Dependency Theory (Mine) - additional note

Julio Huato juliohuato at
Tue May 29 02:06:17 MDT 2001

I said in my previous posting that the fluidity in the relationship between
small capitals in the 'periphery' and large capitals in the 'core' raised a
more general issue regarding the pattern of historical development of
capitalist production, not only in the 'periphery' but also in the 'core'.
I call it 'dialectical' in a sense I try to explain below.

The key thing is that the issue is much more general.  In spite of my
admittedly crass ignorance of US history, I'll dare here to illustrate my
point by referring to the relationship between capitalist production and
slave production prior to the US Civil War.

Slavery in the US was temporarily reinforced by the demands of capitalist
production, but -- in itself -- it was NOT capitalist production.  It was an
extraneous object in the flesh of a social formation where capitalist
production was clearly hegemonic.  Capitalist production is production by
workers who are free from legal constraints or extra-economic coercion.
Slavery in the southern states does not meet the criteria.

If we see the production of cotton, tobacco, sugar, etc. by slave work in
the southern plantations as a form of capitalist production, socially
indistinguishable from industrial capitalist production in the north, only
technically different from it, then we are not in a position to understand
why the further development of capitalist production in the US allowed and
drove capitalists to jettison slavery and, by doing that, it did not get
weaker or slower, but actually stronger and faster.

I don't know much of US history, but it is very likely that capitalist
production in the north grew increasingly constrained by the conditions in
the south.  Among other problems, it seems to me that problems like the ones
illustrated by Marx in Capital a propos of African colonization may have
arisen in the US (drawing from my memory).  Namely, the link between the
direct producers and the material conditions of production had not been yet
severed and one of the basic premises for the capitalist production to grow
got blocked or slowed down.

As capitalist production expanded, probably industrial capitalists in the
northeast could have managed somehow with the inflow of European migrant
labor, but the Midwest industrialists must have felt very much constrained
by the lack of labor power.  In the eyes of these labor-asphyxiated
capitalists in the north and Midwest, the mass of Black slave workers in the
southern plantations must have looked like a big tank full of oxygen.

This may also explain, at least in part, the rapid pace of industrial
technical innovation in the northern regions.   In addition, I don't know,
maybe the quality of the products in the south didn't keep up with the
demands for higher quality raw materials imposed by capitalist production.
To put it mildly, slave work doesn't provide incentive for producers to care
for the quality of their products.  If we take into account slave rebellions
and their escape to the northern states, another factor -- this one clearly
political -- could have been the awareness of northern capitalists that an
out-of-control slave revolution had a good chance of igniting the rebellious
spirit of waged workers too, whose living and working conditions were not
much enviable.

In brief, I suspect that what drove the anti-slavery forces in the US civil
war, besides the rebellious struggle of the slaves themselves, was not only
the disgust of liberally minded northerners towards slavery or even their
political foresight, but also (mainly?) the contradictions between slave
production in the south and the advancement of capitalist production in the
north.  The proper assignation of causality is a matter of proper historical
investigation, but in the balance slave production was not able anymore to
deliver what a more advanced capitalist production demanded without creating
big hurdles -- at the end not really aiding, but blocking, the further
expansion of capitalist production.  Capitalist production got rid of it or
allowed it to happen without grief.

In brief, capitalist production advances dialectically.  By this, I mean
that it connects with whatever modes of production are feeding the market,
whatever is available, but -- as it gains strength -- it develops a vested
interest against modes of production that can't keep up with it.  And it
ends up fighting them and replacing them.

So here we have a case of struggle between modes of production that
cooperate first and then fight.  Cooperation goes on for a while, symbiotic
arrangements are made.  Then, competition takes over and the fight ensues.

A reverse pattern may also occur.  This is what comes to my mind when I
think of the relation between small capitals in the 'periphery' versus large
capitals in the 'core'.  The large capital may oppress the small capital for
a while (competition prevails), but -- if the large one doesn't absorb the
small one and in the absence of super-structural obstacles -- then they may
eventually need each other.  Capitalists are buyers, sellers, lenders,
creditors, etc. of other capitalists.  The main market of capitalists tend
to be other capitalists.  Their interests are not always or necessarily
mutually exclusive.  In fact, the fact that they exploit workers
collectively makes them cooperate agressively.
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