Color Me Gone..

Rakesh Bhandari rakeshb at
Thu Sep 25 14:41:35 MDT 2003

dms writes:

>discuss Post when we are really stalking the horse of Brenner

nope I pointed out that Post's framework was Tomich's, not Brenner's;
moreover, I criticized Post's article directly. I don't think Post
has proven that the social relations of slavery were a fetter to the
mechanization (for example) of picking seeds out of cotton, a task
that probably for technical reasons could not have been
mechanized.That's very labor intensive work, requiring nimbleness for
which machines are not an easy substitute; the work is repellent too.
That's why it engendered labor shortages for which slavery was a
capitalist solution.
In quasi GA Cohen terms, the low level of the productive forces that
were available for cotton picking determined the resort to slave
relations of production. Where mechanization was possible, it seems
to have been carried out, e.g. processing cotton/sugar.
I also don't think the sunk costs in purchase of slaves had to have
made mechanization of field labor uneconomical if that is what Post
is implying.
You then said that slave relations of production encouraged working
slaves to death. Your formulation was explosively worded but did not
make analytical sense to me. Slaves were worked to death given two
conditions: they were not producing for the limited circle of needs
of a ruling class but had to produce exchange values in order to
ensure the valorization of  capital, and the monstrous slave trade
ensured at a cheap cost plentiful supplies of slaves once slaves were
worked to death. The British Abolitionists would of course argue that
the welfare of slaves was improved more by the abolition of the slave
trade than by the abolition of slavery itself.

>without consideration of his central thesis-- that the
>decline of feudalism, the transition to capitalism was marked by
>continuous class struggle-- that it was the result of that class
>struggle that created various distinct agrarian structures...

If you read Brenner and Isett's latest work, you will see that there
is more to it than this. They are claiming that England's agrarian
capitalism was so explosively productive by 1750 that it not only
facilitated but for all practical purposes determined the onset of
the Industrial Revolution by which sustained per capita growth in the
English economy as a whole was achieved. It may be true that Brenner
had to bend the stick in other direction after the hegemony of what
Wood helpfully calls the commercialization model, but I was
questioning whether the stick has been bent too far in the other

Yours, Rakesh

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