Portrait of a Radical Republican

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 9 11:46:14 MDT 2003

DMS wrote:
> As for either/or exclusion argument,I don't see that in the
> Brenner articles I've read, except for the unequivocal opposi-
> ition to the Malthusian interpretation of the crises of
> feudalism.

This is from my first post:

If one is committed to the Brenner thesis as a way of understanding the
"sharp class conflicts" that led to civil war in the USA, one must then
ask whether the outcome was consistent with what Brenner himself wrote.
It would be useful to read his description of the sine qua non for
"capitalist property relations" in the article "The Social Basis of
Economic Development" that appears in John Roemer's collection
"Analytical Marxism":

"Under what conditions, then, will the economic actors adopt patterns of
economic action conducive, in the aggregate, to modern economic growth?
In my view, they can be expected to do so, only where all the direct
producers are separated from their means of subsistence, above all the
land, and where no exploiters are able to maintain themselves through
surplus extraction by extra-economic coercion. It is only where the
organizers of production and the direct producers (sometimes the same
person) have been separated from direct access to the means of
subsistence, that they must buy on the market the tools and means of
subsistence they need to reproduce themselves. It is only where the
producers must buy on the market their means of reproduction, that they
must be able to sell competitively on the market, i.e. at the socially
necessary rate. It is only in the presence of the necessity of
competitive production - and the correlative absence of the possibility
of cutting costs, or otherwise raising income, by forcefully squeezing
the direct producers - that we can expect the systematic and continual
pressure to increase the efficiency of production which is the sine qua
non of modern economic growth."

When Brenner says that no exploiters are able to maintain themselves
through surplus extraction by extra-economic coerction, he is being
pretty categorical. When he says that producers must "sell competively
on the market", he is also being categorical.

Now these conditions *did* obtain within Great Britain. They were a
function of an ample supply of labor, as I have alluded to. Where labor
is in short supply or where wage labor refuses to go or goes with great
reluctance for obvious reasons--like picking cotton or laying
track--capital will use *extra-economic* coercion.


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