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by Carl H.A. Dassbach
28 March 2002 13:00 UTC
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I did not want to continue on the CMP but given Mike Alexander's comments, I
have the following observations.

Capitalism is not, as Alexander asserts, simply another manifestation of
human greed.  In fact, the belief that humans are inherently greedy or have,
as Smith tells us,  the  natural propensity to "trade, barter and truck" is
simply a product and consequence of capitalism.  To see these as eternal and
innate characteristics of human beings is a serious error.  These are
learned not innate and when societies are reconstituted on a basis other
than the ruthless pursuit of self interest/wealth, these traits will vanish
and humans will no longer see them "inherent."

Capitalism, in other words, is not rooted in innate human nature.  It is a
historically specific phenomena only possible under a definite series of
social conditions ( see, for example, Marx's "Wage labor and Capital").
However, Capitalism and the capitalist mode of production (CMP) are not
identical - it is possible to have capitalism without the CMP.  On the other
hand, Capitalism is a necessary precondition of the CMP.  We can distinguish
between them in several ways.  For example, Capitalism is a "regime" of
absolute surplus value while the CMP is a "regime" of relative surplus,
under Capitalism, the subsumption of labor to capital is only formal, under
the CMP, the subsumption is real, etc. etc.

In a nutshell, I reject both the assertion that Capitalism or the CMP never
existed (Frank) and the assertion that capitalism, as merely another
manifestation of greed,  always existed (Alexander).

Carl H.A.  Dassbach

Dept. of Social Sciences
Michigan Tech. Univ.
Houghton,  MI  49931
----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3@panix.com>
To: <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 6:42 PM
Subject: Re: CMP

> On Wed, 27 Mar 2002 18:13:48 -0500, Mike Alexander wrote:
> >   There is much discussion about how
> >capitalism arose in the 15th  century.
> >
> >Wouldn't the 12th century Spanish shoemaker
> >Jofre  Isaac be a capitalist?
> >
> >My understanding of capitalism is it arose from
> >the earlier feudal society  through the
> >monetization of the economy.
> Money existed back in the time of Plato. It only becomes crucial when
> commodity production becomes generalized. In 12th century Spain (and
> the rest of Europe), the economy was characterized by what Marxists
> call the production of use values. Kautsky called it the "natural
> economy". For an extensive discussion of how it worked, see Marc
> Bloch's books on feudalism. Within the feudal estate, food and other
> necessities were produced for internal consumption. The lord
> extracted a surplus which could be exchanged for luxury items. In the
> city, the economy was not as dominated by such social relations but
> there is no scholarly consensus on how capitalism might have emerged
> in the cities, as opposed to the countryside. My own view is that
> artisans such as Jofre Isaac would have had more freedom in the
> cities and could have evolved into early manufacturers, providing
> tools, raw materials, etc. to other artisans. They were a nascent
> bourgeoisie who came to the fore soon after the New World was invaded
> and cheap raw materials poured into European cities.
> --
> Louis Proyect, lnp3@panix.com on 03/27/2002
> Marxism list: http://www.marxmail.org

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