Dependency Theory

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at
Tue May 29 22:05:18 MDT 2001

As to slavery, serfdom, yeoman farm, wage labor, it's pointless to talk about
these relations of production without reference to the demographic, geographic,
and political factors that led to their predominance in various regions. Slavery
in America was the chosen response of colonizers to the shortage of labor and
the tendency of semi-free and free laborers to flee to the readily available
frontier lands, much as the serfdom imposed in Eastern Europe was. We all agree,
I think, that capitalism's reliance on economic coercion rather than repressive
forms of bondage to provide a labor force as a distinguishing characteristic
from feudal and other relations of production, but at the same time we know that
these specifically capitalist relations of production arose in England in
response to opportunities and pressures that differed from those in other parts
of Europe or in European colonies.

I am not willing to accept an analysis of relations of production other than
wage-labor, within a world-system dominated by capitalism, as either
contradictory to or inherent in that system without considering the factors that
favored or hindered wage-labor as a predominant mode of production. As Louis and
Mine have pointed out this is a topic for analysis informed by research, not
speculative abstraction. Among the factors to consider in every instance are the
repressive capacity of the state and of proprietors, the availability of
alternatives to participation in the labor regime, and the abundance or scarcity
of laborers. One way to think of the problem is to ask, how would the rulers in
a given case conceive of the perfect system of class rule, then factor in the
constraints on such a system. Rather than letting the existence of specific
relations of production categorize the state of social development, this kind of
analysis should focus attention on the reality of class struggle and the balance
of forces between producer and exploiter.

stuartwl at

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