical investigation.  His goal is to uncover the 'laws of motion' of
capitalist production anywhere this mode of production existed and whatever
the historical circumstances of its evolution.  Marx says that the examples
drawn from the legal and political history of England are meant to be
illustrative.  ALL of your references above are materials that Marx calls
'illustrative'.  Let me quote Marx at length:

"The physicist either observes physical phenomena where they occur in their
most typical form and most free from disturbing influence, or, wherever
possible, he makes experiments under conditions that assure the occurrence
of the phenomenon in its normality. In this work I have to examine the
capitalist mode of production, and the conditions of production and exchange
corresponding to that mode. Up to the present time, their classic ground is
England. That is the reason why England is used as the chief illustration in
the development of my theoretical ideas. If, however, the German reader
shrugs his shoulders at the condition of the English industrial and
agricultural labourers, or in optimist fashion comforts himself with the
thought that in Germany things are not nearly so bad; I must plainly tell
him, "De te fabula narratur!"

"Intrinsically, it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of
development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of
capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these
tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. The
country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less
developed, the image of its own future."

>Part VIII: Primitive Accumulation
>Ch. 26: The Secret of Primitive Accumulation
>Ch. 27: Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land
>Ch. 28: Bloody Legislation against the Expropriated, from the End of the
>15th Century. Forcing down of Wages by Acts of Parliament
>Ch. 29: Genesis of the Capitalist Farmer
>Ch. 30: Reaction of the Agricultural Revolution on Industry. Creation of
>the Home-Market for Industrial Capital
>Ch. 31: Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist
>Ch. 32: Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation
>Ch. 33: The Modern Theory of Colonisation

See my comments below on the place of primitive accumulation in the
architecture of Marx's Capital.

>CB: However, Marx does not leave them separated in analysis and
>abstraction.  He also treats them in unity , concretely, as a whole.

Indeed.  But IMO, by denying the validity of these abstractions and by
rejecting the conceptual distinctions, one skips the analysis stage
altogether and doesn't end up with a narrative where the concrete aspects of
reality are duly organized and understood.

>CB: We cannot only imagine such a biologist , but find them all over real
>biology.  Imagine writing about the botany of a vegetable and excluding the
>chemistry of h     0.    That would be a big hole in the science of that.
>                        2

What the botanist cannot do is believe that the chemistry of water is THE
explanation for the specific mode in which a plant emerges, grows, and dies.
  All plants I know of (although I'm no biologist) have in common the need
for water, among other things.  Yet, that doesn't help to distinguish
between them.  In fact, life is such because it is more or less flexible in
adapting to changes in the environment.  What would be interesting from the
point of view of the botanist interested in uncovering the 'laws of motion'
of specific plants would be to show why cactuses can manage for long periods
of time without water while, say, plants in humid tropical jungles can't.

>CB: Please point me to where Marx says he is concerned with establishing
>the "self-identity of capitalist production" . I mean Hegel is not a dead
>dog , but he is a dog.
>The location of the "self-identity" or "essence" of capitalist production
>is not a Marxist concern.
>Marx is more concerned with revealing the secret of surplus value, or some

Call it as you wish, the 'secret', the 'essence', the 'self-identity', etc.
of capitalist production, the key thing is that WHAT characterizes
capitalist production and distinguishes it from all other modes of
exploitation (or appropriation of the surplus labor time of direct
producers) is that capitalists appropriate surplus labor time not directly,
not in the form of direct surplus product either, but in the form of surplus
value.  In Grundrisse Marx calls this the 'specific essence' of capitalist
production, but we should not fight about words.

>CB: Ok to do it first, but not ok to make any pronouncements until you have
>also done what comes second.  It is a whole, and by only discussing the
>"first" part, you only discuss part, not the whole.

I don't have a problem discussing what comes second, but what is first is
first.  IMO, people tend to jump to step 2 without taking step 1 first.  All
I've been trying to do is not to deny step 2, but to remind people that step
1 has been skipped.  And by skipping step 1, step 2 has led us astray.  I
mean this, particularly, with regards to the question of the social
formation in Latin America and the Third World.

>CB: But they wouldn't have lasted long, and certainly not until today
>without the capitalists dominating and controlling state power. They
>certainly would not continue to exist today without the capitalists being
>the ruling class. The state power is not just laws, but wars, the whole
>repressive apparatus, conquests, colonial rule

I don't disagree with this.  But, as you point out, the issue then becomes
whether they would have lasted longer or shorter without state power, i.e.,
a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one.

>CB: But laws against breaches of contracts would not be enforceable without
>police and prisons.

I don't deny it either.  But police and prisons are not logically necessary
for capitalist production.  It would be sufficient for the capitalist
production to sustain itself if workers and capitalists had internalized the
assumptions of the legal code so much so that they would assume willingly
their social roles.  IMO, a big part of the formidable force of capitalism
comes from this.  I hope to submit soon another posting dealing with the
question of power under capitalism, which in my humble opinion is NOT
sufficiently clear.

>In _The Manifesto_ , Engels and Marx said:
>"The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property
>generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois
>private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of
>producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on
>the exploitation of the many by the few.
>In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single
>sentence: Abolition of private property. "
>Don't know about essences, but when they wanted to describe getting rid of
>capitalism in a word they use a legal term: "property".

Yes, but they made it clear that by 'property' they didn't mean a merely
legal relationship.  They meant an economic relationship in the first place.

>CB: Even if you remember correctly,  capitalism would end today if it
>relied upon respect for custom , and not the repressive force of the state
>power, to enforce employment contracts, prevent factory occupations and
>worker takeovers of the means of production.

I strongly disagree.  This is very important.  If communists believe that by
smashing the bourgeois state they have abolished capitalist production, they
are setting themselves up for nasty surprises.

>CB: Speaking of greenhouses in fostering capitalism, Marx said:
>"The different momenta of primitive accumulation distribute themselves now,
>more or less in chronological order, particularly over Spain, Portugal,
>Holland, France, and England. In England at the end of the 17th century,
>they arrive at a systematical combination, embracing the colonies, the
>national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system.
>These methods depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system.
>But, they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised
>force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of
>transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode,
>and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society
>pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.

Notice that Marx is talking about primitive accumulation.  He is NOT talking
about capitalist production already walking on its own feet, but about the
gathering of the premises for capitalist production (and capital
accumulation proper) in the womb of a feudal or pre-capitalist society.  Why
do we think Marx deals with primitive accumulation only AFTER he explained
the production of surplus value and the accumulation of capital based on it,
i.e., the capitalization of part of the surplus value produced?  Primitive
accumulation is accumulation of wealth NOT on the basis of the production
and exploitation of surplus value, but by sheer force.
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