[Marxism] Re Primitive accumulation

robert montgomery ilyenkova at gmail.com
Tue Oct 11 10:42:19 MDT 2005

Louis writes:
"So in the absence of markets, such as was the case of the East India
Company in India, the Jamaica sugar plantations, the mita/corvee
system in Bolivia, etc., you get something that Wood categorizes as
"precapitalist" property relations. This is not a very satisfactory
analysis. You also get half-baked attempts to theorize
all this in terms of "mercantile capitalism", which also seems
unsatisfactory in many ways"

Yes. This is reminiscent of the debate initiated by the former Marxist
Eugene Genovese on the cotton plantation economy of the US slave
south. In several works Genovese argued that the dominance of unfree
labor and relative abscence of wage labor in the antebellum South made
the economic formation precapitalist-- even to the point of
semi-feudal. If the plantation slavery South, is simply taken in
isolation as a labor system, Genovese's argument would hold it seems.
But if one considers the actual historically specific web of value
relations the picture is quite different. The textile mills of New
England and Britain purchased the cotton product as raw material,
circulating capital production inputs. The cotton market was bokered
by N.Y. and London banks. The price curve for slaves as commodites
exactly mirrored the world market cotton price curve. The antebellum
southern social formation  displayed features that are hard to
reconcile with the classic aspects of a developing system of
production based on free wage labor, generalized commodity production,
and the competitive accumulation of capital. But did these differences
make that economy pre-capitalist, non-capitalist, feudal, semi-feudal?
What would Brenner or Wood call it? Or in their time Maurice Dobb or
Paul Sweezy?

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