[Marxism] Fwd: No Need to Choose: History from Above, History from Below

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jun 28 15:53:51 MDT 2014

Thus, the clas­sic wage-earning pro­le­tariat actu­ally re-emerges in 
this per­spec­tive as a rel­a­tively tran­si­tory and sec­torally 
spe­cific for­ma­tion pro­duced in quite delim­ited his­tor­i­cal 
peri­ods and cir­cum­stances. More­over, under any par­tic­u­lar 
cap­i­tal­ism wage labor has in any case always con­tin­ued to coex­ist 
with var­i­ous types of unfree and coer­cive labor. Those 
simul­tane­ities – of the tem­po­ral coex­is­tence inside a 
par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion of forced, inden­tured, 
enslaved, and unfree forms of work with the free wage rela­tion­ship 
strictly under­stood – need to be care­fully acknowl­edged. They become 
all the more salient once we treat cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion on a 
prop­erly global scale by inte­grat­ing the forms of sur­plus 
extrac­tion occur­ring in the colo­nial, neo­colo­nial, or 
under­de­vel­oped worlds. The West’s priv­i­leged pros­per­ity, 
includ­ing pre­cisely the pos­si­bil­ity of the social demo­c­ra­tic 
improve­ments asso­ci­ated with the three decades after 1945, has been 
founded, con­sti­tu­tively, on hor­ren­dous reper­toires of extrac­tion 
and exploita­tion on such a world scale. Other forms of labor coer­cion 
have like­wise been char­ac­ter­is­tic of even the most advanced 
cap­i­tal­ist economies in their time, as for instance dur­ing the two 
World Wars, or under the racial­ized New Order of the Third Reich. In 
these terms, I’d argue, the search for a “pure” working-class 
for­ma­tion, from which forms of enslave­ment, servi­tude, 
inden­tur­ing, impress­ment, con­scrip­tion, impris­on­ment, and 
coer­cion have been purged, remains a chimera. Once we define 
working-class for­ma­tion not by the cre­ation of the wage 
rela­tion­ship in the strict sense alone, there­fore, but by labor’s 
con­tri­bu­tions to the wider vari­ety of accu­mu­la­tion regimes we can 
encounter in the his­to­ries of cap­i­tal­ism between the eigh­teenth 
cen­tury and now, we can see the mul­ti­plic­ity of pos­si­ble labor 
regimes more eas­ily too.


More information about the Marxism mailing list