[Marxism] Capitalist but not bourgeois, revisited

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Tue Oct 25 10:10:34 MDT 2005


[I understand the bewildered or amazed answers and/or questions.  
Perhaps rrubinelli was nearer to what I meant, but of course, and as 
usual, he does not agree with me.

Maybe I should explain myself more in detail]

First of all, a bunch of expressions of amazement:

> From: Les Schaffer <schaffer at optonline.net> and Ed George 
> <edgeorge at usuarios.retecal.es>
> 
> 
> ok, i'll play class dummy.... whats the difference between a
> bourgeoisie and a cap ruling class.
> 
> les schaffer

[...]

> Following Les, who is no dummy in my book, and without necessarily
> intruding into the discussion itself, I would very much like to hear
> Néstor (¡Hola Néstor!) expand on his statement that ‘not every
> capitalist ruling class is a bourgeoisie, although every bourgeoisie
> is a capitalist ruling class.’
> 
> From: rrubinelli <rrubinelli at earthlink.net>
> 
> 
> 
> So we have a capital, and capitalists that don't need to expand, to
> engage in an expanded reproduction in order to survive?  But that,
> that critical and perpetual, need for expansion, is the signature mark
> of capitalism, the dis- tinguishing characteristic determined by its
> need to aggrandize labor through its expulsion from the production
> process.  
> 
> From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
> 
> With all due respect to my good friend Nestor, I don't believe that
> Marx made such a distinction. The terms bourgeoisie and capitalist
> were interchangeable. Ellen Meiksins Wood makes such a distinction as
> well in "Origins of Capitalism". If anybody can successfully explain
> what she is trying to say, you will be my guest at one of NYC's better
> cheap restaurants.
> 
> From: "Mark Lause" <MLause at cinci.rr.com>
> 
> I suspect that this is largely a language issue, and that Nestor is
> making a distinction between bourgeoisie--ie., city folks--and the
> rural capitalists.  A capitalist class will include both rural and
> urban, but bourgeois for the Romance language crowd implies the
> city....
> 
> ML
> 
> From: Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
> 
> Louis Proyect wrote:
> > 
> > With all due respect to my good friend Nestor, I don't believe that
> > Marx made such a distinction. The terms bourgeoisie and capitalist
> > were interchangeable. Ellen Meiksins Wood makes such a distinction
> > as well in "Origins of Capitalism". If anybody can successfully
> > explain what she is trying to say, you will be my guest at one of
> > NYC's better cheap restaurants.
> 
> See _The Pristine Culture of Capitalism: A Historical Essay on Old
> Regimes & Modern States_ (Verso, 1991).
> 
> Carrol

Wow!

As Dubbya said in glee when he landed on the carrier off Iraq: 

"Oh, Daddy, oh, Daddy!  And _I_ made it all happen????????"

Let us leave rrubinelli and fake class dummies for the final phase, 
and begin with Louis Proyect.

Dear Louis, I take your respect and good friendship for granted, so 
that if you think I am talking nonsense, just go ahead.  
Unfortunately, I don't have the time to read the paragraphs by Ellen 
Meiksins Wood, so that maybe I won't qualify for one of NYC's better
cheap restaurants.  At any rate, one of NYC's better _expensive_ 
restaurants may do.  Don't worry.

Now, on to your comments, with a side answer to Mark (another good 
friend, BTW):  I don't have all what Marx wrote at hand, but I am 
sure that he may have never made such a bizarre distinction.  
However, _I_ am doing it, taking the risks involved.  One of these 
risks was that good friends believed me to have gone bonkers.  
Another was that equally good friends wanted to save me from myself, 
or to see deep in the dark waters of mistranslation a more palatable 
meaning for my brash sentence.

I am afraid I am not going bonkers for the time being, Louis, as my 
choice of restaurants above tends to prove, and I also am sorry to 
say that Mark Lause's efforts have been fruitless:  no, dear Mark, I 
was not thinking about rural vs. urban bourgeoisies, nor did I 
consider "burgués" in the old, Middle Ages senses of "city resident".

As to Carrol Cox's contribution, please dear Carrol, excuse me if I 
don't have the time to search that particular Internet site.  Anyway, 
it looked to me as if you were answering to Louis Pr., so that I hope 
you are not offended by my short answer.

Now, on to "class dummies" Les and Ed (¡Qué tal, viejo! ¿Cómo van las 
cosas por allí? --oh how I love those _opening_ exclamation and 
question marks, almost more than the "ñ" itself!), and -by the same 
token- to Rrubinelli.

Let us profit from Rrubinelli's crisp wording.  Allow me to quote him 
again:

> So we have a capital, and capitalists that don't need to expand, to
> engage in an expanded reproduction in order to survive?  But that,
> that critical and perpetual, need for expansion, is the signature 
> mark of capitalism, the dis- tinguishing characteristic determined 
> by its need to aggrandize labor through its expulsion from the 
> production process.  

That "critical and perpetual need for expansion" is "the signature 
mark of capitalism" is out of the question.  This is predicated on 
the system as a whole, at the highest level of abstraction and in 
historic-philosophical terms.

I would also add that it is this "signature mark" that has given 
capitalism a place in the evolutive history of human societies.  The 
place of the last class formation, which lays the foundations of 
future classless formations by permanent expansion of production, 
markets, productive forces, and so on.

So far, so good, as the suicide who passes along Floor 25 on his way 
down to pavement.

Dear Rrubinelli asks, not without a droplet of sarcasm: "capitalists 
that don't need to expand, to engage in an expanded reproduction in 
order to survive"?  He does not add "Hey boy you must be kidding", 
because he already knows that I seldom take these things lightly.

There's a story about some rustic who was taken to the big city, and 
into the Zoo.  When he met the giraffe, he stood motionless, staring 
at the animal, only to mutter "This beast does not exist".

Giraffes, however, do exist.  The need for self-reproduction and self-
enlargement of capital is the condition of existence of _capitalism 
as a mode of production_.  Different formations _within the mode of 
production_ can follow each other along time, lie adjacent or 
separated on space, etc.  And, in the same way that the giraffe 
equals an  aardvark as a mammal, or a weasel equals a bush (ahem, 
this is not what I wanted to say, substitute  "bush as a mammal" for 
"bush"), the fact of being a mammal does not make you a giraffe, nor, 
lucky us, a bush.

From the general, historic-philosophic point of view, a bourgeoisie 
is a ruling class which engages in the process of self-expansion of 
capital as a condition for its own existence as a class.  This is the 
"model bourgeoisie", so to say, the bourgeoisie that corresponds to 
the "model capitalism" that Marx analyzed in his two-class schema of 
Capital, etc.

But there are different kinds of "bourgeoisies" in the real Zoo, er, 
the real world.  Metropolitan bourgeoisies (the American bourgeoisie, 
the Western European bourgeoisie, the Japanese, Australian or NZ 
bourgeoisies) do certainly live off the process of self-expansion of 
capital.  Even though it is already more than 100 years that they are 
putting brakes and levees to that process, by way of monopolies, 
cartels, trusts, and imperialism in general, they cannot kill that 
process without killing themselves.

Imperialism is my keyword here.  In the peripheries, both 
_precapitalist_ and/or _capitalist_ formations were thus organized 
that within their own boundaries there would not take place (or would 
take place as little as possible of) self-expansion of capital.  
Within _capitalist_ formations (such as Argentina or Uruguay more 
than a century ago, my reiterative example) in the periphery, the 
whole economic system is geared towards _dis_-accumulation, and the 
ruling classes are _not_ interested in self-expanding accumulation.

They are interested, however, in the permanence of private property, 
the wage system, monetary circulation, markets, etc.  That is, they 
are _capitalist_ ruling classes.  But are they "bourgeoisies"?  Well, 
this is up to debate.  And it depends on which context you are 
speaking of.  However, I would rather replace this ambiguous name 
with the one that common people have given to them in our countries:  
they are _oligarchies_.  The main difference between them and 
_bourgeoisies_ in the narrow sense which I used lies in that at the 
core they are rentiers who don't need to expand (nor turn more 
"dense", etc.) capital in order to survive.  They are, in essence, 
parasitic "bourgeoisies" with little, if any, role in the self-
expansion of the capital in their hands.

They relate to the self-expansion of capital _on a world scale_, and 
_even from the point of view of the bourgeois they are more like a 
tick than anything else_.  A necessary tick, however, when you can't 
own the country (or police it) yourself.

So that I would say that the Southern ruling class in antebellum US 
was not a "bourgeoisie", and prefer the word "oligarchy" instead.  
And at the same time I would not imagine that the plantation system 
lived outside capitalism, as Rrubinelli seems to do.  It did not.  It 
_was_ capitalism.  Southern landowners were tradesmen, were 
capitalists and not feudal lords.  But they were not very 
"bourgeois", from the point of view of history as a whole.  Had they 
been, then they would have given freedom to their slaves so the 
former slaves would buy the T-shirts from their former owners, who 
now produced them by means of wage labor.

They did not. They decided to split the Union in order to keep their 
parasitic, capitalist, not bourgeois "American way of living"...

In this sense, for example, 

Este correo lo ha enviado
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
[No necesariamente es su autor]
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"La patria tiene que ser la dignidad arriba y el regocijo abajo".
Aparicio Saravia
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