The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and

Postby admin » Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:31 am

The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation
by Michael Perelman
© 2000 Duke University Press

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Table of Contents:

• Introduction: Dark Designs
• 1 The Enduring Importance of Primitive Accumulation
• 2 The Theory of Primitive Accumulation
• 3 Primitive Accumulation and the Game Laws
• 4 The Social Division of Labor and Household Production
• 5 Elaborating the Model of Primitive Accumulation
• 6 The Dawn of Political Economy
• 7 Sir James Steuart's Secret History of Primitive Accumulation
• 8 Adam Smith's Charming Obfuscation of Class
• 9 The Revisionist History of Professor Adam Smith
• 10 Adam Smith and the Ideological Role of the Colonies
• 11 Benjamin Franklin and the Smithian Ideology of Slavery and Wage Labor
• 12 The Classics as Cossacks: Classical Political Economy versus the Working Class
• 13 The Counterattack
• 14 Notes on Development
• Conclusion
• References
• Index
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Introduction: Dark Designs

In order to develop the laws of bourgeois economy ... it is not necessary to write the real history of the relations of production. But the correct observation and deduction of these laws . . . always leads to primary equations . . . which point toward a past lying behind the system. These indications . . . then offer the key to understanding the past— a work in its own right.

— Karl Marx, Giundrisse


Preface

In the development of a theory, the invisible of a visible field is not generally anything whatever outside and foreign to the visible defined by that field. The invisible is defined by the visible as its invisible, its forbidden vision: the invisible is not therefore simply what is outside the visible (to return to the spatial metaphor), the outer darkness of exclusion— but the inner darkness of exclusion, inside the visible itself.

— Louis Althusser, "From Capital to Marx's Philosophy"


The Laissez-faire Message of Classical Political Economy

Classical political economy, the core works of economic literature from the time of William Petty through that of David Ricardo, presents an imposing facade. The towering figures of early political economy forged a new way of thinking systematically about economic affairs in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries with little more than the writings of business people and moral philosophers to guide them. Every one, from Karl Marx, who created the term "classical political economy," to modern-day conservatives, recognizes the enormous intellectual achievement of these early economists.

For more than two centuries, successive generations of economists have been grinding out texts to demonstrate how these early theorists discovered that markets provide the most efficient method for organizing production. An uncompromising advocacy of laissez-faire is, ostensibly, the intended lesson of classical political economy.

Most contemporary readers of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and the other classical political economists accept their work at face value, assuming these early writers to be uncompromising advocates of laissez-faire. For the most part, even many Marxists accept this interpretation of classical political economy. Alongside their work on pure economic theory, the classical political economists engaged in a parallel project: to promote the forcible reconstruction of society into a purely market-oriented system. While economic historians may debate the depth of involvement in market activities at the time, the incontestable fact remains that most people in Britain did not enthusiastically engage in wage labor— at least so long as they had an alternative.

To make sure that people accepted wage labor, the classical political economists actively advocated measures to deprive people of their traditional means of support. The brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves might seem far removed from the laissez-faire reputation of classical political economy. In reality, the dispossession of the majority of small-scale producers and the construction of laissez-faire are closely connected, so much so that Marx, or at least his translators, labeled this expropriation of the masses as "primitive accumulation."

The very sound of the expression, primitive accumulation, drips with poignant echoes of human consequences. The word "primitive," first of all, suggests a brutality lacking in the subtleties of more modern forms of exploitation. It also implies that primitive accumulation was prior to the form of accumulation that people generally associate with capitalism. Finally, it hints at something that we might associate with "primitive" parts of the world, where capital accumulation has not advanced as far as elsewhere.

The second term, accumulation, reminds us that the primary focus of the process was the accumulation of capital and wealth by a small sector of society, or as Marx (1977, 739-40) described it, "the conquest of the world of social wealth. It is the extension of the area of exploited human material and, at the same time, the extension of the indirect and direct sway of the capitalist." Certainly, at least in the early stages of capitalism, primitive accumulation was a central element in the accumulation process.

Although many modern scholars acknowledge the pervasive nature of primitive accumulation during the time that the classical political economists wrote, nobody to my knowledge has recognized the complicity of the classical political economists. They strongly advocated policies that furthered the process of primitive accumulation, often through subterfuge.

While energetically promoting their laissez-faire ideology, they championed time and time again policies that flew in the face of their laissez-faire principles, especially their analysis of the role of small-scale, rural producers. As we will see, the underlying development strategy of the classical political economists was consistent with a crude proto-Marxian model of primitive accumulation, which concluded that nonmarket forces might be required to speed up the process of capitalist assimilation in the countryside. This model also explains why most of the classical political economists expressed positions diametrically opposed to the theories usually credited to them.

The Secret History of Primitive Accumulation

Perhaps because so much of what the classical economists wrote about traditional systems of agricultural production was divorced from their seemingly more timeless remarks about pure theory, later readers have passed over such portions of their works in haste. Although this aspect of classical political economy might have seemed to fall outside the core of the subject, I argue that these interventionist recommendations were a significant element in the overall thrust of their works. Specifically, classical political economy advocated restricting the viability of traditional occupations in the countryside to coerce people to work for wages.

Chapter i, which deals with the history of primitive accumulation, demonstrates the classical political economists' keen interest in driving rural workers from the countryside and into factories, compelling workers to do the bidding of those who would like to employ them, and eradicating any sign of sloth.

The vitality of these rural producers generally rested on a careful combination of industrial and agricultural pursuits. Despite the efficiency of this arrangement, classical political economy was intent on throttling small producers. Classical political economists often justified their position in terms of the efficiency of the division of labor. They called for measures that would actively promote the separation of agriculture and industry. As we shall see, Marx's concept of the social division of labor is very important in this respect. In contrast to Smith's exclusive emphasis on the division of labor— the arrangement of work within the firm— Marx suggested that we also examine the deployment of resources between individual firms and households— the social division of labor.

Classical political economists paid virtually no attention to the social division of labor in their theoretical works. For example, although Smith offered a detailed description of the division of labor in his famous pin factory, he did not bother to extend his discussion. What does it mean that society is partitioned in such a way that the pin industry purchases its metals or fuels instead of producing them itself? How does such an arrangement originate? Could such changes in the pattern of industries make a difference in an economy, even if technology were unchanging?

These questions were so distant from the purview of classical political economy that more than two centuries later, Ronald Coase won a Nobel Prize for bringing them to the attention of mainstream economists. Following in the wake of Coase, a group of modern economists developed the new institutionalist school of economics (see Perelman 1991a), which contends that economic forces naturally arrange themselves into some optimal pattern. Like many other economists, the new institutionalist school takes pride in locating anticipations of its work in classical political economy, especially in the thought of Smith. Even though the new institutionalist school concerns itself with the social division of labor, its theories are of no use in analyzing the coercive nature of primitive accumulation, since this school sees the economy arranging itself through voluntary contracts.

Chapter 1 concentrates on the theory of primitive accumulation. Most discussions of primitive accumulation address the subject as a shorthand expression for describing the brutality of the initial burst of capitalism. In contrast, this chapter makes the case for treating primitive accumulation as an essential theoretical concept in analyzing the ongoing process of capitalist accumulation.

I suspected that the continuing silence about the social division of labor might have something important to reveal. Following this line of investigation, I looked at what classical political economy had to say about the peasantry and self-sufficient agriculturalists. Here again, the pattern was consistent.

The classical political economists were unwilling to trust market forces to determine the social division of labor because they found the tenacity of traditional rural producers to be distasteful. Rather than contending that market forces should determine the fate of these small-scale producers, classical political economy called for state interventions of one sort or another to hobble these people's ability to produce for their own needs. These policy recommendations amounted to a blatant manipulation of the social division of labor.

We cannot justify such policies on the basis of efficiency. If efficiency were of great importance to them, the classical political economists would not have ignored the law permitting the gentry to ride across small farmers' fields in pursuit of foxes while forbidding the farmers from ridding their land of game that might eat the crops. As we shall see in Chapter 3 these Game Laws destroyed an enormous share of the total agricultural produce.

Chapter 3 describes the extraordinary history of the Game Laws. Although the origin of the Game Laws was feudal, their application and their ferocity peaked during the Industrial Revolution. They were a useful instrument to separate rural people from a major source of sustenance, adding considerable weight to the pressures to accept wage labor. They also incited many poor people in the countryside to rebel.

Chapter 4 discusses the relationship between primitive accumulation and the social division of labor from the standpoint of self-provisioning.

Chapter 5 analyzes classical political economy's implicit proto-Marxian theory of primitive accumulation. In addition, it discusses the pattern of practical measures that altered the social division of labor to the detriment of independent and small-scale producers. This chapter also discusses how classical political economy applied the calculus of primitive accumulation. It details the relationship between early classical political economy and the rural population with an eye toward efforts to create a capitalistic social division of labor. It demonstrates the continual importance that classical political economy placed on the process of primitive accumulation.

The Secret History of Classical Political Economy

Why has the social division of labor as an aspect of primitive accumulation gone unnoticed for so long by so many students of classical political economy? True, the classical political economists generally maintained their silence regarding primitive accumulation when discussing matters of pure economic theory— although they were not absolutely consistent in this regard.

Because of the novelty of their subject, these writers were not entirely in control of their own ideas. Specifically, I found that classical political economy openly expressed its dissatisfaction with the existing social division of labor quite clearly in diaries, letters, and more practical writings about contemporary affairs. This discovery led me to give a substantially new reading to the history of classical political economy.

In their unguarded moments, the intuition of the classical political economists led them to openly express important insights of which they may have been only vaguely, if at all, aware. As a result, they let the idea of the social division of labor surface from time to time even in their more theoretical works. The subject typically cropped up when they were acknowledging that the market seemed incapable of engaging the rural population fast enough to suit them— or more to the point, that people were resisting wage labor. Much of this discussion touched on what we now call primitive accumulation.

Although these slips flew in the face of the laissez-faire theory of classical political economy, they add much to the value of that literature. Indeed, if classical political economy were nothing more than a conscious attempt to come to grips with and justify the emerging forces of capitalism, it would have far less contemporary interest.

Just as a psychologist might detect a crucial revelation in a seemingly offhand remark of a patient, from time to time classical political economy discloses to us insights into its program that the classical political economists would not consciously welcome. These insights will reinforce the conclusions that we draw from their diaries, letters, and more practical writings.

The Invention of Capitalism is novel in four major respects. First, it addresses the question of what determines the social division of labor, the division of society into independent firms and industries from the perspective of classical political economy. It also develops the theoretical implications of primitive accumulation. Third, this book offers a significantly different interpretation of classical political economy, demonstrating that this school of thought supported the process of primitive accumulation. Finally, it analyzes the role of primitive accumulation in the work of Marx. All of these threads come together in helping us to understand how modern capitalism developed and the role of classical political economy in furthering this process.

On Reading Classical Political Economy

Modern economists sometimes present classical political economy as a polestar by which we can fix our bearings and, in rare cases, guide ouselves toward the future. This approach is disingenuous. Despite the invaluable lessons that we can learn from studying classical political economy, economists rarely read this literature with an eye to the future or even the past.

All too often, seemingly open-minded reviews of the past are merely a means to justify preexisting views of the present. Some readers delight in discovering in classical political economy anticipations of recent technical refinements, such as the theory of utility maximization. Others use the classics to cast their contemporaries in an unfavorable light. John Maynard Keynes, for example, contrasted the common sense of the mercantilists with the irrelevant elegance of Professor Pigou. Still other readers find the emphasis of the classics on dynamics, growth, or capital accumulation attractive.

In using classical political economy as a polestar, many economists represent it as if it were a uniform theory accepted by all. Of course, classical political economy was never a fixed body in space, but a heterogeneous collection of literature written over a period of about 100 years. If fixity does appear, it is only in the eye of the beholder. Even if many readers do acknowledge the diversity of the literature, they single out a select group of classical political economists as its stars. In general, they portray classical political economy as orbiting around a point somewhere between Smith and Ricardo. Some hold it to be closer to one or the other, but whatever its center, there is a general consensus as to what constitutes the canonical literature.

In reality, we lack objective standards for selecting the stars of classical political economy. Writing about the entertainment industry, Moshe Adler (1985, 208) has described a process whereby stars can emerge, even when they do not significantly differ in talent from lesser lights:

The phenomenon of stars exists where consumption requires knowledge. ... As an example, consider listening to music. Appreciation increases with knowledge. But how does one know about music? By listening to it, and by discussing it with other persons who know about it. [We are] better off patronizing the same artist as others do. . . . Stardom is a market device to economize on learning.

Economists studying the selection of technologies have found a similar phenomenon. In the early stages of the development of a technology, seemingly trivial accidents can determine which of several technological paths is chosen. Once industry becomes locked into a particular technological standard, it may continue to follow that line of development even though hindsight shows that the neglected paths might have been superior (see Arthur 1989).

A similar process is at work in the study of classical political economy, notwithstanding the significant variations that exist in the talents of early political economists. Once the status of a book is initially elevated, students are drawn into giving it a deeper consideration. A tradition gradually builds up around what becomes treated as almost sacred texts.

Readers of these canonical works are brought into a multidimensional dialogue that includes the authors under study, their times, and the collective experience of earlier generations of readers of these texts. In this sense, "the real life of an author emanates from his readers, disciples, commentators, opponents, critics. An author has no other existence" (Prezzolini 1967, 190; see also Latour 1987, 40).

By working and reworking these texts, each successive generation finds new levels of meaning, some of which probably eluded even the political economists who created them. As a result, these works acquire a cumulative force— albeit highly symbolic— that calls new generations to confront them once again. This process reinforces the stature of the "founders" of political economy, thereby confirming their status as "stars." Moreover, the erection of this solid structure of scholarship facilitates analysis by providing a cognitive map of the territory, allowing future researchers to navigate with more confidence.

Smith's Wealth of Nations, as we shall see, was not a particularly influential book until a generation after its publication. Once opinion leaders found the book useful in promoting their desired political outcomes, its popularity soared. Only then did Smith become a polestar of classical political economy, and his work a reference point by which all others are judged. Because of this flawed selection process, most histories of the period studiously analyze Smith and Ricardo, along with a handful of supposedly secondary figures. Other equally deserving economists generally escape notice altogether.

This book proposes a new reading— a new cosmology so to speak— that remaps classical political economy. Here, the center is nearer to Sir fames Steuart and Edward Gibbon Wakefield than to Smith and Ricardo. From this perspective, Adam Smith appears less like the sun than a moon, a lesser body whose light is largely reflected from other sources.
 
This alternative cosmology is not an arbitrary rearrangement of the stars. It highlights important lessons from classical political economy. Within this context, Adam Smith becomes less original. His importance appears to emanate from the vigor of his ideological project of advocating laissez-faire and obfuscating all information that might cast doubt on his ideology. Others, such as Edward Gibbon Wakefield and John Rae, took a more realistic view about the nature of accumulation, but later economists set their analyses aside to create the impression of a humanitarian heritage of political economy.

fudging from the literature of the history of economic thought, it is clear this view of history has succeeded mightily. The Invention of Capitalism represents a plea to correct this legacy of error and omission. From this perspective we can see that, for all its heterogeneity, classical political economy did manage to compress much of the varied experience of its day into a compact body of literature that reflects the history of relations of production. Hence, the study of classical political economy provides an effective vantage point for the study of the history of relations of production.

Chapter 6 analyzes the role of primitive accumulation in the works of such early economists as Sir William Petty, Richard Cantillon, and the Physiocrats.

Chapter 7 concentrates on the important work of Steuart, by far the most interesting and the most incisive theorist of primitive accumulation and the social division of labor prior to Marx. Besides seeing the implications of primitive accumulation more clearly than the other classical political economists, Steuart stood alone in his willingness to write openly and honestly about the subject. This characteristic explains the comparative obscurity of his reputation.

Next, chapters 8 through 10 are devoted exclusively to Smith, who attempted to develop an alternative to Steuart. According to Smithian theory, the social division of labor would evolve in a satisfactory manner without recourse to outside intervention. This chapter demonstrates that even Smith's celebrated discussion of the invisible hand was developed as a means of avoiding the challenge that primitive accumulation posed for his system. By showing that the social division of labor would evolve without recourse to outside intervention, Smith had hoped to put the question of primitive accumulation to rest. Although Smith's theory was accepted as such, practice continued in a different manner. In fact, Smith himself advocated practices that were not in accordance with his theory. This chapter also indicates that Smith was far more interested in changing human behavior than he was with matters of economic development.

Chapter 9 examines how Smith attempted to distort history, sociology, and psychology to provide confirmation of this theory of the naturally evolving social division of labor.

Chapter 10 continues with the work of Adam Smith, who based much of his theory on the experience of the colonies. Although Smith made great use of the colonial experience, the colonials did not take him nearly as seriously as the English did. The reason is not hard to fathom. In harnessing the story of the colonies to his ideological cart, Smith did not do justice to the actual situation in the colonies. By tracing his analysis of the colonies, this chapter delves deeper into the manner in which Smith purposely obscured the nature of the social division of labor.

Chapter 11 continues the study of Smithian theory and practice by comparing Smith with his friend Benjamin Franklin. This genial American was a man of practice rather than theory, yet his practical analysis greatly influenced the theory of his day. Franklin's role is especially key to Smith's theory of colonial development.

Chapter 12 continues the analysis of the relationship of classical political economy and primitive accumulation into the age of David Ricardo and Thomas Robert Malthus . By reading their works and those of their contemporaries in terms of their relationship to political economy, we provide a new twist to the different interpretation of classical political economy. This chapter reveals that despite the adherence to the doctrine of laissez-faire in theory, classical political economists maintained a strong interest in promoting policies that furthered primitive accumulation.

Chapter 13 investigates the reaction against Smith, beginning with the relatively unknown work of Robert Gourlay and the development of his ideas in the practical school of Wakefield, the systemic colonizer who stressed that the social division of labor should be organized for the purpose of capitalist development. The chapter concludes with an analysis of John Rae.

Chapter 14 discusses the commonality between Smith and such later revolutionary leaders as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Tse-Tung.

Dark Designs

Classical political economy is the product of a stormy period, distinguished by the emergence of capitalist social relations. These truly momentous changes of the time do not seem to appear in the great theoretical works of the time. Indeed, the classical political economists displayed little interest in conveying information about the great conflicts between capital and labor, or between capital and early precapitalist relations in the countryside. Nonetheless, these matters were of great importance to classical political economy.

While we catch an occasional glimpse of primitive accumulation in the canonical works of classical political economy, for the most part, we must read of the glaring conflicts indirectly. Our tactic is to approach classical political economy in the way that children learn to view a solar eclipse: by punching a small hole in a piece of paper held above another piece. The dark design that appears on the lower paper is the shadow of an eclipse, albeit with some refraction. The classical political economists made this indirect approach necessary because they were generally successful in obscuring the role of primitive accumulation in their theoretical texts. Yet, as mentioned earlier, when we turn to their letters, diaries, and more policy-oriented works, the importance of primitive accumulation becomes far clearer.

We can push our analogy of classical political economy and solar eclipses a bit further. Both represent rare and fascinating events. Past peoples have superstitiously interpreted solar eclipses as signs of impending epochal change. Similarly, the titans of political economy were thought to have been able to see over the heads of their contemporaries into the future. In this sense, their theories foreshadowed coming changes in the structure of society.

Both phenomena, planetary configurations found millions of miles away and the social changes of a century or more ago, reflect important forces that still shape our lives. Specifically, the struggle against self-provisioning is not confined to the distant past. It continues to this day (see Perelman 1991b). In effect, we can look at the eclipse of precapitalist production relations in much the same fashion, with one major exception: in the case of a solar eclipse, the brilliance of the source can destroy our vision. In the case of classical political economy, the source has attempted to obscure our vision.

Revising Classical Political Economy

Our classical forbearers may have been bright, but they were also fallible human beings. They were certainly not wholly disinterested observers. Their theories were intended to advance their own interests or those of the groups with whom they identified. These interests colored their works, whether or not they realized this influence themselves.

In regard to the struggle over primitive accumulation, these writers seem to have been intentionally obscure insofar as they could, lest they undermine their claim to generality for their theory. The struggle against the self-provisioning of rural people cast only a light shadow across the pages of classical political economy, a glimpse of an all-but-forgotten way of life obliterated by the process of primitive accumulation. Consequently, this process has largely gone unnoticed by modern readers of classical political economy.

Although we find ourselves reduced to studying the shadows of this struggle, the attempt is still worth the effort. Indeed, we will see that classical political economy conforms to a consistent pattern of almost always supporting positions that would work to harness small-scale agricultural producers to the interests of capital.

This book may be controversial in that it contradicts the commonly accepted theory that classical political economy offered its unconditional support for the doctrine of laissez-faire. It questions the relative importance of the almost universally admired Smith and makes the case that Smith and other classical authors sought to promote the process of primitive accumulation. This rereading suggests that classical political economy followed a different project, one that contradicts the standard interpretation of classical political economy.

Before turning to the main body of this work, I wish to append a caveat about my imagery of the eclipse. By studying the shadows cast by the classics, we must keep in mind that such images have fewer dimensions than the object under study. One dimension that disappears from the perspective of classical political economy concerns the social relations between labor and capital. Writing from the comfortable heights of their elevated social position, the classical political economists interpreted working-class organization as mere disorder. Because of this insensitivity, a work such as this one is necessarily imbalanced. Much attention is given to the efforts of capital to control labor, but little is devoted to the reverse. I leave the reader with the responsibility of estimating the actual balance of forces.

I hope that this book succeeds in making three points. First, primitive accumulation was an important force in capitalist development. Second, primitive accumulation cannot be relegated to a precapitalist past or even some imagined moment when feudal society suddenly became capitalist. Primitive accumulation played a continuing role in capitalist development. Third, classical political economy was concerned with promoting primitive accumulation in order to foster capitalist development, even though the logic of primitive accumulation was in direct conflict with the classical political economists' purported adherence to the values of laissez-faire.

I recognize that the seeds of capitalism had been planted long before the age of classical political economy, but never before and nowhere else had the process of capital accumulation become so intense. Hopefully, The Invention of Capitalism will throw light on the origins of that intensity.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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 Chapter 1: The Enduring Importance of Primitive Accumulation

Common fields and pastures kept alive a vigorous co-operative spirit in the community; enclosures starved it. In champion [sic] country people had to work together amicably, to agree upon crop rotations, stints of common pasture, the upkeep and improvement of their grazings and meadows, the clearing of the ditches, the fencing of the fields. They toiled side by side in the fields, and they walked together from field to village, from farm to heath, morning, afternoon and evening. They all depended on common resources for their fuel, for bedding, and fodder for their stock, and by pooling so many of the necessities of livelihood they were disciplined from early youth to submit to the rules and customs of the community. After enclosure, when every man could fence his own piece of territory and warn his neighbours off, the discipline of sharing things fairly with one's neighbours was relaxed, and every household became an island unto itself. This was the great revolution in men's lives, greater than all the economic changes following enclosure. Yet few people living in this world bequeathed to us by the enclosing and improving farmer are capable of gauging the full significance of a way of life that is now lost.

— Joan Thirsk, "Enclosing and Engrossing"


Compulsion and the Creation of a Working Class

The brutal process of separating people from their means of providing for themselves, known as primitive accumulation, caused enormous hardships for the common people. This same primitive accumulation provided a basis for capitalist development. Joan Thirsk, one of the most knowledgeable historians of early British agriculture, describes above the nature of some of the harshest social and personal transformations associated with the enclosures.

Some people denounced this expropriation. Marx (1977, 928) echoed their sentiment, charging: "The expropriation of the direct producers was accomplished by means of the most merciless barbarianism, and under the stimulus of the most infamous, the most sordid, the most petty and the most odious of passions."

Formally, this dispossession was perfectly legal. After all, the peasants did not have property rights in the narrow sense. They only had traditional rights. As markets evolved, first land-hungry gentry and later the bourgeoisie used the state to create a legal structure to abrogate these traditional rights (Tigar and Levy 1977).

Simple dispossession from the commons was a necessary, but not always sufficient condition to harness rural people to the labor market. Even after the enclosures, laborers retained privileges in "the shrubs, woods, undergrowth, stone quarries and gravel pits, thereby obtaining fuel for cooking and wood for animal life, crab apples and cob nuts from the hedgerows, brambles, tansy and other wild herbs from any other little patch of waste. . . . Almost every living thing in the parish however insignificant could be turned to some good use by the frugal peasant-labourer or his wife" (Everitt 1967, 405).

To the extent that the traditional economy might be able to remain intact despite the loss of the commons, a supply of labor satisfactory to capital might not be forthcoming. As a result, the level of real wages would be higher, thereby impeding the process of accumulation. Not surprisingly, one by one, these traditional rights also disappeared. In the eyes of the bourgeoisie, "property became absolute property: all the tolerated 'rights' that the peasantry had acquired or preserved . . . were now rejected" (Foucault 1979, 85).

Primitive accumulation cut through traditional lifeways like scissors. The first blade served to undermine the ability of people to provide for themselves. The other blade was a system of stern measures required to keep people from finding alternative survival strategies outside the system of wage labor. A host of oftentimes brutal laws designed to undermine whatever resistance people maintained against the demands of wage labor accompanied the dispossession of the peasants' rights, even before capitalism had become a significant economic force.

For example, beginning with the Tudors, England enacted a series of stern measures to prevent peasants from drifting into vagrancy or falling back onto welfare systems. According to a 1572 statute, beggars over the age of fourteen were to be severely flogged and branded with a red-hot iron on the left ear unless someone was willing to take them into service for two years. Repeat offenders over eighteen were to be executed unless someone would take them into service. Third offenses automatically resulted in execution (Marx 1977, 896 ff. ; Marx 1974, 736; Mantoux 1961, 432). Similar statutes appeared almost simultaneously during the early sixteenth century in England, the Low Countries, and Zurich (LeRoy Ladurie 1974, 137). Eventually, the majority of workers, lacking any alternative, had little choice but to work for wages at something close to subsistence level.

In the wake of primitive accumulation, the wage relationship became a seemingly voluntary affair. Workers needed employment and employers wanted workers. In reality, of course, the underlying process was far from voluntary. As Foucault (1979, 222) argues:

Historically, the process by which the bourgeoisie became the politically dominant class in the course of the 1 8th Century was masked by the establishment of an explicitly coded and formally egalitarian juridical framework, made possible by the organization of a parliamentary, representative regime. But the development and generalization of disciplinary mechanisms constituted the other, dark side of these processes . . . supported by these tiny, everyday, physical mechanisms, by all those systems of micro-power that are essentially non-egalitarian.

Indeed, the history of the recruitment of labor is an uninterrupted story of coercion either through the brute force of poverty or more direct regulation, which made a continuation of the old ways impossible (Moore 1951). Of course, the extractions common to traditional relatively self-sufficient household economy kept many people at or just above the subsistence level, but for many the market was a step backward. The disorienting introduction of the individualistic ways of the market cut people off from their traditional networks and created a sense of dehumanization (see Kuczynski 1967, 70). A purported need for discipline justified the harsh measures that the poor endured. Indeed, writers of every persuasion shared an obsessional concern with the creation of a disciplined labor force (Furniss 1965; Appleby 1978). Supporters of such measures typically defended their position by invoking the need to civilize workers or stamp out sloth and indolence. Yet capital required these measures to conquer the household economy in order to be able to extract a greater mass of surplus value. In fact, almost everyone close to the process of primitive accumulation, whether a friend or foe of labor, agreed with Charles Hall's (1805, 144) verdict that "if they were not poor, they would not submit to employments"— at least so long as their remuneration were held low enough to create substantial profits.

Employers were quick to perceive the relationship between poverty and the chance to earn handsome profits. Ambrose Crowley, for example, set up his factory in the north rather than the midlands, for there "the cuntry is verry poore and populous soe workmen must of necessity increase" (cited in Pollard 1965, 197). This process was cumulative. An increase in poverty begat more population, which in turn created further poverty, and so on. In this regard, Marx (1865, 72) noted that the level of wages in the agricultural districts of England varied according to the particular conditions under which the peasantry had emerged from serfdom. The more impoverished the serfs, the lower their descendants' wages would be.

Classical Political Economy and the War on Sloth

The classical political economists joined in the chorus of those condemning the sloth and indolence of the poor. Although they applauded the leisure activities of the rich, they denounced all behavior on the part of the less fortunate that did not yield a maximum of work effort.

Consider the case of Francis Hutcheson— "the never to be forgotten Dr. Hutcheson," as his student, Adam Smith, later described him in a letter to Dr. Archibald Davidson (reprinted in Mossner and Ross 1977, 309)— the same Francis Hutcheson whose Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy in Three Books (1742) seems to have served as a model for the economic sections of Smith's Glasgow lectures (see Scott 1965, 235, 240). A later work, his System of Moral Philosophy, exemplifies Dr. Hutcheson's contributions to that noble field of moral philosophy. After a few brief notes on the need to raise prices, Hutcheson (1755, 2:318-19) mused: "If a people have not acquired an habit of industry, the cheapness of all the necessaries of life encourages sloth. The best remedy is to raise the demand for all necessaries. . . . Sloth should be punished by temporary servitude at least." The menacing "at least" in this citation suggests that the never-to-be-forgotten professor might have had even sterner medicine in mind than mere temporary servitude. What else might the good doctor recommend to earnest students of moral philosophy in the event that temporary servitude proved inadequate in shunting people off to the workplace?

This attitude, of course, is not unique to classical political economy. We might ask, was there ever a nation in which the rich found the poor to be sufficiently industrious? The universal howl of "sloth and indolence" can be heard as far away as nineteenth-century Japan, to cite one example (see T. Smith 1966, 120). However, no country seems to have gone as far as England in its war on sloth. Indeed, writers of the time charged that a want of discipline was responsible for criminality as well as disease. By the late eighteenth century, even hospitals came to be regarded as a proper medium to instill discipline (see Ignatieff 1978, 61 ff.).

Almost poetically, Thomas Mun (1664, 193) railed against "the general leprosy of our piping, potting, feasting, fashions, and misspending of our time in idleness and pleasure." Josiah Tucker (1776a, 44-45) employed a military metaphor to make a similar point:

In a word, the only possible Means of preventing a Rival Nation from running away with your Trade, is to prevent your own People from being more idle and vicious than they are. ... So the only War, which can be attended with Success in that Respect, is a War against Vice and Idleness; a War, whose Forces must consist of— not Fleets and Armies— but such judicious Taxes and Wise regulations, as will turn the Passion of private Self-Love into the Channel of Public Good.

Primitive Accumulation and the Eradication of Holidays

Although their standard of living may not have been particularly lavish, the people of precapitalistic northern Europe, like most traditional people, enjoyed a great deal of free time (see Ashton 1972, 204; see also V. Smith 1992; Wisman 1989). The common people maintained innumerable religious holidays that punctuated the tempo of work. Joan Thirsk estimated that in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, about one-third of the working days, including Sundays, were spent in leisure (cited in K. Thomas 1964, 63; see also Wilensky 1961). Karl Kautsky (1899, 107) offered a much more extravagant estimate that 204 annual holidays were celebrated in medieval Lower Bavaria.

Despite these frequent holidays, the peasants still managed to produce a significant surplus. In English feudal society, for example, the peasants survived even though the gentry was powerful enough to extract something on the order of 50 percent of the produce (see Postan 1966, 603). As markets evolved, the claims on the peasants' labors multiplied. For instance, in southern France, rents appear to have grown from about one-fourth of the yield in 1540 to one-half by 1665 (LeRoy Ladurie 1974, 117).

Although people increasingly had to curtail their leisure in order to meet the growing demands of nonproducers, many observers still railed against the excessive celebration of holidays. Protestant clergy were especially vocal in this regard (Hill 1967, 145-218; see also Marx 1977, 387; Freudenberger and Cummins 1976). Even as late as the 1830s, we hear the complaint that the Irish working year contained only 200 days after all holidays had been subtracted (Great Britain 1840, 570; cited in Mokyr 1983, 222).

Time, in a market society, is money. As Sir Henry Pollexfen (1700, 45; cited in Furniss 1965, 44) calculated: "For if but 2 million of working people at 6d. a day comes to 500,ooo£ which upon due inquiry whence our riches must arise, will appear to be so much lost to the nation by every holiday that is kept."

Zeal in the suppression of religious festivals was not an indication that representatives of capital took working-class devotion lightly. In some rural districts of nineteenth-century England, tending to one's garden on the Sabbath was a punishable offense. Some workers were even imprisoned for this crime (Marx 1977, 375-7611). Piety, however, also had its limits. The same worker might be charged with breach of contract should he prefer to attend church on the Sabbath rather than report for work when called to do so (ibid.).

In France, where capital was slower to take charge, the eradication of holidays was likewise slower. Tobias Smollett (1766, 38) complained of the French: "Very nearly half of their time, which might be profitably employed in the exercise of industry, is lost to themselves and the community, in attendance upon the different exhibitions of religious mummery." Voltaire called for the shifting of holidays to the following Sunday. Since Sunday was a day of rest in any case, employers could enjoy approximately forty additional working days per year. This proposal caused the naive Abbe Baudeau to wonder about the wisdom of intensifying work when the countryside was already burdened with an excess population (cited in Weulersse 1959, 28). How could the dispossessed be employed?

Of course, changes in the religious practices of Europe were not induced by a shortage of people but by people's willingness to conform to the needs of capital. For example, the leaders of the French Revolution, who prided themselves on their rationality, decreed a ten-day week with only a single day off. Classical political economists enthusiastically joined in the condemnation of the celebration of an excessive number of holidays (see Cantillon 1755, 95; Senior 1831, 9). The suppression of religious holidays was but a small part of the larger process of primitive accumulation.

Classical Political Economy and the Ideal Working Day

Once capital began to dislodge the traditional moorings of society, the bourgeoisie sought every possible opportunity to engage people in productive work that would turn a profit for employers. Accordingly, classical political economists advocated actions to shape society around the logic of accumulation in order to strengthen the dependency on wage labor.

In the Utopia of early classical political economy, the poor would work every waking hour. One writer suggested that the footmen of the gentry could rise early to employ their idle hours making fishing nets along with "disbanded soldiers, poor prisoners, widows and orphans, all poor tradesmen, artificers, and labourers, their wives, children, and servants" (Puckle 1700, 2:380; cited in Appleby 1976, 501).

Joseph Townsend (1786, 442) proposed that when farm workers returned in the evenings from threshing or ploughing, "they might card, they might spin, or they might knit." Many were concerned that children's time might go to waste. William Temple called for the addition of four-year-old children to the labor force. Anticipating modern Skinnerian psychology, Temple (1770, 266; see also Furniss 1965, 1 14-15) speculated, "for by these means, we hope that the rising generation will be so habituated to constant employment that it would at length prove agreeable and entertaining to them." Not to be outdone, John Locke, often seen as a philosopher of liberty, called for the commencement of work at the ripe age of three (Cranston 1957, 425).

Others called for new institutional arrangements to ensure a steadily increasing flow of wage labor. Fletcher of Saltoun recommended perpetual slavery as the appropriate fate of all who would fail to respond to less harsh measures to integrate them into the labor force (see Marx 1977, 882). Hutcheson, as we have seen, followed suit. Always the idealist, Bishop George Berkeley (1740, 456) preferred that such slavery be limited to "a certain term of years."

No source of labor was to be overlooked. For example, in a movement that Foucault has termed "the great confinement," institutions were founded to take charge indiscriminately of the sick, criminal, and poor (Foucault 1965, 38-65). The purpose was not to better the conditions of the inmates but rather to force them to contribute more to the national wealth (for a selection of citations that reflect more charitably on the early political economists, see Wiles 1968).

Occasionally, writers of the time found signs of progress. By 1723, Daniel Defoe (1724-26, 86; see also 493) was delighted to discover that so much progress had taken place in Norwich that "the very children after four or five years of age, could every one earn their own bread."

For classical political economy such edifying scenes of hard labor were not common enough. To his credit, Jean-Baptiste Say (1821, 50-51; see also Ricardo 1951-73, 8:184), generally a strong proponent of capitalist development, penned one of the few protests of the state of affairs in Britain in a letter to Robert Mai thus:

I shall not attempt to point out the parts of this picture which apply to your country, Sir But if social life [a term that Say used almost like the social division of labor] were a galley, in which after rowing with all their strength for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, they might indeed be excused for disliking social life. ... I maintain no other doctrine when I say that the utility of productions is no longer worth the productive services, at the rate at which we are compelled to pay for them.

Sadly, no other classical political economist was willing to side with Say in this regard.

Bentham and Laissez-faire Authoritarianism

Classical political economy frequently couched its recommendations in a rhetoric of individual liberty, but its conception of liberty was far from all-encompassing. Liberty, for capital, depended on the hard work of common people.

Lionel Robbins (1981, 8), a strong proponent of market society, also alluded to this authoritarian side of laissez-faire, noting, "the necessity of a framework of law and an apparatus of enforcement is an essential part of the concept of a free society." Earlier, he wrote, "If there be any 'invisible hand' in a non-collectivist order, it operates only in a framework of deliberately contrived law and order" (Robbins 1939, 6; see also Samuels 1966). Within this contrived law and order, workers found their rights to organize unions and even to act politically severely restricted. The entire judicial edifice was erected with an eye toward making ownership of capital more profitable (Tigar and Levy 1977).

Max Weber (1921, 108; see also Perelman 1991a, chap. 3) once observed that rational accounting methods are "associated with the social phenomena of 'shop discipline' and appropriation of the means of production, and that means: with the existence of a 'system of domination' [Herrschaftsverhaltniss]." Similarly, the rational accounting system of political economy required a "system of domination," albeit on a grander scale. Weber concluded, "No special proof is necessary to show that military discipline is the ideal model for the modern capitalist factory" (1156).

In this sense, we may see Jeremy Bentham, rather than Smith, as the archetypal representative of classical political economy. Indeed, Bentham's dogmatic advocacy of laissez-faire far exceeded that of Smith. For example, after Smith made the case for a government role in controlling interest rates, Bentham (1787b, 133) caustically rebuked him with the words, "To prevent our doing mischief to one another, it is but too necessary to put bridles into our mouths."

Although Bentham theoretically championed laissez-faire in the name of freedom, he was intent on subordinating all aspects of life to the interests of accumulation. Bentham limited his passionate concern with laissez-faire to those who conformed to the norms of a capitalist society; a jarring confrontation with state power was to be the lot of the rest. According to Bentham, "Property— not the institution of property, but the constitution of property— has become an end in itself " (Bentham 1952, 1:117). Bentham was absolutely clear about the need for this "constitution of property." He realized that even though control over labor is a major source of wealth, labor stubbornly resists the will of the capitalist. In Bentham's (1822, 430) inimitable language:

Human beings are the most powerful instruments of production, and therefore everyone becomes anxious to employ the services of his fellows in multiplying his own comforts. Hence the intense and universal thirst for power; the equally prevalent hatred of subjection. Each man therefore meets with an obstinate resistance to his own will, and this naturally engenders antipathy toward beings who thus baffle and contravene his wishes.

Bentham never acknowledged any contradiction between his advocacy of laissez-faire and his proposals for managing labor. For him: "Between wealth and power, the connexion is most close and intimate: so intimate, indeed, that the disentanglement of them, even in the imagination, is a matter of no small difficulty. They are each of them respectively an instrument of the production of the other" (Bentham 1962, 48; cited in Macpherson 1987, 88-89).

Bentham understood that the struggles to subdue the poor would spill over into every aspect of life. He hoped to turn these struggles into profit for himself and, to a lesser extent, others of his class. Given labor's natural resistance to creating wealth for those who exploited them, unfree labor held an obvious attraction for Bentham. He designed detailed plans for his fabled Panopticon, a prison engineered for maximum control of inmates in order to profit from their labor.

In a 1798 companion piece to his design for the Panopticon, Pauper Management Improved, Bentham proposed a National Charity Company modeled after the East India Company— a privately owned, joint stock company partially subsidized by the government. It was to have absolute authority over the "whole body of the burdensome poor," starting with 250 industry houses accommodating a half million people and expanding to 500 houses for one million people (Bentham n.d., 369; cited in Himmelfarb 1985, 78).

Bentham planned to profit handsomely from these inmates, especially those born in the houses, since they would then have to work as apprentices within the company. He rhapsodized, "So many industry-houses, so many crucibles, in which dross of this kind [the poor] is converted into sterling" (cited in Himmelfarb 1985, 80). A strict regimen, unremitting supervision and discipline, and economies of diet, dress, and lodging would make profits possible. Jeremy Bentham, vigorous advocate of freedom of commerce that he was, dreamed of the profits that would accrue from the use of inmate labor:

What hold can another manufacturer have upon his workmen, equal to what my manufacturer would have upon his? What other master is there that can reduce his workmen, if idle, to a situation next to starving, without suffering them to go elsewhere? What other master is there whose men can never get drunk unless he chooses that they should do so. And who, so far from being able to raise their wages by combination, are obliged to take whatever pittance he thinks it most his interest to allow? (see also Ignatieff 1978, no; Foucault 1979)

According to classical political economy, all social conditions and all social institutions were to be judged merely on the basis of their effect on the production of wealth. In this spirit, Bentham recommended that children be put to work at four instead of fourteen, bragging that they would thereby be spared the loss of those "ten precious years in which nothing is done! Nothing for industry! Nothing for improvement, moral or intellectual!" (cited in Himmelfarb 1985, 81).

Bentham went even further, intent on subordinating every facet of himan existence to the profit motive. He even wanted to promote the "gentlest of all revolutions," the sexual revolution. In this regard, Bentham was not the least concerned with furthering the bounds of human freedom, but with ensuring that the inmates would have as many offspring as possible (ibid., 83). Bentham was even planning to call himself the "Sub-Regulus of the Poor." Unfortunately, because of lack of government support, his plans came to naught. As he complained in his memoirs, "But for George the Third, all the prisoners in England would, years ago, have been made under my management" (Bentham 1830-31, 96).

Alas, Bentham never succeeded in his personal goals. Perhaps he was too greedy. Perhaps his methods were too crude. Instead, as we shall see, capitalism found more subtle methods for harnessing labor. As a result, today we remember Bentham as a valiant defender of the ideals of laissez-faire rather than as the Sub-Regulus of the Poor.

Victory

Classical political economists were generally more coy about their intentions than Bentham. Despite their antipathy to indolence and sloth, they covered themselves with a flurry of rhetoric about natural liberties. On closer examination, we find that the notion of the system of natural liberties was considerably more flexible than it appeared. Let us turn once again to Francis Hutcheson, who taught Smith about the virtue of natural liberty. He contended that "it is the one great design of civil laws to strengthen by political sanctions the several laws of nature. . . . The populace needs to be taught, and engaged by laws, into the best methods of managing their own affairs and exercising mechanic art" (Hutcheson 1749, 273; emphasis added). In effect, Hutcheson realized that once primitive accumulation had taken place, the appeal of formal slavery diminished. Extramarket forces of all sorts would become unnecessary, since the market itself would ensure that the working class remained in a continual state of deprivation. Patrick Colquhoun (1815, no), a London police magistrate, noted:

Poverty is that state and condition in society where the individual has no surplus labour in store, or, in other words, no property or means of subsistence but what is derived from the constant exercise of industry in the various occupations of life. Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilization. It is the lot of man. It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labour, there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.

Or, as Marx (1865, 55-56) phrased it: "We find on the market a set of buyers, possessed of land, machinery, raw materials, and the means of subsistence, all of them, save land, the products of labour, and on the other hand, a set of sellers who have nothing to sell except their labouring power, their working arms and brains."

Later political economists disregarded the compulsion required to force labor into the market, blithely assuming that the market alone was sufficient to guarantee the advancement of the accumulation process without the aid of extramarket forces. Workers at the time generally understood the strategic importance of measures to foster primitive accumulation. In this spirit, Thomas Spence, a courageous working-class advocate, proclaimed that "it is childish ... to expect ... to see anything else than the utmost screwing and grinding of the poor, till you quite overturn the present system of landed property" (cited in E. P. Thompson 1963, 805).

The system, however, was not overturned, but instead grew stronger. Workers were forced to surrender more and more of their traditional periods of leisure (see Hill 1967; Reid 1976, 76-101). The working day was lengthened (Hammond and Hammond 1919, 5-7). The working class, in the person of Spence, cried out: "Instead of working only six days a week we are obliged to work at the rate of eight or nine and yet can hardly subsist . . . and still the cry is work— work— ye are idle. . . . We, God help us, have fallen under the hardest set of masters that have ever existed" (cited in Kemp-Ashraf 1966, 277; see also Tawney 1926, esp. 223). This statement was eloquent enough to earn its author a sentence of three years' imprisonment after its publication in 1803— a result typical of the fate of those who challenged the capitalist order. Whenever the working class and its friends effectively protested against capitalism, the silent compulsion of capital (Marx 1977, 899) gave way to compulsory silence.

Spence's silencing was not completely effective. Although some merely wrote him off as a "radical crank" (Knox 1977, 73), more recent studies have demonstrated that Spence deserves a more respectful reception (Kemp-Ashraf 1966). Indeed, Spence's biographer asserts that Owenism and the subsequent heritage of British socialism stands in direct line of descent from Spence's critique of capitalism (Rudkin 1966, i9iff.). Journalists of the time agreed with this evaluation (see Halevy 1961, 44n). Unfortunately, the Spences of the world were unable to reverse or even impede the process of primitive accumulation.

No society went so far as the British in terms of primitive accumulation. This aspect of capitalist development is all but forgotten today. Instead, separated by two centuries, contemporary economists such as Milton Friedman (1962) gloss over the dark side of capitalism, ignoring the requisite subordination, while celebrating the freedom to dispose of one's property. These modern economists, as we shall see, are very much mistaken in their interpretation of the evolution of the so-called free market.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Chapter 2: The Theory of Primitive Accumulation Analytical Preliminaries

Although primitive accumulation was a central concern to classical political economists, the study of this concept began in confusion and later settled into an unfortunate obscurity. The seemingly Marxian expression, "primitive accumulation," originally began with Adam Smith's (Smith 1976, 2.3, 277) assertion that "the accumulation of stock must, in the nature of things, be previous to the division of labour."

Smith's approach to original accumulation is odd, to say the least. Certainly, the division of labor is to be found throughout history. It even exists in insect societies (see Morely 1954). Yet Smith would have us believe that the division of labor had to wait for "the accumulation of stock," his code word for capital. Such an idea is patently false. How could we interpret the division of labor in an anthill or a beehive as a consequence of the accumulation of stock?

Marx translated Smith's word, "previous" as "ursprunglich" (Marx and Engels 1973, 33:741), which Marx's English translators, in turn, rendered as "primitive." In the process, Marx rejected Smith's otherworldly conception of previous accumulation. He chided Smith for attempting to explain the present existence of class by reference to a mythical past that lies beyond our ability to challenge it. Marx insisted, "Primitive accumulation plays approximately the same role in political economy as original sin does in theology" (1977, 873). Marx's analogy is apt. Both original sin and original accumulation divert our attention away from the present to a mythical past, which supposedly explains the misfortunes that people suffer today.

In other words, any theory based on either original sin or original accumulation is both excessively and insufficiently historical. It is excessively historical because it situates the subject in a remote past, disconnected from contemporary society. It is insufficiently historical because it relies on a mythical treatment of the past. Etienne Balibar's (1988, 49) expression, "ahistorical historicism, or the historicity without history in Marx's thought," is an appropriate characterization of this part of Marx's work.

To underscore his distance from Smith, Marx prefixed the pejorative "so-called" to the title of the final part of the first volume of Capital, which he devoted to the study of primitive accumulation. Marx, in essence, dismissed Smith's mythical "previous" accumulation, in order to call attention to the actual historical experience. In contrast to the "so-called" primitive accumulation, Marx analyzed in detail the brutality of the actual historical experience of separating people from their means of production in an effort to lay bare the origin of the capitalist system.

The Historical Basis of Primitive Accumulation The contrast between Smith's scanty treatment of previous accumulation and Marx's extensive documentation of the subject is striking. Marx's (1977, 915) survey of primitive accumulation carries us through a several-centuries-long process, in which a small group of people brutally expropriated the means of production from the people of precapitalist society around the globe:

The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of blackskins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation.

Marx did not limit his interpretation of primitive accumulation to isolated pockets of the world. The fruits of primitive accumulation are fungible. For example, he insisted that "a great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any birth-certificate, was yesterday, in England, the capitalized blood of children" (ibid., 920).

According to Smith, economic development progressed through the voluntary acts of the participants. Marx (ibid., 926), in contrast, believed that "capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt." Workers were "tortured by grotesquely terroristic laws into accepting the discipline necessary for the system of wage-labour" (ibid., 899). Where Smith scrupulously avoided any analysis of social relations, Marx produced an elaborate study of the connection between the development of capitalistic social relations and so-called primitive accumulation.

In later years, Marx displayed an impatience with those who failed to ground their treatment of primitive accumulation in concrete historical analysis. For example, he chastised Nikolai Mikhailovsky's suprahistorical presentation of primitive accumulation, in which the latter mechanically extrapolated Russia's future from Marx's analysis of the European experience of primitive accumulation (letter to the editorial board of Otechestvenniye Zapitski, November 1877, in Marx and Engels 1975, 291-94).

Granted that primitive accumulation is a historical process rather than a mythical event, a further question arises: Why does this process, or at least most accounts of Marx's treatment of it, seem to stop so abruptly with the establishment of a capitalist society? Marx himself offered few examples of primitive accumulation that occurred in the nineteenth century outside of colonial lands.

In his letter to Otechestvenniye Zapitski, Marx seemed to take an almost Smithian position, diminishing the importance of primitive accumulation by relegating it to a distant past. Marx even denigrated his chapter in Capital on primitive accumulation as "this historical sketch," insisting that it "does not claim to do more than trace the path by which in Western Europe, the capitalist economy emerged from the womb of the feudal economic system. It therefore describes the historical process which by divorcing workers from their means of production converts them into wage workers" (ibid., 293). We must read this letter in its political context. Marx was upset that Mikhailovsky was attempting to use the chapter on primitive accumulation to convey the impression that Russia's future would be mechanically determined by the "inexorable laws" of capitalism (ibid.). Marx was certain that, although the nature of capital might be unchanged, the specifics of Russian and western European development would be quite different. Consequently, he wanted to point out to Mikhailovsky the mistake of thinking that one could mechanically "predict" the Russian outcome on the basis of western European experiences.

At times, Marx did propose a theoretical stance that would seem to confine the importance of primitive accumulation to the historical past. Lucio Colletti (1979, 130) singles out the following extended passage from the Grundrisse:

The conditions which form its [capital's] point of departure in production—the condition that the capitalist, in order to posit himself as capital, must bring values into circulation which he created with his own labour— or by some other means, excepting only already available, previous wage labour— belongs among the antediluvian conditions of capital, belongs to its historic presuppositions, which, precisely as such historic presuppositions, are past and gone, and hence belong to the history of its formation, but in no way to its contemporary history, i.e., not to the real system of the mode of production ruled by it. While e.g., the flight of serfs to the cities is one of the historic conditions and presuppositions of urbanism, it is not a condition, not a moment of the reality of developed cities but belongs rather to their past presuppositions, to the presuppositions of their becoming which are suspended in their being. The conditions and presuppositions of the becoming, or the arising, of capital presuppose precisely that it is not yet in being but merely in becoming; they therefore disappear as real capital arises, capital which itself, on the basis of its own reality, posits the conditions for its realization. (Marx 1974,459-60)

In Capital, the same idea appears with a similar wording, except for the elimination of some of the more baroque Hegelesque terminology (Marx 1977/775) Taken very simply, Marx seems to have been suggesting that the initial separation of workers from the means of production was a necessary historical event for the establishment of capitalism. In short, primitive accumulation was an essential component of what Engels (1894, 217) called the "great division of labor between the masses discharging simple manual labour and the few privileged persons directing labour," but it was irrelevant to the ongoing process of capitalism. In Capital, Marx also generally appears to restrict the action of primitive accumulation to a short period in which traditional economies converted to capitalism. As he wrote in Capital: "The different moments of primitive accumulation can be assigned in particular to Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and England, in more or less chronological order. These different moments are systematically combined together at the end of the seventeenth century in England" (Marx 1977, 915).

Was Smith then correct after all in relegating primitive accumulation to the past— at least in the societies of advanced capitalism? We will see that the answer is an emphatic no.

The Coexistence of Primitive and Capitalist Accumulation

Despite Marx's words to the contrary, the overall presentation of the first volume of Capital suggests that he rejected Smith's approach of assigning primitive accumulation to a distant past. Indeed, the material in his part 8, "The So-Called Primitive Accumulation," does not appear to be qualitatively different from what is found in the previous chapter, "The General Theory of Capitalist Accumulation."

When Marx's study of primitive accumulation finally reached the subject of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Marx did not qualify his appreciation of the father of modern colonial theory by limiting its relevance to an earlier England. Instead, he insisted that Wakefield offered significant insights into the England where Marx lived and worked (Marx 1977, 940; see also Marx 1853, 498).

Read in this light, Marx's letter to Mikhailovsky is also consistent with the idea that the importance of primitive accumulation was not what it taught about backward societies, but about the most advanced ones. In spite of the presumptions of some authors to prove otherwise (see, for example, Foster-Carter 1978, esp. 229), Marx (1976, 400n) himself, referring to the institutions of Mexico, contended that the "nature of capital remains the same in its developed as in its undeveloped forms."

Even so, the presentation in Capital still does suggest a temporal cleavage between the initial moment of primitive accumulation, when capitalists accumulated by virtue of direct force, and the era of capitalist accumulation, when capitalists accumulated surplus value in the market. This dichotomy might appeal to our common sense, still, it is itself rather ahistorical.

In conclusion, at some times, Marx's analysis of primitive accumulation sometimes seems to be a process that ceased with the establishment of capitalism. At other times, it seems to be more of an ongoing process. What then is the source of this confusion?

The Primacy of Capitalist Accumulation in Capital  

Why was Marx not more explicit about the continuity of primitive accumulation? To answer this question, recall the purpose of Marx's exposition of primitive accumulation. On a theoretical level, Marx was attempting to debunk Smith's theology of previous accumulation, which suggested that capitalists' commanding position was due to their past savings.

In the process, he was attempting to lay bare the historical origins of market relations. He intended this historical analysis to refute the contention of classical political economy that markets supposedly work fairly because invisible hands somehow intelligently guide the world toward inevitable prosperity and even a higher level of culture.

Marx's depiction of primitive accumulation conveyed an overriding sense of the unfairness of that altogether brutal experience. Yet, this portrayal stood in contradiction to the main thrust of Capital. After all, Marx's primary message was that the seemingly fair and objective rule of capital necessarily leads to exploitation.

Although Marx accepted that markets were progressive in the long run, insofar as they prepared the ground for socialism, he was convinced that allegedly impartial market forces produced more cruelty than the crude and arbitrary methods of primitive accumulation. To emphasize primitive accumulation would have undermined Marx's critique of capitalism.

Marx would not have wished his readers to believe that measures to eliminate "unjust" instances of primitive accumulation might suffice to bring about a good society. To have stressed the continuing influence of primitive accumulation would have risked throwing readers off track. Certainly, Marx did not want his readers to conclude that the ills of society resulted from unjust actions that were unrelated to the essence of a market society.

On the contrary, Marx insisted that the law of supply and demand, not primitive accumulation, was responsible for the better part of the horrible conditions that the working class experienced. As a result, he subordinated his insights about primitive accumulation to a more telling critique of capitalism; namely, that, once capitalism had taken hold, capitalists learned that purely market pressures were more effective in exploiting labor than the brutal act of primitive accumulation. In this sense, Marx's relegation of primitive accumulation to the historical past made sense. By calling attention to the consequences of the market's unique logic, he was reinforcing his basic contention that piecemeal reforms would be inadequate. In this vein, Marx (1977, 899-900) wrote:

It is not enough that the conditions of labour are concentrated at one pole of society in the shape of capital, while at the other pole are grouped masses of men who have nothing to sell but their labour-power. Nor is it enough that they are compelled to sell themselves voluntarily. The advance of capitalist production develops a working class which by education, tradition and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of production as self-evident natural laws. The organization of the capitalist process of production, once it is fully developed, breaks down all resistance. The constant generation of a relative surplus population keeps the law of the supply and demand of labour, and therefore wages, within narrow limits which correspond to capital's valorization requirements. The silent compulsion of economic relations sets the seal on the domination of the capitalist over the worker. Direct extra-economic force is still of course used, but only in exceptional cases. In the ordinary run of things, the worker can be left to the "natural laws of production," i.e., it is possible to rely on his dependence on capital, which springs from the conditions of production themselves, and is guaranteed in perpetuity by them. It is otherwise during the historical genesis of capitalist production. The rising bourgeoisie needs the power of the state, and uses it to "regulate" wages, i.e., to force them into the limits suitable to make a profit, to lengthen the working day, and to keep the worker himself at his normal level of dependence. This is an essential aspect of so-called primitive accumulation, (emphasis added)

The force of the "silent compulsion" is more effective than the crude methods of primitive accumulation:

the pretensions of capital in its embryonic state, in its state of becoming, when it cannot yet use the sheer force of economic relations to secure its right to absorb a sufficient quantity of surplus labour, but must be aided by the power of the state. . . . Centuries are required before the "free" worker, owing to the greater development of the capitalist mode of production, makes a voluntary agreement, i.e. is compelled by social conditions to sell the whole of his active life, (ibid., 382)

Again, in describing the centralization of capital, Marx (1981, 3:609) noted how effectively market forces had replaced primitive accumulation: "Profits and losses that result from fluctuations in the price of . . . ownership titles, and also their centralization in the hands of railway magnates . . . now appears in place of labour as the original source of capital ownership, as well as taking the place of brute force."

Marx (ibid., 354) also made the connection between market forces and primitive accumulation when he discussed the tendency of the rate of profit to fall: "This is simply the divorce of the conditions of labour from the producers raised to a higher power. ... It is in fact this divorce between the conditions of labour on the one hand and the producers on the other that forms the concept of capital, as this arises with primitive accumulation."

Here, Marx (ibid., 348) referred to "expropriating the final residue of direct producers who still have something left to expropriate." This note is important because it indicates that Marx realized the ongoing nature of primitive accumulation, although as I argue he wanted to suppress its importance to highlight the "silent compulsion" of the market.

Judging by his words, Marx was also careful to avoid confusing such "financial primitive accumulation" with primitive accumulation proper. Marx (ibid., 570-71) noted:

Conceptions that still had a certain meaning at a less developed state of capitalist production now become completely meaningless. Success and failure lead in both cases to the centralization of capitals and hence to expropriation on the most enormous scale. Expropriation now extends here from the immediate producers to the small and medium capitalists themselves. Expropriation is the starting-point of the capitalist mode of production, whose goal it is to carry it through to completion, and even in the last instance to expropriate all individuals.

No matter what his strategic reasons, Marx seems to have downplayed the role of primitive accumulation in order to focus on modern capitalist accumulation. Although he succeeded in that respect, this ahistoricity obscures our understanding of the early process of capitalist development.

Specifically, by relegating primitive accumulation to the precapitalistic past, we lose sight of the twofold time dimension of primitive accumulation. First, as we shall emphasize later, the separation of people from their traditional means of production occurred over time as capital gradually required additional workers to join the labor force. Second, the process of primitive accumulation was a matter of degree. All-out primitive accumulation would not be in the best interests of capital. Instead, capital would manipulate the extent to which workers relied on self-provisioning in order to maximize its advantage.
The Theoretical Context of Primitive Accumulation

Marx's presentation of primitive accumulation had the unfortunate consequence of divorcing the process from political economy. Peter Cressey and John Maclnnes (1980, 18) made a similar point, noting:

Marx argues that primitive accumulation was a process irreducible to the categories of political economy and explicable only in terms of struggle and ultimately force. At first sight it appears that historical analysis of primitive accumulation explains the initial "formal" subordination of labour, in that the workplace capitalist simply appropriates (formally) a production process bequeathed by pre-capitalist society. [Ultimately, the] . . . concept of the formal subordination of labour, like Smith's concept of previous accumulation, is not derived from history but from political economy.

Etienne Balibar's analysis of Marx's use of the term proletariat reinforces our case for looking at the concept of primitive accumulation more closely. Balibar noted that Marx's Capital rarely mentions the proletariat, but generally refers to the working class. In the first edition of the first volume, the term only appears in the dedication to Wilhelm Wolff and the two final sections on "The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation," which concerned the law of population and the process of primitive accumulation.

On only one occasion do the proletarian and the capitalist confront each other directly in Capital. Balibar (1988, 19-20) concluded, "These passages have in common their insistence upon the insecurity characteristic of the proletarian condition." On a more general level, Balibar claimed that Marx's use of the term proletariat seemed to be intended to infer that the condition of the working class was unstable, that it perpetuated the violence associated with the transition to capitalism, and that the situation is historically untenable (ibid.).

Following Balibar, we might interpret the notion of the proletariat as an abstract concept to describe the situation of people displaced from their traditional livelihoods by primitive accumulation. The concept of the proletariat abstracts from any of the specific conditions that affected these people, with the exception of their lack of control over the means of production, which sets the stage for the introduction of capitalist forces.

Both Balibar's reading of the use of the word proletariat and my own understanding of Marx's treatment of primitive accumulation suggest that Marx obscured the phenomena of primitive accumulation in order to focus attention on the working of markets. By relegating the relevance of primitive accumulation to the historical process of proletarianization, we ignore the centrality of the ongoing process of primitive accumulation in shaping the conditions of the working class.

I am convinced that we can benefit from a closer look at primitive accumulation, without losing sight of Marx's invaluable analysis of market forces. In the process of investigating this subject, I will attempt to reintegrate primitive accumulation into the structure of political economy, especially classical political economy.

Acknowledging the Scope of Primitive Accumulation

In reality, primitive accumulation did not suddenly occur just before the transition to European capitalism. Nor was it confined to the countryside of western Europe. Primitive accumulation may be seen as occurring even well before the age of capitalism.

For example, land was already scarce for the majority of people during the Middle Ages. According to M. M. Postan (1966, 622-23):

about one-half of the peasant population had holdings insufficient to maintain their families at the bare minimum of subsistence. This meant that in order to subsist the average smallholder had to supplement his income in other ways. . . . [industrial and trading activities might sustain entire villages of smallholders. . . . Most of the opportunities for employment must, however, have lain in agriculture. . . . [I]n almost all the villages some villagers worked for others.

Other factors reinforced the pressure of land scarcity. For example, the twelfth-century Danes levied tribute from the British. This extortion was not primitive accumulation, since it was not intended to coerce workers into the labor market and foster market relations. However, it did impel Britain to monetize its economy in a way that bore some resemblance to primitive accumulation (Sohn-Rethel 1978, 107). Similarly, medieval usury, often simply dismissed as a parasitic intrusion into the economy, prodded the economy to advance (Marx 1967, 3:596-97).

The process of primitive accumulation does not merely extend backward before the epoch of classical political economy. It lasted well into more modern times. In England, as well as in the other countries of advanced capitalism, the conversion of small-scale farmers into proletarians continued throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. This transformation involved more than the "silent compulsion" of market forces. In the case of the destruction of small-scale farming in the United States, the federal government was central in developing the transportation and research systems that tipped the balance in favor of largescale agriculture (see Perelman 1977; 1991b).

The continuity of primitive accumulation stands in stark contrast to its usual image as the one-time destruction of the peasant economy, the immediate effect of which was to create a society with capitalists on the one side and workers on the other. This perception is understandable, but misleading. Indeed, on the eve of capitalism, the majority of people were peasants or at least had some connection to farming.

Moreover, primitive accumulation was not limited to agriculture. It extended across many, if not all, sectors of the economy (Berg 1986, 70). It took place in the city as well as the countryside. After all, urban people still provide for themselves directly in a multitude of ways other than the growing of food. Depriving people of these means of provision forces a greater dependence on the market just as surely as restricting their access to the means of food production.

Take a relatively modern example. Packing people into crowded urban quarters left little space for doing laundry. As a result, people become dependent on commercial laundries. After World War II, the ability of the typical U.S. family to produce for its own needs continued to diminish, despite the widespread availability of household appliances, such as washing machines, that should have made many types of self-provisioning easier. Likewise, Paul Sweezy (1980, 13) interprets Japan's huge entertainment sector as a partial result of people being forced to live in such cramped quarters that they are unable to socialize in their homes.

The need to purchase such services compels people to sell more labor. We see the impact of this pressure reflected in the recent increase in the number of women in the labor force. Gabriel Kolko (1978, 267) calculates that the share of life years available for wage labor for the average adult has expanded from 39 percent in 1900 to 44.4 percent in 1970, despite rising education levels, better child labor laws, and a shorter workweek. Since that time, work has demanded a rapidly escalating share of the typical family's time. Juliet Schor (1991, 29) estimates that the average person worked 163 more hours in 1987 than in 1969.

This process can feed on itself. Because people have to earn more wages to compensate for the increased difficulty of providing for certain of their own needs, they have less time to do other sorts of work on their own, inducing families to transfer still more labor from the household to the commercial sector. Child care centers are an obvious outcome of this process. In addition, the fast-food industry is predicated on the difficulty of working a job and performing a multitude of other household chores in the same day.

The foregoing discussion suggests that wage labor and nonwage labor are, indeed, inextricably linked. The analysis of one category necessitates consideration of the other. As we shall see later, the concept of the social division of labor enhances our understanding of this mutual interplay of wage and nonwage labor. For now, we need only keep in mind our modern-day examples of goods and services that were once produced within the household, which became commodities sold by commercial firms.

This new arrangement is related, at least in part, to the pattern of ownership of the means of creating these goods and services in the household. Formally, the lack of ownership of a workspace for doing laundry is no different from the lack of ownership of the parcel of land on which a household once grew its own food. In either case, the denial of ownership to a particular means of production creates a change in the mix of wage and nonwage labor.  

Ignoring Balibar's warning about the careless use of the word proletariat, we could interpret this restructuring of the life of a modern household as a contemporary variant of the process of primitive accumulation, whereby the mass of people working for wages has increased. In this sense, the concept of primitive accumulation is closely bound up with that of the social division of labor.

Classical Political Economy and Primitive Accumulation

Even though Marx muted his analysis of the continuing nature of primitive accumulation, he was abundantly clear that primitive accumulation resulted in momentous changes in social relations that were central to creation of the capitalist system (see Dobb 1963, 267). Marx's lesson was lost on most later economists. They were content to treat the Industrial Revolution as if it were merely the introduction of superior methods of production. In contrast, the classical political economists saw primitive accumulation as a means of radically reordering the social division of labor, which they recognized as a precondition of the creation of a proletariat. Along this line, Marx (1977, 764), in writing about primitive accumulation, proposed the formula: "Accumulation of capital is . . . multiplication of the proletariat."

We shall see that we can express the classical theory of primitive accumulation as a model that resembles a crude proto-Marxian model stripped of the dialectic. In analyzing this model, keep in mind that Marx began by taking the categories of classical political economy as he found them (see Perelman 1987, chap. 4). By investigating them more fully, he was able to invest the typically static, undialectical categories of classical political economy with a dynamic, dialectical quality.

We will try to follow the same tradition in our study of the classical theory of primitive accumulation. The classical political economists make this task considerably easier. Compared to their analysis of the categories of profits or wages, they adopted a far more dynamic, almost dialectical approach to their analysis of primitive accumulation. Carrying out such an analysis of the classical theory of primitive accumulation has a twofold importance: it reveals a side of classical political economy that previously has gone unnoticed; and it reminds us that primitive accumulation is an ongoing process.

Even modern commentaries on primitive accumulation do not do the topic full justice. Like Marx, most contemporary references relegate the concept to a distant past, except perhaps in the case of the proletarianization that the less-developed countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are experiencing. Consequently, the separation of workers from their means of production is implicitly assumed to be a static, once-and-for-all event.

Since the classical political economists grounded their discussions of primitive accumulation in a dynamic framework, scrutiny of the classics has more to offer than more modern commentaries on the subject of primitive accumulation. To some extent, the deficiencies of these commentaries may be understandable. Marx himself often wrote about primitive accumulation with an air of finality and possibly even with a touch of Smithian mythology. For example, the first mention of the concept of primitive accumulation in Capital appears in chapter 23, "Simple Reproduction" (Marx 1977, 714). At this point, Marx had to address the question: How does the system come to be structured into capital and labor? He responded: "From our present standpoint it therefore seems likely that the capitalist, once upon a time, became possessed of money by some form of primitive accumulation" (Marx 1977, 714).

Marx's uncharacteristic "once upon a time," which sounded as unreal as Smith's mythical history, was obviously provisional. The words "from our present viewpoint" also suggest that a more thorough analysis would be forthcoming. For reasons already discussed, Marx never provided that thoroughgoing critique. Instead, we find only history.

Yet primitive accumulation remains a key concept for understanding capitalism— and not just the particular phase of capitalism associated with the transition from feudalism, but capitalism proper. Primitive accumulation is a process that continues to this day. Thus, we must carry the history of primitive accumulation through the epoch of classical political economy by connecting this concept with Marx's notion of the social division of labor.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Chapter 3: Primitive Accumulation and the Game Laws The Feudal Origin of the Game Laws

Earlier we made the assertion that we should not limit our understanding of primitive accumulation to agriculture alone. As a case in point, let us begin with the admittedly obscure subject of the Game Laws.

Classical political economy was virtually silent concerning the Game Laws. Some might contend that this silence is altogether appropriate. After all, the Game Laws began as an element of feudalism. As we shall see, however, the Game Laws were one of the most hated institutions of feudalism, most remembered today for leading the legendary Robin Hood into a life of crime. More important, they helped to create conditions that eventually contributed to the undermining of the feudal aristocracy's hegemony in British society.

Laws protecting feudal rights in the forests were common throughout Europe. Many remained in force as late as the nineteenth century. In Germany, for example, merely foraging for berries was deemed a crime (Marx 1842, 234-35). Marx (1970, 19-20; Marx and Engels 1973, 39:466) himself remarked that the harsh treatment meted out to those who illegally gathered wood in the forests was significant enough to have first drawn his attention to social problems. These prohibitions differed little from the ancient feudal laws that forbade people from carrying out certain types of work in their homes in order to preserve the privileged positions of their masters (see Weber 1923, 120).

Although the English Game Laws also began as a feudal institution, they lost most of their importance as feudalism waned. By the end of the sixteenth century, the English state had ceased to enforce these laws, although they still remained on the books. King Charles I tried to revive them in 1630 to raise revenue, but both Parliament and the Civil War conditions prevented him from doing so (Munsche 1980, 189).

The modern English Game Laws began in 1671. The wording of the preamble sounds far more like the handiwork of avaricious capitalists intent on maximizing surplus value than an appeal to feudal tradition:

Whereas great mischief do ensure by inferior tradesmen, apprentices, and other dissolute persons neglecting their trades and employments who follow hunting, fishing and other game to the ruin of themselves and their neighbors, therefore, if any such person shall presume to hunt, hawk, fish or fowl (unless in company of the master of such apprentice duly qualified) he shall ... be subject to the other penalties. (William and Mary 3 and 4, chapter 23, reprinted in Chitty 1812, 1:459-65; also cited in Ignatieff 1978, 26)

In truth, the initial spirit of this Game Law was as feudal as its predecessors. Although it may have sounded capitalistic, this legislation actually reflected a spirit that was inimical to capitalism. The intent of this legislation was to promote a hierarchy of class relationships, not necessarily capitalist in nature. According to one of the few works devoted to the study of this subject, "The Game Laws were born out of a desire to enhance the status of country gentlemen in the bitter aftermath of the Civil War. Their message was that land was superior to money" (Munsche 1980, 164).

While an antibourgeois sentiment may have motivated the Game Laws, these acts represented a direct response to the refusal of the rural poor to accept the landlords' assertion of unprecedented property rights following the Civil War. After all, these new property rights came at the expense of the traditional rights of the poor in the countryside (see Ignatieff 1978, 16).

These traditional rights were far from inconsequential for the rural poor. For them, hunting was an important means of providing for oneself and one's family, rather than simply pleasant recreation. The Game Laws, in this sense, became part of the larger movement to cut off large masses of the rural people from their traditional means of production (E. P. Thompson 1975, 94, 99, 207, 261).

Once English leaders recognized the unexpected benefits of the Game Laws, the people in power went well beyond merely embracing the acts as they found them; they passed increasingly restrictive Game Laws with even more inhumane penalties. In the process, the British Game Laws became the harshest in the world (see Engels 1845, 552-53).

Although the spirit of the Game Laws may have been in tune with modern capitalism, the British system of justice often administered these bourgeois Game Laws in a decidedly feudal style. The case of Richard Dellers became a particularly famous example. On the basis of information from his gamekeeper and a servant, the Duke of Buckingham convicted Dellers. The duke, presiding over the trial in his own drawing room, informed the unfortunate Dellers that if he uttered a single impertinent word, he would be taken to jail or the stocks (Munsche 1980, 76; see also Cobbett 1830, 1:191-93). Henry Brougham, speaking in 1828 when the Dellers affair was still fresh in the minds of the British public, roared: "There is not a worse constituted tribunal on the face of the earth, not even that of the Turkish cadi, than that which summary convictions on the Game Laws constantly take place, I mean a bench or a brace of sporting justices" (cited in Munsche 1980, 76).

Nonetheless, despite the feudal execution and intent of the modern Game Laws, their effect was decidedly capitalistic insofar as they succeeded in accelerating the process of primitive accumulation.

The Scottish Laboratory

Primitive accumulation probably occurred at a faster rate in Scotland than in Britain, in part because it began later in Scotland. As a result, the perception of the role of hunting in that country is of special significance.

In his tour of the Scottish Highlands, Daniel Defoe (1724-26, 666) discovered that "however mountainous and wild the country appeared, the people were extremely well furnished with provisions." Among the major sources of food, he noted "venison exceedingly plentiful, and at all seasons, young or old, which they kill with their guns whenever they find it." Later visitors to Scotland fretted that hunting was a barrier to the expansion of wage labor. Thomas Pennant, a botanist, provided much valuable information about the relationship between hunting and the labor market in his Tour in Scotland ( 1 7 7 1 ) . While considered to be a sympathetic interpreter of Scottish society— more so than, say, Samuel Johnson— Pennant still regarded those who used hunting rather than wage labor to supplement their livelihood with a jaundiced eye (see Lascelles 1971, xviii).

For example, writing from a spot near Edinburgh, Pennant (1772, 71) noted, "I was informed that labor [sic] is dear here . . . ; the common people not being yet got into a method of working, so do very little for wages." Once he reached the Highlands, he complained: "The manners of the native Highlanders may be expressed in these words: indolent to a high degree, unless roused to war, or any animating amusement" (ibid., 176).

For Pennant (ibid., 115) the energy the Highlanders devoted to hunting contrasted unfavorably with their lack of enthusiasm for wage labor: "The inhabitants live very poorly. . . . The men are thin, but strong; idle and lazy, except when employed in the chace [sic], or anything that looks for amusement; and are content with their hard fare, and will not exert themselves farther than what they deem necessaries [sic]." Pennant's description of the Highlanders closely resembles Adam Smith's (1755-1756, 250) characterization of savages: "The life of a savage, when we take a distant view of it, seems to be a life of either profound indolence, or of great and astonishing adventures" (see also Rae 1834, 131). Here was the problem that the classical model of primitive accumulation highlighted. People preferred their leisure rather than the small value they could obtain from a long stint of wage labor.

Pennant (1772, 126) drew some hope from what he saw in the salmon fisheries on the beaches near Aberdeen, where the women carried their heavy loads of salmon in baskets, which they hoisted onto their shoulders: "And when they have sold their cargo and emptied their basket, [they] will replace part of it with stones: they go sixteen miles to sell or barter their fish; they are very fond of finery, and will load their fingers with trumpery rings, when they want both shoes and stockings." One could only guess how many hours of their drudgery were exchanged for each hour of the jeweler's craft.

In most accounts of the world of the Highlanders, people displayed more reluctance to engage in wage labor. For example, Samuel Johnson observed that a pair of traditional Scottish brogues could be made at home in one hour. Commercially produced shoes sold for one-half crown per pair (Johnson 1774, 50). According to Adam Smith's (1976, I.viii.31) estimates of wage rates for labor in the vicinity of Edinburgh, where workers were undoubtedly paid more than in the countryside, a citizen of that city would have to work for three full days to earn enough money to purchase a pair of shoes. Commercially produced shoes would need to have a great deal of appeal to induce people to work for almost three days to purchase them instead of making their own brogues in an hour, assuming that they could obtain the leather cheaply.

Given the unfavorable exchange between wages and purchased commodities, people in the Highlands generally preferred self-provisioning to wage labor. Seeing this as a problem, Pennant approved of whatever restricted people's opportunity for self -provisioning. For example, he commended the practice of the Earl of Bute, whose "farms were possessed of a set of men, who carried on at the same time the profession of farming and fishing to the manifest injury of both. His lordship drew a line between these incongruent employs, and obliged each to carry on the business he [Bute] preferred, distinct from the other" (Pennant 1774, 2:160).

Pennant did not base his objection to these poor husbandmen on technical grounds. He admitted that "in justice to the old farmers, notice must be taken of their skill in ploughing even in their rudest days, for the ridges were strait [sic], and the ground laid out in a manner that did them credit" (ibid.). Pennant's concerns were not technical. He wanted a new system of dependency. Thus, he praised the management of the Breadalbane estate, where tenants could stay rent free "on the condition that they exercise some trade. [Consequently, Breadalbane] has got some as good workmen, in common trades, as any in his Majesty's kingdom" (Pennant 1772, 90). To establish such dependency, Pennant saw the need to restrict the possibility of hunting for one's own food.

In this vein, James Steuart (1767, 1:37), writing from his native Scotland, wryly praised the suppression of hunting merely as "an augmentation of inland demand for agricultural commodities."

Lord Karnes (Henry Home) (1758, 1, 78n), a Scottish aristocrat, explored the nature of the society that the Game Laws were intended to produce, explaining:

The life of a fisher or hunter is averse to society, except among the members of simple families. The shepherd life promotes larger societies, if that can be called a society, which hath scarce any other than a local connection. But the true spirit of society, which consists in mutual benefits, and in making the industry of individuals profitable to others as well as themselves, was not known till agriculture was invented. Agriculture requires the aid of many other arts. The carpenter, the blacksmith, the mason, and other artificiers, contribute to it. This circumstance connects individuals in an intimate society of mutual support, which again compacts them within a narrow space.

Karnes (1758, 1, 78-79 recognized that this new society would necessarily lead to a hierarchy:

The intimate union among a multitude of individuals, occasioned by agriculture, discovered a number of social duties, formerly unknown. These behoved to be ascertained by laws, the observation of which must be enforced by punishment. Such operations cannot be carried on, otherwise than by lodging power in one or more persons, to direct the resolutions, and apply the force of the whole society. In short, it may be laid down as an universal maxim, that in every society, the advances of government towards perfection, are strictly proportioned to the advances of the society towards intimacy of union.

For Kames (ibid., 125-26), while this arrangement might lead to a severely unequal distribution of income, the outcome was for the best. After all, he asked, "What place would there be for generosity, benevolence, or charity if the goods of fortune were common to all?"

The Oppressive Nature of the Bourgeois Game Laws

Changing social relations in the countryside influenced the development of the Game Laws. Although the feudal Game Laws were harsh and repressive, the paternalistic obligations that society still expected of the gentry tempered the severity of these restrictions. Generally, those most in need could count on some generosity from the superior orders; however, the social mores were changing.

With the decline of feudal relations, land ownership was becoming more of a business and less a way of life. The economic value of land rose, and the gentry became more bourgeoisified (Wood 1999). Landlords' relations with their tenants became both more distant and more exploitative. Longterm leases became less common. Rental income was on the rise. Cottagers were being eliminated. Casual labor was replacing full-time workers and servants. Any goodwill was fast disappearing from the countryside.

Within this context, the Game Laws became ever more brutal. The Waltham Black Acts of 1722 were among the earliest of the severe measures to punish poachers. This legislation was devised at a time when venison had become a prized delicacy, perhaps because of the great expanse of land required for raising deer (see E. P. Thompson 1975, 30). More and more, poachers began to see the quarry as a commodity rather than an object of direct consumption. A century later, in 1826, a journalist lamented that it was "difficult to make an uneducated man appreciate the sanctity of private property in game [when] . . . the produce of a single night's poach was often more than the wages for several weeks' work" (cited in Shaw 1966, 156).

The penalties for taking small game were initially less severe than for poaching deer until landowners began to take measures to increase their population of deer on their land. In response, the scope of the Game Laws expanded rapidly. During the first six decades of the eighteenth century, for example, only six acts were directed against poachers of small game. The next fifty-six years saw the enactment of thirty-three such laws. As a result, "Meat virtually disappeared from the tables of the rural poor" (Deane and Coale 1965, 41).

Poaching was taken so seriously that it was, on occasion, even equated with treason. The British courts enforced these laws with shocking ferocity. Several poachers were actually executed under the famous Black Acts (E. P. Thompson 1975, 68).

The imposition of draconian penalties for infractions of the supposedly feudal Game Laws at such a late date might seem anomalous for an advancing capitalist economy. Yet the Game Laws were an important part of the intensifying class struggle that was occurring in the countryside during the age of classical political economy. One pamphleteer exclaimed that "the article of game [is] productive of more disquiet, popular discontent and local animosity than any other law ever established in this kingdom" (Taplin 1792, 168).

The conviction rates indicate the sharpening of this conflict. In 1816, the first year in which national figures were recorded, 868 persons were imprisoned for game offenses; by 1820, the number had risen to 1,467. In Wiltshire, the winter of 1812-1813 saw 8 committals under the Game Laws; by the winter of 1817-1818, the number had risen to 85. In Bedfordshire, 7 people were imprisoned [PIECE MISSING]. By the first half of the 1820s, 65 persons annually were imprisoned for infractions of the Game Laws (Munsche 1980, 138). In Wiltshire, the average had risen to 92. Between 1820 and 1827, nearly a quarter of those committed to prison were convicted of poaching (Shaw 1966, 155). In Wiltshire alone, more than 1,300 persons were imprisoned under the Game Laws in the fifteen years after the battle at Waterloo in 1 8 1 5 , more than twice the number for the previous fifty years (Munsche 1 980, 1 3 8). These numbers undoubtedly understate the conviction rates, since the Justices of the Peace who heard cases frequently neglected to record convictions (Hay 1975, 192).

Despite the reform of the Game Laws in 183 1, the number of convictions for poaching still continued their dramatic increase (Munsche 1980, 157). During the 1840s, in some rural counties, 30 to 40 percent of all male convictions were still for infractions of the Game Laws (Horn 1981, 179-80). The Duke of Richmond told the House of Lords on 1 9 September 1 83 1 that one-seventh of all criminal convictions in England were for violations of the Game Acts (Hammond and Hammond 1927, 167).

The majority of convicts that Britain exiled to Australia supposedly were convicted of poaching. Robert Hughes disputes that view, suggesting that many of the poachers got off lightly. Nonetheless, a substantial number of poachers suffered transportation (Hughes 1987, 170; Munsche 1980, 103).

In addition, the state convicted a good number of poachers of other crimes that grew out of their poaching, such as resisting arrest. Even Hughes (1987, 170), who tried to make the case that the majority of transported convicts were guilty of more serious crimes, shows how the Game Laws were used to rid the labor market of people whom the authorities deemed to be undesirable.

Economic conditions at the time, rather than feudal history, explain the upswing in conviction rates. For example, the Hammonds (1927, 167) asserted that poaching became more intensive when unemployment was high. After the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1812, some 250,000 to 400,000 men were demobilized. During the war, threshing machines had taken many of the traditional jobs in the countryside (see Munsche 1980, 136). Just as people's means of providing for themselves was diminishing, along with the opportunity for jobs, the cost of purchasing food on the market was rising substantially, catching the workers in a cruel trap (Hammond and Hammond 1927, 86 ff.). Hence, many unemployed workers poached because they had no other option for survival.

The Game Laws and Bourgeois Hegemony  

Why would the feudal Game Laws become so much harsher under capitalism? The answer lies in the fact that the Game Laws reflected a situation where the interests of capital and the gentry coincided. The gentry could enjoy the prestige of hunting, while the capitalists could enjoy the labor of many of the people who were forbidden to hunt as a means of subsistence.

The Game Laws were bound up with the rise of classical political economy in the sense that both revealed the emerging hegemony of property relations. Political economy offered a justification of a regime dominated by the logic of property relations; the Game Laws defined new forms of property. In this sense, the Game Laws represented an essential bulwark for the social order. Since the taking of game was tantamount to challenging property rights, such acts had to be punished severely. The lesson was not lost on either the gentry or bourgeoisie.

We can see the resentment against the Game Laws in France, where one of the earliest acts of the French Revolution was their repeal. At the time, Arthur Young (1794, 9; see also 441-42) exclaimed, "One would think that every rusty gun in Provence is at work."

Horace Walpole, after noting the speed with which the French Game Laws were eliminated, confided to a Lady Ossory: "I never admired game-acts, but I do not wish to see guns in the hands of all the world, for there are other ferae naturae besides hares and partridges— and when all Europe is admiring and citing our constitution, I am for preserving it where it is" (Walpole 1789, 69; cited in Munsche 1980, 126).

Lord Milton made a similar point to Lord Kenyon in 1791: "The Republican party has made the Game Laws the object of their abuse and detestation, in France, the instant they began to overturn the constitution and level all distinctions, these were the first they pulled down. It therefore seems to me that they should be most respectfully guarded" (ibid., 127).

These modern Game Laws became an effective policy instrument in the process of primitive accumulation because they prohibited the rural poor from keeping weapons (see Alarm 1757), thereby diminishing people's ability to resist the onslaught. As William Blackstone (1775, 2:412) noted, "The prevention of popular insurrection and resistance to the government, by disarming the bulk of the people, which last is a reason oftener meant, than avowed, by makers of forest or Game Laws." Later research has confirmed Blackstone's contention, finding that access to weapons was a major factor in determining the level of exploitation (see Pettengill 1981).

The Game Laws were a useful disciplinary device in another respect. Many observers recognized that people would resist drudgery so long as they could hunt instead. As an early writer from the United States warned his readers, "once hunters, farewell to the plough" (de Crevecoeur 1782, 51). Similarly, John Bellers (17 14, 128), the famed Quaker philanthropist of the time, remarked: "Our Forests and great Commons (make the Poor that are upon them too much like the Indians) being a hindrance to Industry, and are Nurseries of Idleness and Insolence" (see also E. P. Thompson 1991, 165).

Blackstone (1775,4:174-75) agreed that we should view the Game Laws in terms of maintaining discipline within the labor force: "The only rational footing, upon which we can consider it a crime [to violate the Game Laws], is, that in low and indigent persons it promotes idleness and takes them away from their proper employments and callings." William Pitt concurred (cited in Cobbett 1806-20, 32:851).

The Game Laws went beyond directly promoting primitive accumulation, they became an important tool in maintaining labor discipline. We cannot know how well they succeeded in this respect, since we have little opportunity to hear from both sides in the struggle. In at least one instance, however, the Game Laws seem to have stiffened the resolve of one of the participants. William Cobbett wrote in the Political Register of 29 March 1823 that a gentleman in Surrey asked a young man how he could live on a half crown per week. "I don't live upon it, " said he. "How do you live then?" "Why," he replied, "I poach; it is better to be hanged than to be starved to death" (cited in Hammond and Hammond 1927, 167).

The Destructive Nature of the Game Laws

The Game Laws had another dimension. Some animals protected by the laws ravaged the nation's crops. Others, which were zealously hunted, such as the little foxes and martens, were valuable predators that prevented the population of rodents from becoming excessive (Kautsky 1899, 393). Even worse, hunters and their horses trampled much of what the game left growing in the fields. A letter to the editor of the London Magazine in 1757 claimed:  

The present scarcity is owing to an evil, felt by the industrious husbandman, who has in many places in this kingdom, seen all his care, labour, and industry sacrificed to the caprice and humors of those who have set their affections so much on game. Numberless are the places and parishes of the kingdom which have had at least one third part of their wheat crop devoured and eat[en] up by hares. (Letter 1757, 87)

A modern student of the Game Laws observed, "Pheasants, if anything, were more destructive" (Munsche 1980, 46).

The destruction of crop by game was a very important phenomenon. In France, for example, on the eve of the revolution, people were given the chance to express their concerns. In almost every case, the people of the countryside demonstrated their exasperation at the devastation caused by game and hunters (see Philipponeau 1956, 29; Young 1794, 9). Given the resentment against the Game Laws in France, we should not be surprised that one of the first acts of the revolutionary government was to repeal the Game Laws.

The grievances of the English peasants were no doubt just as strong as those of the French. A single hunt could cause enormous destruction. One fox hunt, for instance, carried its riders twenty-eight miles through the British countryside (W. Thomas 1936, 43). A recent study points out other costs besides the trampled grain:

Sportsmen, it was said, continually broke fences, beat down unharvested corn, trampled turnips, disturbed sheep "big with lamb" and generally pursued game with little concern for the damage they caused. The quantity and volume of these complaints suggest that such conduct was common and deeply resented. (Munsche 1980, 45; see also Alarm 1757, 14)

The upper classes were generally insensitive to the destruction of crops by hunting. Anthony Trollope's (1929, 56-58) discussion of this matter, first published in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1865, is worth citing in detail in this regard:

In England two or three hundred men claim the right of access to every man's land during the whole period of the winter months! . . . Now and then, in every hunt, some man comes up, who is indeed, more frequently a small proprietor new to the glories of ownership, than a tenant farmer who determines to vindicate his rights and oppose the field. He puts up a wire-fence round his domain . . . and defies the world around him. It is wonderful how great is the annoyance which one such man may give, and how thoroughly he may destroy the comfort of the coverts in his neighborhood.

Trollope (ibid., 59-60) went on to explain:

Farmers as a rule do not think very much of their wheat. When such riding is practicable, of course they like to see men take the headlands and furrows; but their hearts are not broken by the tracks of horses across their wheat fields. I doubt, indeed, whether wheat is ever much injured by such usage.

Perhaps the owners of some large farms were not aggravated by the loss of their grain. For a large farm, the swath of destruction caused by a group of horses would represent a small share of the total crop.

Of course, Trollope wrote long after the controversies about the Game Laws had subsided, but he reflected a mentality that had been common in earlier years. One anonymous writer despaired of any communication with people who were of this persuasion:

It is in vain to argue with a man who will maintain, that the wealth of his country, and the advancement of cultivation, is of no concern, when compared to the pleasure of fox-hunting; or, that the farmers and tenants, instead of following the plough, are much better employed when after the hounds, and while neglecting the culture of their own grounds, laying waste and ravaging the improvements of their industrious neighbours. {Considerations 1772, 33)

In the 1 840s, an estimated quarter of the crops of Buckinghamshire were destroyed by game (Horn 1981, 179). Parliament indicated an interest in this problem on only one occasion: "For most sportsmen, the season began with partridge shooting on the first of September . . . , but following the bad harvest in 1795 . . . , [e]arly in 1796, Parliament voted to postpone the start of partridge shooting until the fourteenth of September" (Munsche 1980, 46). Parliament repeated this provision by the next year.

The most intense application of the Game Laws falls between 1776, the same year that Smith's Wealth of Nations was published, and the 1840s, an interval often used to mark the age of classical political economy. Political economists of the time took a lively concern in all matters pertaining to the functioning of the economy. The consequent loss of grain continued without comment from the ranks of political economists, whose keen vision rarely left any opportunity for increased productivity pass unnoticed.

For example, political economy devoted an enormous amount of energy to protesting the consequences of the Corn Laws, but it all but completely ignored the Game Laws. Why should classical political economy have taken note of so much of the minutiae of society while remaining oblivious to the monstrous impact of the Game Laws? Here was a set of laws that created substantial hardships for an enormous number of people. They allowed many workers to be incarcerated or transported. They condoned the destruction of valuable crops. Yet, despite the widespread injuries inflicted by the Game Laws, classical political economy generally ignored the implications of this legislation.

How could the classical political economists never have broached the subjects of the trampled grain or the crops lost to the protected wildlife? Surely the damage done to the harvest must have been of the same order of significance as the distortions caused by the Corn Laws. Yet these arbiters of efficiency remained silent.

The classical political economists of the time had to know about the human costs. Even if they were entirely ignorant of the realities of rural life, they had to know transportation was a common punishment inflicted on poachers in the early nineteenth century. Yet, the early economists remained silent about the human costs. Frank Fetter (1980, 192), after noting the attendance and voting patterns of political economists in Parliament, observed, "transportation was not an issue in which many political economists were concerned."

This omission in no way absolves these economists of any responsibility for the repression and destruction associated with the operation of the Game Laws. Silence in the face of such conditions amounted to an effective form of support.

Adam Smith and the Game Laws

A number of observers dismissed the Game Laws as nothing more than an ugly residue of ancient feudalism, irrelevant to modern capitalism. For example, Brian Inglis (1971, 243) claimed that the Game Laws were the only oppressive part of the feudal system that remained on the statute books. The usually astute Jacob Viner (1968, 39-40) was of a similar mind.

Adam Smith, that great master of capitalist apologetics, also attributed the Game Laws to feudalism. In this respect, he was unique among the major classical political economists in even taking note of the Game Laws; however, Smith's purpose was not to call for more equity for the poor. Instead, he merely attempted to denigrate the status of the gentry in order to raise that of the bourgeoisie (Smith 1978, 1.55-57:24).

Smith attributed all the evils of this legislation to feudal oppression: "There can be no reason in equity for this. . . . The reason they give is that the prohibition is made to prevent the lower sort of people from spending their time on such unprofitable employment; but the real reason is that they delight in hunting and the great inclination they have to screw all they can out of their hands."

Smith's interpretation does contain an ounce of truth. The practice of restricting self -provisioning predated capitalism, as we have already mentioned. Smith added that feudal lords also prohibited the use of hand mills to force people to pay to use those that the lords owned (Smith 1978, 2.39:85). Notwithstanding such examples, no class proved itself as effective and as ruthless in separating workers from their means of production as the bourgeoisie.

Smith (1976, V.ii.a.18, 824) also took some notice of the dissipation of resources associated with hunting. He complained that the "large tracts of land which belong to the crown . . . [were] a mere waste and loss of country with respect both of population and produce." His recommendation that such lands be sold seems to have been based on the assumption that private land would be "well-improved and well-cultivated" (ibid.). He did not mention that much of this land would likely go into private hunting preserves.

In The Wealth of Nations, without actually mentioning the Game Laws, Smith seemed to treat this legislation as relatively unimportant. He attributed the decline in the economic significance of hunting to the natural evolution of the economy. He speculated:

Hunting and fishing, the most important employments of mankind in the rude state of society, become in its advanced state their most agreeable amusements, and they pursue for pleasure what they once followed from necessity. In the advanced state of society, therefore, they are all very poor people who follow as a trade, what other people pursue as a pastime. . . .

He continued:

A poacher is everywhere a very poor man in Great Britain. In countries where the rigour of the law suffers no poachers, the licensed hunter is not in a much better condition. The natural taste for those employments make more people follow them that can live comfortably by them, and the produce of their labour, in proportion to its quantity, comes always too cheap to market to afford any thing but the most scanty subsistence to the labourers, (ibid., I.x.b.3, 117-18)

Although Smith refused to acknowledge any association between the Game Laws and the interests of capital, he deserves some credit for broaching the subject, since all other political economists failed to make any mention whatsoever.

Although Smith was correct to charge that the gentry want "to screw all they can out of their hands," like the rest of his class, he said nothing and did nothing to lighten the imposition of the Game Laws on the poor, except to mention them in passing with an eye to putting the bourgeoisie in a good light.

The Demise of the Game Laws

Eventually, the existence of the Game Laws became unnecessary. By 1827, the Black Acts had been repealed. In 1831, other measures were eliminated. Over the next two decades, still more of the controversial features were repealed (see Horn 1981, chap. 6).

Long after people ceased to be hung for poaching, however, the law still countenanced the equally harsh, extrajudicial penalties meted out by spring guns and mantraps set to kill or maim the unwary hunter (see S. Smith 1821, 213-34). The outraged journalist William Cobbett (1831, 1:122-23) complained: "I saw divers copies of a hand-bill notifying an approaching public sale of farming stock . . . and [on] one of these bills having been given to me, I saw that, amongst the farming stock were a fire-engine and several steel man-traps [D]ismal indeed were the times when fire-engines and man-traps formed part of the implements of husbandry!" The courts held that these barbaric devices were legal according to common law. Eventually, in 1827, the devices were prohibited— but only because of the deaths they inflicted on gamekeepers and children, as opposed to the injury of poachers. As Baron Edward Suffield (1825) noted, "poachers are almost the only persons who escape being shot by spring guns" (cited in Munsche 1980, 72).

Other elements of the Game Laws were harder to eradicate. Parliament did not grant farmers the right to kill hares on their land without permission of the landlord until 1880 (Munsche 1980, 157).

Even after the harsh Game Laws ceased to carry much weight in Britain, their influence persisted in other parts of the world. When the western European nations extended their domination to peripheral regions, they were quick to draw on their experience with the Game Laws. For example, in French Equatorial Africa, the Mandja people were banned from hunting (Rodney 1974, 166). Since these people had almost no livestock, hunting provided a major source of meat. This ban was effective in forcing the Mandja to work on the French cotton plantations.

I know of no explanation other than the logic of primitive accumulation to explain why the rise of classical political economy, often identified with a growing commitment to human freedom, coincided with "a crescendo of fierceness" in the enforcement of the Game Laws (Hammond and Hammond 1927, 164).

The Bourgeois Perception of the Game Laws

The barbarism of the existing Game Laws seems to have been somewhat of an embarrassment for some of the bourgeoisie (see Cobbett 1806-20, 3 2:8 3 3 ff. ; S. Smith 1819). Now that the old Game Laws seemed to have served their purpose, many bourgeois interests merely preferred less primitive means of accomplishing the same ends. Proponents of the interests of the rising bourgeoisie were especially vocal in calling for reform of the Game Laws in the interests of substantial farmers and their tenants. In general, these "reformers" concurred with the sentiments of Reverend Joseph Townsend (1786, 404), who called for "a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure" rather than outright force. These reforms were actually supposed to reduce poaching because the pretensions of the gentry symbolized in the Game Laws incited many daring men to poach, despite the obvious risks involved.

The most commonly proposed reform was to make game private property, a bourgeois concept that chipped away at the exalted privileges of the gentry. John Christian Curwin, a leading reformer of the late eighteenth century, asked Parliament in 1796 to follow the lead of Russia by substituting the taxation of game for the Game Laws. Such a tax was viewed as preferable because it "does away with all necessity of restrictions, and puts it out of the power of persons who might injure themselves and the public by misspending their time in pursuit of game" (cited in Cobbett 1806-20, 32:836). His proposal did nothing to reduce the penalties for poaching. In fact, in some ways, it would have made them even stronger.

Even the sympathetic Sydney Smith (18 19), who wished "to preserve the lives of . . . the least worthy of God's creatures" with a vigor equal to that which protected "the Christian partridge . . . the immortal pheasant . . . the rational woodcock, or the accountable hare" (cited in Auden 1956), could only see his way toward strengthening the property rights of wealthy landowners in order to treat game as any other commodity.

Making game property also appealed to a Smithian vision of the world. For example, one anonymous pamphlet proposed: "From the system of game becoming property, a durable bond of harmony, and a mutual communication of good offices, are the necessary consequence" (Considerations 1772, 31-32). Frequently, the reformers proposed that property qualifications be lowered so that the middle class could enjoy the right to hunt as well, since the highly restrictive English Game Laws prohibited all but about i percent of the population from hunting (Broderick 1881, 386-89). These proposed reforms would also allow bourgeois farmers of the middling sort to hunt on their own lands as freely as the gentry could on theirs. Presumably, anybody else with enough money to purchase the right to hunt could do so.

These proposed bourgeoisified Game Laws offered nothing of significance to the lower classes. Although the reforms would give common workers the formal right to hunt, the cost of hunting would preclude them from that activity. Some thought that the reforms could benefit the poor since a few of them could find work as gamekeepers (Munsche 1980, 113).

In a sense, however, the proposed laws were a step backward for the poor. So long as the Game Laws were grounded in traditional rights, the gentry's claim to exclusive hunting rights was subject to some doubt. Under the existing Game Laws, the poor could appeal both to their own traditional rights and certain ambiguities in the law (see Blackstone 1775, 2:410); under the reformed laws, the traditional rights of the poor were irrelevant.

Small farmers could benefit from the right to protect their crops, but hunting would effectively remain the almost exclusive preserve of the wealthy. In contrast, substantial landowners could hire game wardens to augment the game on their land. Indeed, hunting preserves soon became a major source of income for the gentry (see Ross 1973, 249).

Ironies of the Game Laws

On the infrequent occasions when Parliament took notice of the Game Laws during the late eighteenth century, the ruling strata adopted a curious defense of this legislation. Although hunting was deemed to be an improper diversion for the poor, members of Parliament commended hunting for the rich since it was regarded as an encouragement to agricultural production. But how could running horses and hounds through the fields, trampling grain and destroying fences, possibly improve agricultural production?

Keep in mind that the gentry were an idle lot, spending much of their time enjoying the pleasures of the city. The opportunity to hunt seemed to be the only means of bringing the wealthy into contact with their land (see Cobbett 1806-20, 32:83311; Horn 1981, 172). To my knowledge, none of the gentry rose to defend themselves against this characterization of their relationship to the land.

When Parliament debated the Game Laws again in 1 830, not one prominent spokesperson for political economy called for their abolition. Instead, Robert Peel, whose family wealth had come from the employment of those who were leaving the land, cautioned Parliament not to act with undue haste: "We are apt to be too sanguine in our anticipations of advantages to be derived from a particular change. He was afraid that we overlooked the love of enterprise and amusement, which rendered the pursuit of game attractive to the common people" (cited in Hansard's 1830, 597-98). A leading journalist made a similar point in 1826, commenting that the gentry, "the most useful and valuable class," was "entitled to properly regulated . . . amusement and relaxation after the performance of their public duties." Moreover, the periodic visits to the countryside supposedly contributed to the "virtue and civilization of the English peasant," which saved Britain from the horrors of the French Revolution (cited in Shaw 1966, 156).

The other presumed contribution of the gentry to society was their military service. According to a good many people, hunting was an important means of imbuing the gentry with appropriate martial skills (see Steuart 1767, 1:85). As Karl Kautsky (1899, 25) observed, "the more warfare became a matter for the aristocracy, the more hunting became the sport of nobles." Many members of the ruling classes were reluctant to encourage the spread of such skills among a broader section of the populace.

Policymakers seem to have broadly accepted the military qualifications of the gentry until around 1756, after Britain endured several military defeats during the Seven Years' War. At that time, the middle classes looked to a reinvigorated militia to renew civic virtue (Munsche 1980, 112). Alas, bourgeois society consigned the feudal warrior, like the medieval artisan, to the hazy past. Future battles would be decided by ships and other fixed capital of warfare, together with the mobilization of broader segments of society. Bourgeois captains of the battlefield would manage their operations much the same as bourgeois captains of industry ran their factories (see Smith 1976, V.i.a, 689-708; Marx 1974, 109; and Marx to Engels, 25 September 1857, in Marx and Engels 1975, 91-92). Within this conception of warfare, farmers who were acquainted with firearms would be invaluable. In this context, some inquired of the gentry if they valued their country as much as their partridges (Western 1965, 119). Even Sir James Steuart, along with his great rival Adam Smith, joined the Poker Club, which was formed to support a Scotch militia, in spite of Steuart's general deference to feudal warriors (see Bell i960; Rendall 1978; Mossner and Ross 1977, 22,n).

Smith, who usually stressed the sloth and lethargy of rural workers, took a different position in discussing the need for free time for training a militia. There, he had to recognize that agricultural progress might have been bought at the expense of the rural workers: "Those improvements in husbandry . . . which the progress of arts and manufactures necessarily introduces, leave the husbandman with as little leisure as the artificer" (Smith 1976, V.i.a.15, 697).

This concern with the decline in the martial spirit, rather than some deep sympathy for workers, led Smith to interject his famous denunciation of the dehumanizing effect of the division of labor:

In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour . . . comes to be confined by a few very simple operations. . . . But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally . . . becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. . . . But in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless the government takes some pains to prevent it. (ibid., V.i.f.50, 781-12)

Smith's concerns illustrate a more general point concerning the Game Laws: although this new military vision did move some classical political economists to reconsider the conditions of the rural poor, none of them noticed the connection between these conditions and the Game Laws.

The Game Laws and Bourgeois Vision of Nature

The perception of the role of flora and fauna provides a useful lens through which to view the emerging bourgeois organization of society. For example, while the British elite saw fit to protect game from the lower classes, the organized slaughter by well-bred huntsmen seemed altogether proper. Certainly, the Royal Society for the Preservation of Cruelty to Animals gave no hint of concern about hunted foxes in Victorian England. It concentrated instead on sports enjoyed by the lower classes: bull, bear, and badger baiting; dog fighting; and the mistreatment of working animals in cities, primarily horses (Gould 1988).

With the evolution of capitalism, the role of game changed. Modern hunting practices also emerged. In the words of Sir William Beach Thomas (1936, 9-10):

Yes: fox-hunting has a long history in England. It flourished in the fourteenth century; and probably there has been no break in its continuity. Nevertheless it is true enough in essentials to argue that hunting as we know it began in the eighteenth century and belongs to modern England, a country of hedges and spinneys and small woods. The Enclosure Acts encouraged it by destroying other sports, especially the hunting of deer.

The Game Laws fit in with changing styles of consumption as well. The new social relations in the countryside led to an evolution in the definition of hospitality. A writer in the 1761 edition of the Annual Register explained that the aristocracy could "no longer affect an old-fashioned hospitality, or suffer the locust of the country to eat them up, while they keep open-house and dispense victuals and horns of beer to all comers" (cited in Munsche 1980, 133-34). According to the same source, "genteel entertainment" with "French food and select company" became the style. Indeed, the cuisine was always limited to French foods. A writer of 1815 claimed that game was "an essential ingredient in every entertainment that has the slightest pretension to elegance" (cited in Munsche 1980, 22).

Along with capitalism's increasingly effective control over labor came a new vision of nature. Polite society no longer admired highly artificial landscapes. Nature was to be managed in such a way that it would look natural. Adam Smith is said to have been a major influence in this respect. His Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres appear indirectly to have initiated the craze for deer parks, which were closely managed game reserves (Olwig and Olwig 1979, 19; Whitney 1924; Smith 1762-63, Lecture, 21 January 1763). Later, Smith (1790b, 183; see also Comito 1971) applauded the growing preference for more natural-looking habitats: "It was some years ago the fashion to ornament a garden with yew and holly trees, clipped to the artificial shapes of pyramids, and columns, and vases, and obelisks. It is now the fashion to ridicule this task as unnatural. The figure of a pyramid or obelisk, however, is not more unnatural to a yew-tree than to a block of porphyry or marble."

Indeed, Smith's vision of a "natural" landscape was well suited to the world of the bourgeoisie. Recall Peel's imagery of "enterprise and amusement" to which he alluded in his defense of the Game Laws. John Ruskin (1866, 61) described this bourgeois vision in greater detail:

Your ideal of human life then is, I think, that it should be passed in a pleasant undulating world, with iron and coal everywhere underneath it. On each pleasant bank of this world is to be a beautiful mansion, with two wings; and stables and coach horses; a moderately sized park; a large garden and hot houses; and pleasant carriage drives through the shrubberies. In this mansion are to live the favoured votaries of the Goddess: the English gentleman, with his gracious wife and his beautiful family; always able to have the boudoir and the jewels for the wife, and the beautiful ball dresses for the daughters, and hunters for the sons, and a shooting in the Highlands for himself. At the bottom of the bank, is to be the mill; not less than a quarter of a mile long, with a steam engine at each end, and two in the middle and a chimney three hundred feet high. In this mill are to be in constant employment from eight hundred to a thousand workers, who never drink, never strike, always go to church on Sunday, and always express themselves in respectful language.

Not all of the bourgeoisie were able to realize this dream, but enough could that the landscape of the nation was transformed.

Thomas Jefferson (195 o-, 681-83) took heed of the effect of the enormous land resources devoted to keeping game in France. To his credit, he recognized the economic importance of reserving this land for hunting in a letter dated 28 October 1785 to James Madison (not the future president) from Fontainebleau, where the king hunted each fall: "In Europe the lands are either cultivated or locked up against the cultivator. Manufacture must therefore be resorted to of necessity, not of choice" (Jefferson 1787, 42).

Nowhere, however, had matters proceeded as far as in England. According to Engels (1894, 213; see also Marx 1977, 892-95), for each acre of English common land brought into cultivation by means of enclosures, three acres of Scottish land were eventually transformed into deer parks. Marx (1977, 892) remarked, "Everyone knows that there are no true forests in England. The deer in the parks are demure domestic cattle, as fat as London aldermen. Scotland is therefore the last refuge of the 'noble passion.'"

Marx's discussion of the deer parks is worth noting in one respect. It is the only reference in part 8 of Capital that deals with the household economy of England after the era of classical political economy had been completed (ibid., 892-93). The conversion of forest into well-guarded deer parks represented the final extinguishing of the old feudal rights of the peasantry. Hence, this discussion conforms to the narrow interpretation of primitive accumulation as a precapitalistic phenomenon.

In contrast, the substitution of deer for sheep, also explored by Marx in this same section, represents a restriction of the production of food or clothing, which is fully explicable in terms of supply and demand. If the gentry preferred to use their land for hunting, they were not directly attacking people. If wool or mutton became more expensive as a result, we cannot hold an individual culpable. Yet the effect is no less severe for the people who suffer.

I do not intend to push the definition of primitive accumulation far enough to include the substitution of deer for sheep. I only wish to include those cases that directly impact on a household's ability to produce for its own needs. The example of the deer parks does suggest how such primitive accumulation, in the broad sense, can occur without the arbitrary application of force.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Part 1 of 2

Chapter 4: The Social Division of Labor and Household Production Commodity Production and the Social Division of Labor

The foundation of every division of labor which has attained a certain level of development, and has been brought about by the exchange of commodities, is the separation of town from country. One might say that the whole history of society is summed up by this antithesis.

— Karl Marx, Capital


Our examination of the Game Laws has prepared us to look at Marx's concept of the social division of labor. Just as Marx developed the notion of primitive accumulation in opposition to Smith's notion of original accumulation, so too did he forge the category of the social division of labor in opposition of another Smithian concept— that of the division of labor. Certainly, Marx was dissatisfied with Smith's treatment of the division of labor. He once even wrote to Engels, in 1862, that he wished to use Capital to show that "in mechanical workshops, the division of labor, as forming the basis of manufacturing and described by Adam Smith, does not exist" (Marx and Engels 1985, 351).

Where Smith's division of labor describes the organization of work within an individual pin factory, Marx's social division of labor refers to the partitioning of the economy into independent firms and industries. In other words, the conventional social division of labor concerns the organization within the factory, where the employer divides the work among the employees. Marx's notion of the social division of labor in contrast, describes how work is divided up between different workplaces, which are coordinated by market relations rather than by an authority figure within the workplace.

The resulting compartmentalization of the labor process divides the economy into separate entities that specialize in the production of particular items, such as pins, iron, and food, etc. The social division of labor thus encompasses what contemporary economists call "industrial organization," although it is broader in scope and not limited to commodity production.

In Smith's famous pin factory, the visible hand of management was in control, assigning each worker to a specialized task, while the invisible hand somehow determined how much coal and machinery the pin industry would use. Marx believed that capital consciously manipulated the partitioning of the economy. His concept of the social division of labor calls out to make the forces that determine the industrial organization of an economy as visible as the hand that distributes the labor within the pin factory.

Marx placed considerable weight on his analysis of the social division of labor in his published writings, dating back as far as his Poverty of Philosophy (1847, 128, 135). A year earlier, Marx had observed: "The division of labour implies from the outset the division of the conditions of labour, of tools and materials, and thus the splitting up of accumulated capital among different owners" (Marx and Engels 1846a, 73).

In Capital, Marx went so far as to claim, "The social division of labour . . . forms the foundation for all commodity production" (Marx 1977, 471; see also Lenin 1908, 37-38, where the same idea is repeated twice).

This "foundation for all commodity production," as Lenin (1908, 38) called it in beginning his Development of Capitalism in Russia, was discreetly buried within the texts of pre-Marxian classical political economy. In unearthing this history, both petty commodity production and the feudal mode of production must be exhumed, and the roots of capitalism exposed.

The Commodity Form and the Social Division of Labor

Before we explore the reason why Marx believed that the social division of labor formed the basis of commodity production, let us take note of the perspective of conventional economics. In general, conventional economists, dating back even to the days of classical political economy, have been oblivious to the theory of the social division of labor because they take it to be technically determined by the nature of the commodities produced. Consider the following portrait from Joseph Lowe's (1823, 61) The Present State of England: "In London the class of shoemakers is divided, says Mr. Gray, into makers of shoes for men, shoes for women, shoes for children, also into boot-cutters, boot makers. Even tailors, though to the public each appears to do the whole of his business, are divided into makers of coats, waistcoats, breeches, gaiters." Lowe's emphasis on differentiation pointed the way toward modern literature on the social division of labor, although in no way could he have foreseen the wide diversity of commodities available in present-day society. Lowe's perspective is true to the vision of Smith and the other classical political economists. A modern text sums up this perspective by asserting that insofar as intermediate goods are concerned, "inputs are produced commodities which are treated as variables, and not as parameters" (Walsh and Gram 1980, 5). In other words, the structure of the social division of labor is a predetermined datum rather than the result of individual or collective choice. The set of preexisting commodities, such as Lowe listed, creates a matrix around which the social division of labor forms.

The social division of labor can, in fact, vary considerably, but understanding this phenomenon requires reconsidering the very nature of commodities. A few decades ago, who would have dreamed that contemporary consumers would be faced with a choice between the purchase of ready-baked bread, frozen dough, or even prebuttered bread (see Lancaster 1966)? Faced with this incredible diversity, Robert Triffen (1940, 89) rejected the concept of an industry as a proper category for economics.

Marx (1981, 3:637) himself forcefully made the connection between the changing array of commodities and the social division of labor, noting: "The market for . . . commodities develops by way of the social division of labour; the separation between different productive labours transforms their respective products into commodities, into equivalents for one another, making them serve one another reciprocally as markets."

Marx alluded to the relationship between commodities and the social division of labor by observing that "the bond between independent labours ... is the fact that their respective products are commodities" (Marx 1977, 475 ). Money is merely "the objectification of the social bond" (Marx 1974, 160).

To make this relationship clearer, we have to take another step and ask ourselves what it is that commodities have in common. They are the products of labor that are offered for sale in the market. In other words, commodities are products "which are sold as commodities . . . since without the sale they cannot be regarded as products" (Marx 1977, 952; see also 166). Then what is a product?

Marx (1977, 475-7611) once examined this question in terms of the umbrella industry of the United States. Prior to the Civil War, umbrella manufacturers were merely assemblers of the umbrella components. Consequently, individual parts, such as umbrella handles, were commodities. If the companies that produced these handles also assembled the umbrellas, then handles would no longer exist as commodities.

The U.S. Congress raised the distinction between components that were and were not commodities during the Civil War, instituting a turnover tax at the time. Producers had to pay a tax when they sold components to an assembler, who in turn had to pay an additional tax on the total value of the finished product. Congress dismissed industry's protest against multiple taxation. Marx concurred with the eventual judgment of Congress: "A thing is produced 'when it is made' and it is made when it is ready for sale" (ibid.). Engels made a similar point in a note inserted into Capital: "In order to become a commodity, the product must be transferred to the other person, for whom it serves as a use value, through the medium of exchange" (Marx 1977, 131). We also read in the Theories of Surplus Value: "As values, commodities are social magnitudes. . . . Value indeed 'implies exchanges,' but exchanges are exchanges between men. In actual fact, the concept 'value' presupposes 'exchanges' of the products" (Marx 1963-71, 129).

Is this a trivial point? Not at all. The above citation concerning congressional legislation reminds us that the form in which commodities appear may be indeterminate. When U.S. umbrella manufacturers were merely assemblers of the components that made up umbrellas, each individual piece was a commodity. Yet if the handle makers, for instance, were to take over the process of assembly, umbrella handles would not circulate in the market.

The Intentional Structuring of the Social Division of Labor

On one occasion, Adam Smith (1976, I.i.4, 15) did allude to the social division of labor with an offhand remark: "The separation of different trades and employments from one another, seems to have taken place, in consequence of this advantage" of specialization arising from the division of labor. But he never took this thought much further. Although he devoted an entire chapter to the proposition that "the division of labour . . . must always be limited by the extent of the market" (Smith 1976, 1.iii.i, 3 1 ), he did nothing to show exactly how market forces could have created specialization. In fact, the tradition of classical political economy effectively taught later generations of economists to avoid thinking about the social division of labor. Later economists generally did even less than Smith in taking note of the social division of labor. The common neglect of this subject has left a serious gap in modern economic theory (see Marx 1977, 486).

Karl Rodbertus, who other than Marx, was virtually alone in recognizing the theoretical importance of the social division of labor, had argued that a proper analysis of the basic categories of national economy was inconceivable without the prior notion of a social division of labor. Rodbertus (1899, 93-109) was concerned that Smith's division of labor brings one no further than the analysis of individualistic behavior. Thus, he charged that Smith's method is incomplete. The social division of labor must be seen within the context of capital in general. Unfortunately, few if any economists adopted Rodbertus's perspective.

Marx stands out as the exception in this respect. Fortunately, Marx's (1977, 165) reluctance to trust appearances was far stronger than Lowe's. He would not treat an object as a commodity merely because it would be recognizable as a waistcoat or a child's boot.

Objects of utility become commodities only because they are the products of the labour of private individuals who work independently of each other. . . . Since the producers do not come into social contact until they exchange the products of their labour, the specific social characteristics of their private labours appear only within this exchange. In other words, the labour of the private individual manifests itself as an element of the total labour of society only through the relations which the act of exchange establishes between the products, and through their mediation, between the producers, (emphasis added; see also Marx 1981, 3:1020)

In contrast to Lowe, Marx's (1977, 202, 207) method leads to a definition of industries based on the social relations of the commodity form: "The quantitative articulation of society's productive organism, by which its scattered elements are integrated into the system of the division of labor is as haphazard and spontaneous as its qualitative articulation. . . . there develops a whole network of social connections of natural origin, entirely beyond the control of human agents."

Unlike Marx, modern economists have concentrated almost exclusively on the more familiar Smithian division of labor. Where economics, including modern economics, has on rare occasions touched on the social division of labor, it has almost totally excluded considerations of the social relations of production (see Marx 1977, 486; Perelman 1991a). Even when as distinguished an economist as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegan ( 1 97 1 ) broached the subject of the social division of labor, this aspect of his work went all but unnoticed.

The Strategic Importance of the Social Division of Labor

According to the typical interpretation of the history of political economy, mercantilists displayed their ignorance of market forces by designing schemes for organizing and controlling economic activity. In contrast, classical political economy, in its wisdom, supposedly deferred to the market. In truth, this dichotomy is misleading. Certainly, classical political economy was concerned about the division of economic activities between different nations.

British political economists, even those that were ostensibly antimercantilist, preferred that the most profitable activities be carried on in Britain, or at least where they would work toward Britain's advantage. Consider, for instance, Nassau Senior's attack on the Corn Laws. He did not merely appeal to the theoretical arguments generally associated with free trade. Instead, he opposed the Corn Laws because of their impact on Britain's global strategy. Senior warned that if the English persisted in protecting their market from food imports, countries such as the United States and Germany would turn to industrial pursuits (see Senior 1841; McCulloch 1841, io; cited in Fay 1932, 86-87; B. Hilton 1977, 115, 184, 280). According to Senior, opening British markets to the free importation of grain would safeguard English industrial hegemony by inducing potential competitors to specialize in the production of raw materials.

One Whig was quite explicit about this logic, explaining during the parliamentary Corn Law debates in 1846 that free trade was a beneficent "principle" by which "foreign nations would become valuable Colonies to us, without imposing on us the responsibility of governing them" (cited in Semmel 1970, 8). In the words of a modern scholar, abolition of the Corn Laws was supposed to "create a vast English market for foreign grain; in this way, the agricultural nations of the world might be given a stake in England's Empire of Free Trade" (Semmel 1970, 205).

Friedrich List, writing from a German perspective in the same year as Senior, agreed with the Englishman about the impact of free trade, protesting that it would permanently condemn Germany to the subordinate role of England's agricultural supplier. He accused the English of conspiring to maintain Germany as a vassal of England. List was particularly upset about the notorious largesse that the English bestowed on German free traders, including political economists (List 1841, 7-8).

Lucille Brockway (1979) highlighted the lengths to which the British went to structure the international division of labor. In particular, she detailed the role of plant explorers in the construction of the world capitalist system. At first glance, the adventures of Charles Darwin and other British botanists might seem far afield from a study of classical political economy, but they served a vital economic mission. Brockway demonstrates the extent to which even seemingly innocent, scientific activities were actually part of a concerted effort to organize a social division of world labor.

Latin America was blessed with perhaps the most important set of exotic genetic resources then known to the world, but its low population density made tapping this genetic potential an expensive proposition. To exploit Latin America's rubber or Cinchona trees, colonizers would have to harvest the crops in Latin America with scarce domestic or imported labor, or grow such crops elsewhere.

With abundant cheap labor in Asia, the British followed the second option. They brought impoverished Indians to work the plantations of Malaysia, Ceylon, and Mauritius. Although the British imported some Indian workers to plantations in the western hemisphere, moving labor to the depths of South America was expensive. As a result, the British preferred to transfer the genetic resources near to their available pools of cheap labor. One small matter stood in the way: the British did not own the means of propagating such crops. This technicality did not deter them.

The British charged their plant explorers with obtaining the plants by any means possible in order that they could be bred for production in the colonies of British Asia. By and large, they succeeded. The British simply refused to recognize any possible proprietary rights of the people or even of the rulers of these peripheral lands, smuggling many valuable plants out of Latin America, as well as tea cuttings from China, without any thought of compensation— a dramatic example of primitive accumulation of biological resources. Then they bred these plants to make them suitable for production in new locations, allowing the British to restructure the international organization of tropical agriculture.

This reorganization of a key sector of the world economy made an important contribution to England's industrial growth. As List (1841, 70) wrote: "One can establish a rule that the more a nation is richer and more powerful, the more that it exports manufactured products, the more it imports raw materials, and the more it consumes tropical commodities." The British had thought about these choices for some time. Already in 1774, Samuel Johnson (1774, 61) rhetorically asked, "Why does any nation want what it might have? Why are spices not transplanted to [the British colonies] in America? Why does tea continue to be brought from China?"

James Anderson (1777, 188) also discussed the benefits of transplanting valuable spices, alleging that "the French have made an attempt to obtain young plants from the spiceries of the Dutch; and have succeeded, notwithstanding the jealous watchfulness of that suspicious nation." He gave no hint that the indigenous populations in Indonesia or elsewhere had any stake in that matter.

Two years after Samuel Johnson ruminated on the possibility of planting tea elsewhere, Adam Smith brought his readers' attention to the complex social division of labor required to produce a woolen coat: "How much commerce and navigation . . . , how many ship-builders, sailors, sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world?" (1976, Li. n, 23). Significantly, Smith neglected to consider the welfare of those who grew the plants. The conscience of political economy was little troubled by such considerations.

Should we believe that the classical political economists were altogether unaware of the importance of shaping the world social division of labor? Were they completely blind to the fact that the social division of labor formed the foundation for commodity production?

Not at all. The classical political economists were not about to ignore labor's will altogether in their great project. They realized that the masses of workers presented a greater challenge than moving and breeding a few seeds and cuttings. Unlike vegetables, people have minds of their own, they can resist the imperative of capital accumulation. In response, classical political economy sought strategies to manipulate the social division of labor in a way that would expand the power of capital vis-a-vis labor.

Social Relations and the Social Division of Labor

Marx developed another distinction that paralleled the dichotomy between the two divisions of labor. He referred to labor employed in the workshop of a particular employer as "variable capital." In contrast, he labeled the labor embodied in the intermediate goods that the employer purchased for use in the workshop "constant capital."

Variable capital is variable because labor power— the worker's capacity to work— leaves a surplus value embodied in the final product when the worker is properly employed. Constant capital, in contrast, merely transfers a preexisting value into the final commodity without producing a surplus.

Marx singled out variable capital as the source of surplus value for a perfectly sensible reason. The employer needs to command the worker at the point of production, ensuring that materials are used in an economical way, to earn a profit. Purchasing an intermediate good may help an employer extract surplus value from the labor employed at the job site, but the intermediate good, in itself, does not produce surplus value— at least from Marx's perspective.

Notice that the labor power that produced the constant capital is constant capital only from the standpoint of the firm that purchases the commodity. In other words, the materials that the constant capital represents are passive to the capitalists that purchase them. Other employers occupying another niche in the social division of labor, however, earn a profit from the production of these same goods. So, while that labor produces no surplus for the firm that purchases its produce, that same labor power that produced the constant capital is variable capital for the employer who purchases that labor power. As such, this labor power is capable of producing surplus value for that employer.

In this scheme, all employers have to find a market opportunity that offers a potential profit and then choose the appropriate constant capital to employ toward that end. In doing so, employers are responsible for exercising direct authority over the workers in their particular firm. They exercise only indirect authority over other workers by choosing whether or not to buy the intermediate commodities that those other workers produce.

As employers adjust the mix of the constant capitals that they purchase, they alter the social division of labor. With changes in the social division of labor, the same object may appear either as constant capital or not, depending on whether it is marketed or is used within the production process in that form. In Marx's (1981, 2:218), words, in the production process, "the material forms of existence of constant capital" may change.

In terms of the social division of labor, Marx represents a significant advance relative to contemporary economics. While modern economists take for granted that technological change creates new industries and extinguishes others, they have almost never acknowledged that the social division of labor can change with a fixed set of technologies. George Stigler (1941, 76) was perhaps the only modern economist until recently to take note of the indeterminacy of the social division of labor, observing "the portion of the productive process carried out in a particular unit is an accidental consideration." Later he suggested that massive shuffling of the social division of labor reflected the ability of the market to respond to changing conditions. He used the British gun and jewelry industries to demonstrate the fluidity of the social division of labor (Stigler 1951, 147-48; citing Allen 1929, 56-57, 116-17). Elizabeth Bailey and Ann Friedlander (1982, 1028) also credit Edward Robinson (1932) with having seen that price changes can change the social division of labor. Now that business has widely adopted the practice of outsourcing, some economists have begun to recognize that the boundaries of the firm can change, but none of them have come to grips with the full ramifications of an indeterminate social division of labor.

Let us return to the previous case of the umbrella industry to explore the nature of the changing social division of labor. In this example, the constant capital that the handle makers purchased was transformed into a different constant capital, umbrella handles, which were finally incorporated into the finished umbrellas. Umbrella handles would cease to be a commodity if the industry integrated vertically and the umbrella makers produced their own handles. As a result, what is or what is not a commodity defines the partitioning of the social division of labor (for more detail see Perelman 1987, chap. 4).

Over time, the social division of labor becomes increasingly refined. As Alfred Marshall (1920, 241 ) observed, "This increased subdivision of functions, or 'differentiation,' as it is called, manifests itself with regard to industry ... as ... a growing intimacy and firmness of the connections between the separate parts of the industrial organism." Similarly, Wassily Leontief's (1966, 49) analysis of input-output structures caused him to conclude: "The larger and more advanced a economy is, the more complete and articulated is its structure. The U.S. and western Europe respectively produce about a third and a quarter of the world's total output of goods and services. It is not surprising, therefore, that their input-output tables yield the same triangulation [structure of input-output relations]" (see also Kuznets 1965, 195).

Already in his day, Marx (1977, 460) reported that five hundred varieties of hammers were produced in Birmingham alone. Such a proliferation of products reflects the possibility of many alternative patterns of the social division of labor. For example, each time a firm replaced one type of hammer with another in the production process, it modified the social division of labor. Stigler's evidence bears out Marx's supposition that modern industries experience significant vertical disintegration as well as the vertical integration (Stigler 195 1; Marx 1981, 2:119).

Concerning the ongoing reorganization of the social division of labor, Marx (1977, 467) observed:

The larger English glass manufacturers, for instance, make their own earthenware melting-pots, because the success or failure of the process depends to a great extent on their quality. The manufacture of one of the means of production is here united with that of the product. On the other hand, the manufacture of the product may be united with other manufactures, in which the very same product serves in turn as raw material, or with those products the original product is itself subsequently mixed. . . . The various manufactures which have been combined together in this way form more or less separate departments of a complete manufacture, but they are at the same time independent process[es], each with its own division of labour. Let me emphasize that this outcome is in no way determinate. An infinite number of arrangements are possible. Moreover, the social division of labor evolves dynamically, unlike the Indian villages, where, as Marx (1977, 477) noted, the division of labor was "crystallized, and finally made permanent by law."

Marx did not always follow his own logic. On occasion, he fell into a technological determinism, allowing that the increasing reliance on larger-scale machinery could ultimately determine the social division of labor. He wrote: "In spite of the many advantages offered by this combination of manufactures, it never attains a complete technical unity on its own foundation. This unity only arises when it has been transformed into an industry carried on by machinery" (ibid., 467). Of course, Marx did not have the advantage of seeing the rapid bundling and unbundling of goods and services so common today. At this moment, I am unclear as to whether a telephone will eventually be an extension of a computer or whether a computer will become an extension of a phone, to offer just one example.

In conclusion, the distinction between the Smithian division of labor and Marx's social division of labor is vital to understanding the nature of commodity production. In this respect, Marx (ibid., 474) insisted: "In spite of the numerous analogies and links connecting them, the division of labour in the interior of a society, and that in the interior of a workshop, differ not only in degree, but also in kind." For Marx (ibid., 477), "in a society where the capitalist mode of production prevails, anarchy in the social division of labor and despotism in the manufacturing division of labor mutually condition each other."

Production and the Social Division of Labor

Some economists are exploring a subject that they name "the economics of scope" (Panzer and Willig 1981). This theory describes how a firm might decide to compete by operating within more than one part of the preexisting social division of labor. It does not address the question of how the social division of labor itself might mutate with the creation of an entirely different matrix.

In Marx's example of the umbrella manufacturers, we can easily see how a widespread change in the scope of production could eliminate umbrella handles as a commodity. Running this evolution in the opposite direction, umbrella handles can suddenly appear as a commodity. More generally, the production process can be broken virtually at any point. In other words, rather than completing its production of a finished good, a firm could decide to put unfinished products on the market as commodities. Other firms could create a new industry to carry the process to completion.

Unfortunately, mainstream economists did not take advantage of Marx's discovery of the indeterminacy of the social division of labor. In fact, they did not even seem to be aware of the importance of the social division of labor. Their analysis, therefore, is generally incapable of penetrating what Marx (1977, 279) termed the "hidden abode of production." In fact, at times mainstream economists also seem to have gone out of their way to avoid coming to grips with the visible shell within which production occurred: the firm (see Perelman 1991a).

This practice reflected a deeper problem. For the most part, the economics profession followed Smith's lead in presuming that the firm was nothing more than a passive conduit that merely assists in movement of resources between alternative activities, except where the firm has the opportunity to take advantage of monopolistic powers (Tomlinson 1986, 224).

Although the social division of labor unfolds according to its own particular laws within certain limits, Marx took the position that it is ultimately dependent on the social relations of production. Along these lines, Engels wrote to Conrad Schmidt, in a letter dated 27 October 1890,

Where there is division of labour on a social scale, the separate labour processes become independent of each other. In the last instance production is the decisive factor. But as soon as trade in products becomes independent of production proper, it has a movement of its own, which, although by and large governed by that of production, nevertheless in particulars and within this general dependence again follows laws of its own inherent in the nature of this new factor; this movement has phases of its own and in turn reacts on the movement of production. (Marx and Engels 1975, 397)

Like Friedrich Hayek (1945), Marx and Engels recognized the spontaneous evolution of the social division of labor, but the spontaneity that they saw was not an aspect of freedom. It reflected instead a disorder that caused great human suffering. Specifically, the spontaneity of market relations was used to highlight the authoritarian conditions that exist within a firm as well as the pressures that force workers to submit to wage labor.

Coercion, Primitive Accumulation, and the Two Divisions of Labor

In commenting on the relationship between coercion and the two divisions of labor, Marx (1847, 136) wrote: "It can even be laid down as a general rule that the less authority presides over the division of labour inside society, the more the division of labour develops inside the workshop, and the more it is subjected there to the authority of a single person." We would be true to the spirit of Marx's later work if we were to read "the less open authority." This early citation also downplays the intentional manipulation of the social division of labor in terms of its effect on specific classes within the development of a capitalist economy.

Despite these qualifications, this passage points out an interesting break that occurs under capitalism. In precapitalist societies, tradition (including the personal authority of those who occupied the upper reaches of the hierarchy) determined both divisions of labor— within society and within the workplace. Tradition, the most extreme case being India's caste system, largely determined the social division of labor in the sense that people generally followed the occupation of their forbearers.

Class-based authoritarianism was absent from the early workshop. Instead, masters were bound by custom. Although they had considerable control over their apprentices, the apprentices could reasonably expect to become masters themselves in time.

For Marx, primitive accumulation reflected the acceleration of the rupture of these traditional methods of organizing work. By manipulating the social division of labor, the owners of the means of production could coerce people to work for wages under the despotic authority of capitalists. In this sense, the social division of labor was a precondition for the modern division of labor.

In earlier times when tradition was still strong enough that primitive accumulation seemed unnatural to many people, workers asserted their right to control their own labor as a traditional property right. For example, in 1823, cotton weavers protested against the restructuring of their work, claiming: "The weaver's qualifications may be considered as his property and support. It is as real property to him as buildings and lands are to others. Like them his qualifications cost time, application and money" (cited in Rule 1987, 106; see also Wilentz 1984, 241). In a sense, the weavers were correct. In effect, their rhetoric implied that primitive accumulation was a massive transformation of the social division of labor, which extended much further than the formal eviction of the peasants from the land.

The eviction of people from their traditional properties in the countryside set in motion a process that ultimately destroyed the weavers' means of production— the productivity attributable to their skills— by virtue of a restructuring of the labor process. Primitive accumulation provided employers a seemingly inexhaustible supply of cheap labor that could undercut the weavers once machinery supplanted the craft of hand work.

The weavers interpreted this restructuring of their cotton industry as still another form of primitive accumulation, represented by the theft of what we might today call their human capital. While the weavers' logic might seem naive, at least they realized that primitive accumulation was intimately bound up with the social relations of the emerging capitalist formation.

In more recent times, Harry Braverman (1974) forcefully reminded his readers about the close relationship between coercion and the division of labor at the work site. He attributed the evolution of the modern division of labor to increasing control of the labor process as a consequence of the separation of mental and manual labor. While the weavers lacked Braverman's sophistication, in associating the social division of labor with the division of labor in the workplace, they went one step beyond Braverman.

The Household as an Agent of Production

Let us be more explicit about the changes that the new social division of labor wrought. Keep in mind that political economy began in an age in which the social division of labor had not yet evolved very far. We would overstate our case if we described the economic environment of the time by citing Marx's (1965, 79) description of precapitalistic society, where "each individual household contains an entire economy, forming as it does an independent center of production" (Marx 1965, 79; 1977, 6i6n; 1852, 478; Engels 1881, 460); however, such an image would not be terribly inaccurate.

John Rae's (1834, 57-58) depiction of life on the Canadian frontier during the nineteenth century reveals the extent of the self-sufficiency of a typical farmstead, where farmers transformed materials from their own animals into crude woolen clothing and shoes. Obviously, the people whom Rae described were not reliving the exact life of precapitalist England, but his description does convey the flavor of a self-sufficient household.

Similarly, the feudal state was largely self-sufficient. According to Marx, agricultural bookkeeping in the Middle Ages existed only in the monasteries (Marx 1967, 2:13411). Keith Tribe's (1978, chap. 4) history of farm management literature clearly reflects the slow shift to a greater concern for market considerations.

Certainly, the majority of households in early capitalist societies had no conception of modern cost accounting. Before modern capitalist production developed, one could not locate a clear boundary separating those activities directed toward the production of commodities for sale on the market from those performed to reproduce the household.

For example, when seventeenth-century London bakers applied to local authorities for an increase in the price of bread, they sent in an account of the weekly cost of a bakery, including the baker, his wife, four paid journeymen, two apprentices, two maidservants, and three or four of the baker's children. The business, involving the production of thousands of loaves of bread, was carried on in the baker's own house. The care and feeding of the workers, along with members of the baker's own family, was seen as integral to the production process (see Laslett 1971, 1-2; Kautsky 1899, 156; Weber 1923, 172).

Perhaps the most common, modern intermeshing of commercial and domestic economies occurred in the institution of boarding houses. In the United States during the late nineteenth century, nearly one-fifth of the working-class families studied by the Bureau of Labor took in boarders (Smuts 1959, 14; see also Harvey 1976, 282; Stearns 1974, 416). Boarding was especially important for immigrant families. A 1908 study found that among the Slavs of Homestead, Pennsylvania, 43 percent took in boarders. In half of these families, boarders provided more than 25 percent of the total family income (Byington 1910, 142-44; see also Jensen 1980, 20; Greer 1979, 117).

The development of capitalism separated the workplace from the home. This cleavage between household production and commodity production became more and more pronounced as capitalism evolved, although this division of life and work was more apparent than real. The two were closely linked, however, in terms of the overall reproduction process. In Marx's (1977, 718; see also 1033) words: "The maintenance and reproduction of the working class remains a necessary condition for the reproduction of capital. But the capital may safely leave this to the workers' drives for self-preservation and propagation." Consequently, household production must be considered in conjunction with the social labor process in general. As Marx (1977, 717) noted, although the "worker's productive consumption [the use of constant capital in the workplace] and his individual consumption are . . . totally distinct . . . , in the latter [activity] . . . he . . . performs . . . necessary vital productions outside the production process."
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

Postby admin » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:30 am

Part 2 of 2

The Transformation of the Household

At this point, I want to extend the notion of the social division of labor a bit further. As I mentioned before, Marx's analysis of the social division seemed to refer to the partitioning of the commodity production process into independent units that we might imagine to be firms. Because I am concerned here with the interrelationship between wage and nonwage production, I will interpret the production process to go beyond the direct production of commodities. I will use the concept of the social division of labor to include all labor that is useful from the perspective of the economy, regardless of whether that labor is waged or nonwaged. All labor performed within the household that promotes economic reproduction, as well as production, falls within this definition of the social division of labor. By reproduction, I mean such activities as the replenishment of those who work for wages and the raising of new generations of workers.

Analyzing the role of the household in the production process highlights two crucial points. The first one concerns the importance of the ongoing process of primitive accumulation. Second, such an analysis provides a theoretical matrix that clarifies the policy positions that classical political economists maintained with respect to the social division of labor.

Within this transformed system, capital demanded that the household function as a factory (see Cairncross 1958, 17). In terms of reproduction, households were a special sort of factory that specialized in the production of workers, who "resemble[d] the component parts of the vast machines which they direct" (Senior 1841, 504). All other aspects of life were to be subordinated to this end (see Hammond and Hammond 1919, 6).

Just as a factory combines living labor with other commodities (constant capital) in order to produce goods for sale, a working-class household also mixes living labor with other commodities (variable capital) to produce a salable product, labor power (see Rae 1834, 203; Senior 1928, pt. iv, chap. 2, sec. 3 ). Consequently, "consumption is not simply a consumption of . . . material [or service], but rather consumption of consumption itself" (Marx 1974, 301).

Ultimately, things consumed in the household were to serve for the production and reproduction of labor power. In this regard, Marx (1977, 719) directed his readers' attention to the integral role of the household as an agent of production, writing, "From a social point of view, therefore, the working class, even when not directly engaged in the labour-process, is just as much an appendage of capital as the ordinary instruments of labour." For Marx (ibid., 323n), "Labor-power itself is, above all else, the material of nature transposed into a human organism" destined to serve as wage labor. Jean-Baptiste Say (1880, 333n) even extended this notion to its logical limits by defining a "full-grown man . . . [as] an accumulated capital" equipped to earn profits.

Although the household is similar to the factory in the sense that both combine labor and other objects in order to produce a final product, the social relations are different. As Marx (1977, 909) explained:

The spindles and looms, formerly scattered over the face of the countryside, are now crowded together in a few great labour-barracks, together with the workers and the raw material. And spindles, looms and raw material are now transformed from means for independent existence of the spinners and weavers into the means for commanding them and extracting unpaid labour from them.

Some misunderstanding might arise, however, because variable capital is often described as a value that workers receive, whereas constant capital frequently refers to the things that they use in the workplace. In reality, the things brought into factories and households both enter by way of transactions. In the household, however, the people who do the work own the means of production. In this respect, Marx (ibid., 1006; see also 717-18) correctly observed that "although . . . the exchange of money for labour-power . . . does not as such enter into the immediate process of production, it does enter into the production of the relationship as a whole."

Thus we should interpret the household in terms of the contradictory general system of capitalist social relations, although such an effort is no easy matter. We can find within capitalist households the means of both mutual support and mutual oppression (Humphries 1976; Humphries 1977; Lazonick 1978). The French regulation school contributed to our understanding of the complexity of the household in drawing our attention to the new social norms of consumption (see Aglietta 1979, i59ff.) that were imposed to reinforce the "invisible threads" that bind labor to capital (Marx 1977, 719).

Engels (1891, 191-92; see also Weber 1923, 94) rightly remarked on the relatively declining role of the family as an autonomous unit with the rise of capital. Nevertheless, the productive energies of the household remain absolutely necessary for a capitalist economy, based as it is on wage labor. Hence, we should be careful not to underestimate the continuing importance of the household as a production site in modern capitalism, even though the specifics of its function have changed.

Creating the New Regimen  

While capitalism transformed independent household labor processes into a unified "social process" (Marx 1977, 453), it also created a spatial separation of the workplace from the household. At the same time, capitalism joined together independent workplaces into an ever expanding set of market relationships. In the words of Nassau Senior (1836, 76), "Nature seems to have intended that mutual dependence should unite all the inhabitants of the earth into one great commercial family."

The establishment of this "great commercial family" required that the relatively autarkic economic structure of the independent household be broken down in order that it would become doubly dependent. First, it was to become dependent on commodities that were, in general, produced with wage labor. Second, to acquire these commodities, members of the household would have to supply the market with wage labor.

Of course, this mutual dependence of the household and the economy at large was not unique to capitalism. For example, Sir James Steuart (1767, 1:7) reminded his readers that Herodotus had reckoned the cost of the pyramids in terms of carrots and onions; however, the pharaohs were likely to have provided their workers with in-kind payments rather than cash.

Under capitalism, the working class was left with the responsibility of laboring to earn its wages, then exchanging those earnings for its means of subsistence, and finally efficiently combining these commodities with household labor in order to renew its supply of labor power. In this sense, no other form of social organization went so far in "transform[ing] . . . lifetime into labortime" (Marx 1977, 799).

The adaptation of the family economy to the needs of capital was not always a painless process. Marx (1977, 517-1811) wrote of the common use of opiates for want of time for breast-feeding and described the consequences of leisure insufficient for families to teach the young to cook or sew. With biting irony, he added:

From this we see how capital, for the purposes of its self -valorization, has usurped the family labour necessary for consumption. This crisis [during the cotton famine that the English textile industry experienced during the American Civil War] was also utilized to teach sewing to the daughters of the workers An American revolution and a universal crisis were needed in order that working girls, who spin for the whole world, might learn to sew! (ibid.)

As E. P. Thompson (1963, 416) noted, "Each stage in industrial differentiation and specialization struck ... at the family economy, disturbing customary relations between man and wife, parents and children, and differentiating more sharply between 'work' and 'life.' " Such deformations of the traditional family seemed a small price to pay for the promotion of capitalism.

Classical political economists never addressed the transformation of the household. Some formally dismissed activities performed in the household as "unproductive labor" when discussing the aristocratic household, largely because, as we shall see with Smith, they did not want to dignify the spending patterns of the gentry who commonly employed servants to do their household labor. Obviously, the classical political economists could not dismiss the household work of workers so casually. As Marx (1963-1971, 3:166) once noted, "largest part of society, that is to say the working class, must incidentally perform this kind of labor for itself."

This unwillingness to address the nature of the household is most unfortunate. It obscures a vital dimension of the capitalist economy. We shall see that the linkage between the production of commodities in the factory and labor power in the household proved to be a most profitable combination. Even so, many wished that the households could achieve an even higher level of efficiency in order to relieve employers of the need to pay as much in wages.
On the Economy of Domestic Economies

The idea that poor households could get by with a more frugal fare had an obvious appeal. Neil Smelser (1959, 351) notes that beginning in the last decade of the eighteenth century:

a barrage of pamphlets exhorted the working classes to . . . substitute vegetables, Indian corn, arrow-root, etc., for more expensive items in the budget. Simultaneously several pamphlets explored the means of relieving the burden of the high costs of provisions. Eden devoted almost forty pages of his study of the poor to the frugality of the north, and in 1806 Colquhoun promised that "a greater boon could not be conferred upon the labouring people, than a general circulation of the art of frugal cookery."

Based on his experience in feeding both the Bavarian army and the inmates of the Bavarian poor houses, whose labor he turned to good profit, the American expatriate Count Rumford (1795, 179) supposed that "the number of inhabitants who may be supported in any country upon its internal produce, depends almost as much upon the state of the arts of cooking as upon that of agriculture." This gentleman's main contribution to the culinary arts was in the form of economical soup recipes based on his discovery that water was a perfectly good substitute for food.

Because of the savings associated with the self-maintenance of their human working machines, employers took an active interest in the most personal of acts of their employees. The welfare secretary of the American Iron and Steel Institute urged tutelage of the worker in the regulation of his meals, the amount, the character and the mastication of them, the amount and character of drink, the hours of rest and sleep, the ventilation of rooms . . . washing of hands before meals, daily washing of feet, proper fitting of shoes, amount and kind of clothing, care of the eye, ear and nose, brushing of the teeth, and regularity of the bowel, (cited in Montgomery 1979, 40)

This ability to leave labor with the responsibility to fend for itself when wages are insufficient to support a family is an immense boon to capital. Even when no outside income is required, the effort labor expends in organizing and arranging its own affairs relieves capital of much responsibility (Marx 1977, 1033). In fact, in his chapter on "Wages of Labour," Smith suggested that this factor accounted for the superiority of wage labor relative to slavery (1976, 1.viii.41, 98; see also Marx 1977, 1033).

However, this distinction should not be carried too far. Slaves also had to use their free time to grow food and perform other tasks (see Fraginals 1978; i:i2i ; Taussig 1979, 75). In fact, Rodney Hilton (1978, 273) even suggests that European serfdom may have originated in the lands distributed to Roman slaves who were expected to feed themselves. Indeed, many observers made much of the operational similarity between wage labor and slavery. For example, James Mill (1826, 219) remarked, "What is the difference, in the case of a man, who operates by means of a labourer receiving wages (instead of by slaves)? . . . The only difference is, in the mode of purchasing." Others accepted that slaves were different, but considered that this difference worked to the advantage of slaves, who were thought to fare better than free workers (see Cunliffe 1979, 7, 21). This idea finds a modern echo in Time on the Cross (Fogel and Engerman 1974).

In one respect, slaves were more fortunate than wage earners. Some slave owners felt an obligation to care for their sick and aged chattel. Employers of wage labor were generally unburdened by such thoughts. In the words of one forthright American manager: "I regard my work-people just as I regard my machinery. . . . They must look out for themselves as I do for myself. When my machines get old and useless, I reject them and get new, and these people are part of my machinery" (cited in Ware 1924, 77).

Eventually, the economic role of household production came to be taken for granted and fell into the background. No longer was the production and consumption of use values emphasized within the household. Instead, an emphasis on exchange values became the order of the day. From the perspective of capital, working-class families merely sold their labor power to purchase commodities marketed by profit-maximizing firms.

The Household as the Locus of Consumption

Perhaps as a legacy of the rejected theory of unproductive labor, modern economics does not generally regard the household as a locus of production, but as an agent of consumption instead. Even so, concern with household economies never completely disappeared. A book titled The Practical Housekeeper maintained: "As it is the business of man to provide the means of living comfortably, so it is the province of women to dispose judiciously of those means, and maintain order and harmony in all things" (Matthaei 1982, 115). Peter Stearns (1974, 18; 1974a, 404) provides an extensive catalog of criticisms of British housewives during the Victorian era for their failure to behave economically enough.

Alfred Marshall joined this chorus of complaints. He (1920, 119) objected that British and American housewives were not as accomplished in "making limited means go a less way . . . than the French housewife . . . not because they do not know how to buy, but they cannot produce as good finished commodities out of the raw material of inexpensive joints, vegetables, etc. . . . Domestic economy is often spoken of as belonging to the science of consumption: but that is only half true. The greatest faults in domestic economy, among the sober portion of the Anglo-Saxon working classes ... are faults of production rather than of consumption." Marshall was unusual in two respects. In the first place, few economists bothered to take note of the importance of the actual consumption process— except those who objected to workers' excessive consumption, especially of alcohol. Even more important, Marshall related household consumption to the total production process.

Philip Wicksteed (1910, 18) was among the few economists who made an allusion to women's productive work, but mostly in regard to the allocation of resources. In The Common Sense of Political Economy, he went into great detail concerning the role of the materfamilias in shopping for and doling out food. Later he did mention the example of stuffing a goose and schemes for getting boarders, but all these examples occur within a long list, including family prayers and the cultivation of general aesthetic tastes (ibid., 159). Even here, he was merely setting out to prove his subjectivist thesis that "the principle remains unchallenged that the marginal significance decreases as the volume of total satisfaction swells."

The contrasting presentation of women's work in Marshall and Wicksteed does credit to the former. Although Marshall might have simply been reflecting a Victorian echo of the movement to increase the productive efficiency of the household to further capital accumulation, at least he acknowledged it as an agent of production rather than limiting it to a locus of consumption.

Marshall's distinction between efficiency of consumption and production in the household was at odds with conventional economic theory. Today's reigning neoclassical theory of the household defends the status quo by arguing that capitalism serves the best interests of the household as a consumer, measured in terms of individualistic utility maximization. Accordingly, teachers expect their students to apply the theoretical apparatus of utility maximization to explain such diverse phenomena as the extent of food waste, reading, sleeping, or even family size (Becker 1965, 503, 509, 5I3-14).

Of course, the personal satisfaction of the working-class family was the farthest thing from the minds of the founders of classical political economy. Marx (1977, 718) correctly dismissed the relevance of any serious consideration of satisfaction as a basic category of analysis in studying the household: "The consumption of food by a beast of burden does not become any less a necessary aspect of the production process because the beast enjoys what it eats." Nassau Senior (1928, 1:172) expressed a similar thought: "And in what does the consumption of food by a labourer differ from that of coals by a steam engine? Simply in that, that the laborer [sic] derives pleasure from what he consumes, and the steam engine does not."

Neoclassical economists should not be singled out for failing to see the relationship between circuits of production and consumption. Many Marxian theorists are not beyond reproach with respect to this subject. Although this failing is less frequent in more recent works that have been conditioned by feminist concerns, all too often marxist works rely on a formal scheme in which precapitalistic formations are identified with the production of use values, in contrast to capitalism, in which production is simply treated as commodity production.

The Evolution of the Theory of Household Production

Notice that we have been making what might seem to be two conflicting claims about the role of household production. Earlier we had emphasized the role of primitive accumulation in promoting the development of capitalism by restricting the efficiency of the household by depriving it of its means of production. This chapter has been emphasizing capital's interest in augmenting the efficiency of household production. How do we resolve this contradiction?

On the grossest level, the attitude toward household production depends on the stage of capitalist development. At a time when self-provisioning was a serious barrier to the extension of the capitalist mode of production, classical political economy expressed an unremitting hostility toward conditions that would support the working-class household's ability to provide for itself. Once political economy became confident that the household economy was sufficiently hobbled that its role as a producer would be subordinated to capitalist commodity production, economists seemed to lose all interest in the evolution of the social division of labor. Instead, they exhorted households to become more efficient producers of labor power. Finally, after problems of effective demand gained more prominence, economists treated the household as a locus of consumption. As a result, the role of the household as a site of production generally fell into oblivion.

Modern political economics, conditioned to look on the household as an agent of consumption, built its justification of capitalism up around its central concept of utility maximization (see Cairncross 1958). Shrouded in this narrow perspective, modern economics has proven itself ill equipped to understand the changing role of household production over time. Even worse, we find a pervasive silence concerning the interest classical political economy took in controlling and regulating the private lives of the working class.

Households and the Changing Social Division of Labor

During the early twentieth century, industry in the United States saw the household appliances that it marketed as being analogous to the industrial equipment that it delivered to factories. In this respect, business attempted to create new markets by discovering appliances that could revolutionize the productive potential of household labor. Its intention was to cause the "owner[s] or operator[s] of appliance[s] ... to adapt [themselves] ... to a transformation from a hand and craft technique over into a machine process" (cited in Ewen 1976, 164). For example, during the heyday of Taylorism, appliance producers hired time and motion experts to design kitchens in order to bring capitalist work rhythms into the household (ibid., 166; see also Gideon 1948, 512ft.).

Toady, we regard these household appliances as an aspect of consumption rather than production, even though they are industrial in scope. In fact, "the American worker has at his disposal a larger stock of capital at home than in the factory where he is employed" (Cairncross 1958, 17). A number of factors have drawn our attention away from the productive role of the household. No observer of the modern household could fail to be struck by the enormous number of commodities that reduce the time required for household chores. Food has become processed and clothes ready-made, yet significant opposing tendencies seem to have gone unnoticed.

As capitalism itself became more complex, so too did the demands put on the household. The process of renewing the energies of workers is complicated by the particularly difficult stresses created by work and life in modern capitalist society (Aglietta 1979, 158; Gorz 1968, 88 ff.). In spite of the labor-saving appearance of the modern household, those tasks that do remain within the realm of its economy have frequently become much more demanding. Budgeting and shopping stand out as obvious instances (Walker and Woods 1976). "Women's work" has become, in many respects, more time consuming than ever.

The importance of this unpaid household labor is far from inconsequential. In 1968, when the Gross National Product was $864 billion, one estimate of the market value of the goods and services produced in U.S. households was $212 billion (see Burns 1976, 22; Scitovsky 1976, 86-89, 279-82; Eisner 1979). Of course, such figures of household production are very imprecise. For example, Robert Eisner (1988) estimated that the value of household production ranged from 20 to 50 percent of the measured Gross National Product.

Even the lower estimate represents a significant contribution to our standard of living. Moreover, William Nordhaus and James Tobin (1972, 518) estimate that the ratio of nonmarket to market consumption has been increasing, from 3:5 in 1929 to 3:4 in 1965, although such estimates may well be biased by the exclusion of unreported business transactions (see Bowsher 1980).

Some household consumption can be antithetical to production. Smoking and excessive use of alcohol come to mind. However, consumption can promote production even when it does not seem to be directly related to the replenishing of the physiological capacities of the working class. Take, for example, the ceaseless curiosity of some young people that drew them from playing to creating video games. Developers of video games, in turn, invented techniques that proved invaluable in advancing computer graphics.

Given that the household is a crucial agent of production, we can easily recognize how new commodities affect the social division of labor. As described earlier, U.S. households used to do their own laundry. By the twentieth century, commercial enterprises had taken over much of the laundering for urban households. With the introduction of the washing machine, many families began to do their own laundry either at home or in a laundromat (Hartman 1976). Gary Becker (1965,508) describes a similar pattern for the history of shaving.

These examples indicate how the home may be gaining as a center of commodity production once again. With the increasing importance of information processing, more businesses are economizing on costly urban office space by furnishing workers with home computer terminals. This system is beneficial to profits in other respects. Wages no longer have to cover the cost of commuting (see Vicker 1981). Moreover, the physical separation of workers reduces the risk that they might organize themselves.

In this sense, modern capital is not unmindful of the position of the household in the economy. Elsewhere I have used this sort of analysis to explain the unseen manner in which the changing social division of labor has furthered the accumulation process within the agricultural sector (Perelman 1991b).

A Simple Schematic of Primitive Accumulation and the Social Labor Process

In this section, I will develop a simple theory to explain the role of household production in the process of capital accumulation. Classical political economists were mindful of the logic of this model, even though nobody ever articulated it in the explicit form presented below. In fact, although the classical political economists generally excluded the role of the subsistence economy from their theoretical works, they were acutely aware of its practical ramifications.

When they did address the process by which the household economy was being harnessed to the needs of capital, they were typically engaged in discussions of practical policy matters, such as Irish politics or the Poor Laws. In these less theoretical works, the classical political economists consistently advocated policies that were intended to affect the subsistence economy so as to promote a new social division of labor that would prove more profitable for capital. This revealing discontinuity between the theoretical expressions and the practical applications of classical political economy becomes obvious once the household is understood to be an integral part of the system of commodity production.

In this model, we observe that the typical working-class household divides its day between working for wages and what we might call "household production." This term includes both self-provisioning and the production of food and some handicrafts for the market. Although the household remains an essential element in the overall process of commodity production, one key feature distinguishes it from capitalist enterprises within the context of a market economy: no value is assigned to household labor devoted to self-provisioning.

Following Marx (1977, 659, 983), we measure the value of labor power by the value of the commodities that are consumed in the course of reproducing that labor power. The value of a commodity depends on the sum of the amount of direct labor used in production together with the indirect labor consumed in the depreciation process. These values ignore the amount of household labor that contributes to the reproduction of labor power because only commodities that are sold on the market have values (see Perelman 1987, chap. 4).

Marx (1981,3:665) did not make this point explicit in his analysis of the value of labor power, but it does seem to be implied in his assertion that the value of labor power equals the value of variable capital, which "consists materially of the means of subsistence of the workers, a portion of their own product. But it is paid out to them bit by bit in money." In other words, the in-kind consumption of workers seems to be excluded from variable capital.

Just as prices and values for individual commodities may diverge in industrial production, so too, can the value of labor power deviate from the values of the commodities consumed within a working-class household. Some families will have atypical patterns of consumption, but on the whole, such differences will wash out when we deal with averages of a large number of households.

Notice that the changing social division of labor between household labor and wage labor will affect the value of labor power and, thus, the values of the goods produced by that labor power. For example, if the typical household were to begin to bake its own bread rather than purchase it, the labor of commercial bakers would no longer be counted into the value of its labor power. Since the labor used to bake within the household does not enter into the value calculation, the value of labor power would fall by an amount equal to the value of the previously purchased bread, less the value of the ingredients.

In contrast, consider what happens when a firm reduces its consumption of constant capital by incorporating more of the productive process within its boundaries. This reduction in labor power previously embodied in products purchased by the firm as inputs will balance the increase in labor power employed within the firm (see Perelman 1987, chap. 4).

Therefore, the value of the commodity produced within the firm remains unchanged.

[x] Figure I. Simplified Production Process

The Bare Bones Model

We can see the relationship of the household to the total production process more clearly in a simple diagram. Figure 1 shows a representation of the simplified system of commodity production in which the household does not appear as an agent of production. Constant capital (C) is combined with labor power [LP] to produce commodities (W), which go to replace the constant capital and variable capital (V), or are made available for capitalist consumption or accumulation, as shown by the arrow directed from W. Figure 2 recognizes the household as an agent of production. The labor time of the household is divided among household production (H) and commodity production, represented by the dimensions of V and S, where the latter stands for surplus value.

We break the aggregate working day into three segments: (1) the number of hours that households devote to production on their own account; (2) the number of hours in which they work for wages while producing those goods and services they will purchase as commodities; and (3) the number of hours that they work for wages while producing those goods and services that will be bought by other classes. For convenience, assume that the second stretch of time is devoted to the production of necessities and the third to luxuries and goods for capital accumulation. This third segment would measure surplus value.

In addition, assume that all necessities are consumed by the workers and all luxuries by the other classes. Since our model is static, assuming that capital goods last forever and do not require replacement, we can treat capital goods as luxuries. Finally, this model adopts another simplification that is often associated with Marx, but that actually originated in classical political economy (see Senior 1836, 174): the aggregate of all households can be treated as a single entity.

Now let us summarize this bare-bones model. Following the typical approach of classical political economy our model presumes that workers' standard of living represents a normal subsistence level. To produce these subsistence goods, we assume that the working class labors for a fixed number of hours regardless of whether work is done within the household or firm. This assertion implicitly assumes that the same technology is used in the household or the commodity producing sector.

The Model and Working Day

Today, the assumption of identical technology used in the firm and in the household might seem implausible, but at least during the early stages of economic development, workers performed more or less the same tasks using the same technologies whether they were in the factory or providing for themselves (Marx 1977, 42,5; Marglin 1974; also the critique of Marglin in Landes 1987). In this sense, Marx (1977, 645, 1019-38) described capital's early control over traditional producers as merely "formal":

In this simple process it is clear that the capitalist has prepared neither the raw material, nor the instrument, nor the means of subsistence for the weaver and the spinner. All that he has done is to restrict them little by little to one kind of work in which they become dependent on selling, on the buyer, the merchant, and ultimately produce only for and through him. He bought their labor originally only by buying their product. (Marx 1974, 510)

Since both the total working day and the amount of time required to produce workers' consumption goods are given, the number of hours used to produce luxuries is also fixed. The more that households produce their necessities on their own account, the less wages they will require to be able to achieve their normal standard of living. Recall that although the time devoted to wage labor is variable, the time devoted to the production of luxuries is not. This feature is central to the model. Consequently, the division of time between the production of necessities in the household and the production of necessities while working for wages is the only variable in the system. Why would the capitalists be concerned about the division of the working day between household labor, or self-provisioning, and wage labor? After all, the amount of luxuries is identical in either case.

[x]
Figure 2. Production Processes with Households Included The fundamental assumption of this model concerns the length of the working day. The full working day did not represent a universal condition in society, but rather an ideal that capital actively attempted to achieve. This achievement required that capitalists find a way to make the working class engage in wage labor. Still, this goal was no simple matter. So long as workers remained within the household economy, they could enjoy the same standard of living without having to devote time and energy to the production of luxury goods or surplus value.

A simple illustration shows why some outside force would be required to push these workers into wage labor. Suppose that the normal working day is ten hours, of which five are devoted to the production of luxuries. Furthermore, suppose that households work for wages full time. Thus, for each hour worked, the household sector receives wages to purchase commodities that require a half hour of labor to produce. In other words, the rate of exploitation is 100 percent.

Now let us change the conditions so that households work two and a half hours on their own account. Households now need only half as much in wages to maintain their standard of living because of what they produce on their own account. Nonetheless, the amount of time devoted to luxuries does not decline, however. Consequently, for each hour spent working for wages, the household sector receives a payment equivalent to only one-third of an hour of labor. As a result, the rate of exploitation jumps to 300 percent.

I maintain this model captures much of the conflict between classes that occurred during this period, and that much of classical political economy was built around this very struggle. Indeed, when the working class had to exchange a great deal of labor to obtain a relatively small value of commodities in return, it resisted wage labor by producing for itself as much as possible. In this way, labor would be able to shorten the working day in comparison to what it otherwise would be if workers had to produce luxury goods for members of nonworking classes in addition to their own subsistence.

Since capitalism had not developed technologies that were superior to the traditional methods of production, the creation of surplus value depended on capital's success in creating absolute surplus value by lengthening the working day. As a result, the more affluent members of society strenuously condemned all those who chose to remain true to their preindustrial ways.

Factors That Complicate the Model

Although this model is quite simple, it still casts considerable light on the contradictory tendencies of household production. First of all, where households are more engaged in self-provisioning, the money capital required to be a capitalist is lower since the employer has a lower outlay in wages. The greater the reliance on precapitalist economic relations, then, the more successful capitalism is in raising the rate of surplus value.

Let us note some other complications: First, if the process of relying on household production were carried to its limit, the value of variable capital would disappear, and with it wage labor. In addition, even though partial self-provisioning would raise the potential rate of surplus value, each worker must commit more labor to earn enough to purchase a commodity. This situation would be similar to what Samuel Johnson reported regarding the long time that a crafter would have to work to purchase a pair of shoes, although he could make a pair of brogues in an hour.

As a result, while increasing self -provisioning augments the maximum possible rate of exploitation, it can restrict the actual production of surplus value by making people cling even more tenaciously to their traditional employments. Consequently, the mass of surplus value may actually fall as the potential rate rises.

The model does not indicate how much labor will be forthcoming when primitive accumulation comes into play. In reality, primitive accumulationists had to be careful in applying their policies. Excessive pressure could create an exodus from the subsistence sector capable of overwhelming the capacity to employ wage labor. Too little pressure could allow too many people to remain in the traditional sector to satisfy the demands of would-be employers.

I should mention that this model becomes less useful under modern conditions. Although industry and household production initially used the same technology, industrial technology eventually became more productive than the traditional methods used in the household (see Marx 1977, 432). However, even after capitalist technologies progressed to the point that self-provisioning became less technologically efficient than wage labor, workers were often still loathe to engage in wage labor. They frequently opted instead to withhold their labor, preferring to substitute leisure for commodities that they might potentially purchase.

Even though more modern technologies eventually offer substantial economies, traditional household production, especially in the form of the putting-out system, could offer significant savings on capital outlays. One student of the subject observed, "The employer in cottage industry, the merchant manufacturer, has no fixed capital. The cottage workers are his machines. He can leave them unemployed whenever he wants without loosing a penny" (Buecher 1893, 196; cited in Medick 1988, 382).

Finally, living in an era that has until recently been dominated by Keynesian economics, we might consider the demand side of the model. Increasing variable capital increases the demand for commodities. Higher demand offers substantial advantages for capital, although it also implies a lower potential rate of surplus value. As a result, reducing the scope of household production can open up opportunities for capital.

The Basic Value of the Model

Despite the various complications of the model, we can still conclude that, other things being equal, the more activities that could be transferred to the household, the higher the rate of surplus value. This point is crucial. The substitution of household work for work done for wages reduces the value of labor power and raises the rate of surplus value. Ignoring the differences between prices and values, the more that households provide for themselves, the less that employers would have to pay for an hour of work.

All parties seemed to understand what was at stake. For example, early classical political economists realized that the capitalist labor process compelled the working class to labor above and beyond what was needed to support its own needs. In a 26 July 1784 letter, Benjamin Franklin (1905-1907, 9:246) wrote: "It has been computed by some political arithmetician . . . that if every man and woman were to work for four hours each day on some thing useful, that labour would produce sufficient to procure all the necessaries and comforts of life, want and misery would be banished out of the world, and the rest of the twenty-four hours might be leisure and pleasure."

Many of the Ricardian socialists also attempted to make empirical estimates of the ratio of paid to unpaid labor (see King 1981). Although they did not approach the subject theoretically, the workers who were expected to produce the surplus value clearly recognized what was at stake.

The Classics: Primitive Accumulation and Capital Accumulation

To sum up to this point, the classical political economy put forth a theory that held that a greater degree of self -provisioning increases the rate of surplus value, other things being equal. They implicitly applied this model when analyzing the practical problem of resistance to wage labor.

The classical model of primitive accumulation is close to Marx's analysis of capitalist reproduction, in the limited sense that it could be reworked into something similar to what we find in Capital without violating any of its particulars. Nonetheless, I must emphasize that it is not Marx's model, however; that is too rigid, too undialectical. It is not Marx, it is classical political economy.

Nonetheless, the classical model of primitive accumulation helps us to understand the reorientation of the household to the production of labor power. This new situation did not come without a struggle on the part of many participants in the traditional economy.

The classical political economists, from Petty in the late seventeenth century to his successors in the mid-nineteenth century, recommended policies that conformed to the model. At least they displayed a keen interest in organizing the social division of labor apparently in order to promote the institution of wage labor.

The idea that political economists would actively concern themselves with the social division of labor might sound odd to many modern students of political economy. The very suggestion of intentionally organizing a social division of labor appears to fly in the face of the general understanding of classical political economy; still, by studying some of their less theoretical works of classical political economy, we shall see how the early economists became active participants in this conflict between capitalist production and household production (including simple commodity production).

At times, classical political economists seemed to take pains to avoid the appearance that they were applying something like this model. For example, Adam Smith, insofar as he addressed the subject, treated the social division of labor as the result of voluntary choices on the part of free people. Even so, on closer inspection, when we review Smith's works as a whole, we find that he also preferred the use of nonmarket forces to manipulate the social division of labor. Specifically, we will see that Smith, like the rest of the early political economists was an ardent advocate of primitive accumulation.

In the process, by demonstrating that this model was an integral part of the program of classical economy we cast doubt on the current fashion of reading the classics with an eye to showing their preoccupation with the maximizing behavior of individuals. In fact, classical political economy was, first and foremost, meant to be a formula for accelerating the overall accumulation process. The effect of household production in this regard is extremely important from the point of view of capital, which profits from a high rate of surplus value.

We can also read the model from the other side: from the perspective of a hypothetical individual choosing whether or not to engage in wage labor. Of course, the point of the model was to make the case for limiting the choices of such people, rather than to demonstrate the theoretical niceties of individual maximizing behavior.

Nonetheless, the perspective of the individual does cast additional light on the model. While individual choice might be a factor in explaining the evolution of an existing social division once workers come to accept the conditions of wage labor, this model suggests that wage labor would not be likely to arise without some sort of duress. Hence, individual choice is an inadequate explanation for what set the social division of labor in motion in the first place. As the model shows, in an environment where self-sufficient people would be producing all of their own needs, the value of their labor power would be extremely low. Consequently, they would be less than eager to exchange their labor for wages.

Even if the high rate of surplus value would somehow not deter people from accepting wage labor, individuals would still not be likely to choose wage labor because of a first-mover problem. After all, capitalism did not begin in department stores, but in economies where self-sufficiency was quite high. One set of workers could not specialize in the full-time production of shoes, clothing, or even food unless others would make a complementary choice to supply other goods, which the former workers ceased to produce for themselves. We shall return to this problem later in a more detailed discussion of Sir James Steuart.

Even if we accept that this structural impediment could be overcome in time, the classics were still unlikely to leave the fate of capitalism to the free choice of the workers. After all, the working class generally appeared irrational to the superior orders. All too often, the failure of the workers to conform to the approved norms of the bourgeoisie appeared to be striking evidence of their inadequate rationality.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Part 1 of 2

 Chapter 5: Elaborating the Model of Primitive Accumulation The Imperative of Primitive Accumulation

Despite the quasi-dialectical nature of the simple, pre-Marxian model of primitive accumulation, most writers tended to make their case in terms of absolutes, emphasizing only one side of the role of household production. The most frequent concern was the potential of workers' resistance to wage labor. Given the common reluctance to accept the conditions of wage labor, the creation of artificial scarcities appeared particularly attractive to most early advocates of capitalist development. For example, almost all representatives of early political economy agreed on the beneficial effects of high food prices in forcing wage labor to work harder (see Furniss 1965; Wermel 1939, 1-14, 17, 24).

In this vein, Sir William Temple (1758, 30) suggested that the community would be well served if food were taxed when harvests were plentiful lest the working class sink into sloth and debauchery. David Hume (1752c, 344), for his part, asserted that such policies would even be in the interests of the poor: " 'Tis always observed, in years of scarcity, if it be not extreme, that the poor labour more, and really live better."

The advocates of primitive accumulation represented powerful, but not all-powerful forces. Many people still retained a stubborn attachment to the land, as well as an abhorrence of wage labor. The early primitive accumulationists waged a vicious war against the traditional sector, concluding that nothing could coerce people into participating in the social division of labor so long as they had recourse to what, for want of a better term, some called the "natural economy." Certainly, modest manipulations of the market would not be effective in coercing self-sufficient peasants to enter into the labor force. How could measures elevating food prices compel self-sufficient peasants to become wage laborers?

Many observers realized that the natural economy was an abstraction. People provided for their subsistence by selling their surplus produce in the local market, as well as by farming and hunting. Even so, many households, tenaciously holding onto the remnants of their earlier self-sufficiency, still displayed a general reluctance to accept wage labor. As Rosa Luxemburg (1968, 369) once insisted, self-provisioning "confront[ed] the requirements of capitalism at every turn with rigid barriers" that seemed unlikely to collapse on its own accord.

Even where wage labor paid significantly more than self-provisioning, workers in traditional economies still typically resisted accepting employment as wage laborers (see Pollard 1965, 191). For example, during the Industrial Revolution, Irish women were reported to have been willing to accept half the salary they could earn in a factory if they could do the same work at home (ibid., 173). The case of the handloom weavers is even better known:

The unwillingness of the hand-loom weavers to enter the mills and manufactories is well known to the whole trade. This arises from them having acquired habits which render the occupation in mills disgusting to them, on account of its uniformity and of the strictness of its discipline. They are unwilling to surrender their imaginary independence, and prefer being enslaved by poverty, to the confinement and unvarying routine of factory employment. (Kay 1835; cited in Pollard 1968, in)

Edmund Morgan (1975, 64-65) observed that in colonial Virginia, people often preferred a more leisurely subsistence economy despite frequent bouts of hunger and malnutrition. We should acknowledge that the variability of earnings complicates such comparisons.

Alexander Gerschenkron (1962, 9), generalizing from his knowledge of prerevolutionary Russia, concluded that "industrial labor, in the sense of a stable, reliable, and disciplined group that has cut the umbilical cord connecting it with the land and has become suitable for utilization in factories, is not abundant, but extremely scarce in a backward country." Contemporary subsistence farmers still frequently display a remarkable reluctance to work outside the family plot in situations where wage labor would appear to be more remunerative (Bardhan 1973, 1380; 1979).

Capitalists became convinced that they had to take matters into their own hands in order to control the accumulation process. Only a harsher variant of primitive accumulation seemed capable of providing sufficient workers. By crippling the household sector— by depriving it of much of its means of production— the emerging proletariat would be left with no choice but to accept wage labor.

Of course, employers had an alternative to primitive accumulation. Some of the exceptional ones went to great expense to create a relatively appealing environment, such as Robert Owen's villages or the Lowell, Massachusetts, textile mills. In the case of the Lowell mills, young girls who enjoyed little independence within traditional patriarchal society were often enthusiastic about the opportunity to work in the mills. Besides being free of parental restrictions, they had the prospect of being able to have control of their own earnings. One woman, recalling her youthful labors in an early nineteenth century textile mill in Lowell, explained:

For hitherto woman had always been a money-saving, rather than a money-earning, member of the community, and her labor could command but a small return. If she worked out as a servant, or help, wages were from fifty cents to one dollar a week; if she went from house to house by the day to spin and weave, or as a tailoress, she could get by seventy-five cents a week and her meals. As a teacher her services were not in demand, and nearly all the arts, the professions and even the trades and industries were closed to her. (H. Robinson 1898, 2)

Unfortunately, few employers were either able or willing to incur the expense of creating attractive opportunities for workers. The majority realized that without the ability to produce enough for themselves, people would have no choice but to engage in wage labor. Thus, employers could acquire surplus value that would otherwise elude them.
Gardening and the Efficiency of the Traditional Sector

Those who prefer the old ways may have solid grounds for their preference; or they might realize the ultimate costs of a dependence on wage labor; or perhaps, these people just prefer to avoid the hectic pace of industrial employment; or finally, maybe they resent the incessant supervision associated with wage labor. This resistance to wage labor perplexes many modern theorists, who habitually presume that wage labor is the "natural" state of humanity (Weber 1923, 260-61; W. Moore 1955, 162; Redford 1926, 19).

Much modern literature portrays anyone who resists wage labor as an enemy of progress. The emotional appeal of the traditional sector seems irrational in such works. For example, the enclosure movement usually forms the backdrop for the traditional story of primitive accumulation. Since many economic historians credit the enclosures with promoting an agricultural revolution, opposition to primitive accumulation (in the form of enclosures) appears as the futile flailing away at the inevitable progress of human society.

In truth, the traditional sector was not nearly as inefficient as many writers would have us believe. Scott Burns (1976), for instance, has published a useful, though unscientific catalog of activities in which households can still provide for many of their own needs far more economically than the commercial sector.

Gardening represents one of the most efficient cases of self-provisioning. Even the Physiocrats, vigorous advocates of large-scale commercial farming, acknowledged the productivity of traditional methods of producing food. They estimated that the spade husbandry of the peasants returned twenty to thirty times as much grain as had been planted. Cultivation with the plow returned only six times the amount (Weulersse 1959, 154; see also F. O'Connor 1848a).

Comte de Mirabeau contended that farmers in a suburb of Paris earned about twenty-eight pounds per year from a single acre of land (Weulersse 191 o, 2:317). The physical output of these market gardeners was nothing short of phenomenal. A Paris gardener, I. Ponce, produced more than forty-four tons of vegetables per acre, not to mention 250 cubic yards of topsoil (Ponce 1870, 32-49; Kropotkin 1901, 62ff.; Kropotkin 1906, 220; Schoenhof 1893, 149; see also the estimates of the produce of an English market garden in Maitland 1804, 132). By contrast, in the United States, today's commercial producers manage to harvest only nineteen tons of onions or thirty-three tons of tomatoes per acre for processing, the highest yielding vegetables (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1997, 4-22). Other plants, such as spinach or peppers, only produce four or five tons per acre in the United States.

Although these gardens were commercial operations, they still suggest the efficiency of methods of self-provisioning. According to William Pitt, market gardeners near populated areas in Britain were assessed eleven pounds, seven shillings per acre (cited in Wordie 1974, 600). Obviously, they had to be able to earn at least this amount to continue to practice their trade.

Even in a modern market society, self-provisioning can be efficient. John Jeavons, a pioneer in the application of the scientific method to gardening techniques, claims that he can produce a complete diet on 2,800 square feet of marginal land with a daily effort of twenty-eight minutes, not much more than would be required to shop for the food (cited in Taper 1979). Although most gardeners cannot match Jeavons's productivity, Scott Burns (1979) estimates that a typical hour spent in growing vegetables is worth an average of ten dollars, considerably more than the typical wage rate at the time of his calculation.

Part of the advantage of self-provisioning is due to the avoidance of the need to transport and market produce, which generally grows near the point of consumption. Even if growing vegetables takes less direct labor on a farm than in a household garden, when we take account of the complexities of the marketing system and the labor embodied in the farm inputs, self-provisioning may well turn out to be superior (see Perelman 1977). Perry Duis (1998, chap. 5) reported that in late-nineteenth-century urban Chicago, lack of refrigeration and an inefficient distribution system made gardening an efficient method of providing for food. These locational advantages can be substantial. For example, despite the enormous rents typical of an urban area, London remained largely self-sufficient with respect to milk until the 1870s (see Atkins 1977).

True enough, not all families had access to garden plots. What is most important to our subject is that the techniques of market gardening have much to offer, even under transformed social relations. In other words, traditional household production can remain a variable alternative even after wage labor has become common. Even in the United States, the poor had no choice to return to gardening when depressions struck. As Duis observed: "Among the poor . . . gardening was sometimes necessary for daily survival, not just a form of ornamentation or a hobby. Even squatters managed to plant a few vegetables to supplement their meager meals, but those efforts were small when compared with what began during the severe depression of 1893-1897, when armies of the unemployed roamed the nation in search of work (Duis 1998, 140). Gardening for food also increased during the Great Depression. We might note that in the early Soviet Union, Nikolai Bukharin and Evgenii Preobrazhensky (Bukharin and Preobrazhensky 1922, 303-4) predicted an important future for the technology of market gardening, based on the experience of the first two years of the Soviet Republic. In addition, during both world wars, the U.S. government devoted considerable energy to promoting victory gardens in an effort to conserve resources.

Classical Political Economy versus the Traditional Sector

Despite the absence of conclusive evidence of the technological superiority of the commercial sector relative to the household sector during the age of classical political economy, the widespread attachment to the traditional sector outraged numerous writers at the time. Many even interpreted the resistance to wage labor as proof of a moral defect. Commentators frequently concluded that potential wage laborers would continue to resist wage labor until some external power separated them from their land. Thomas Hobbes (1651, 387) reflected this concern with overcoming the resistance of the poor, writing:

For such as have strong bodies . . . , they are to be forced to work; and to avoyd the excuse of not finding employment, there ought to be such Lawes, as may encourage all manner of Arts; as Navigation, Agriculture, Fishing, and all manner of Manufacture that requires labour. The multitude of poor, and yet strong people still encreasing, they are to be transplanted into Countries not sufficiently inhabited; where nonetheless, they are not to exterminate those that they find there; but constrain them to inhabit closer together, and not range a great deal of ground together, to snatch what they find; but to court each little Plot with art and labour, to give them their sustenance in due season. And when the world is overcharged with Inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is Warre; which provideth for every man, by Victory, or Death.

As William Robertson (1769a, 84), the Historian Royal of Scotland and a leading figure in Edinburgh literary circles, in a work allegedly based on Smith's then unpublished Lectures on Jurisprudence (see Scott 1965, 5556), wrote with regard to the prospects of naturally developing market relations: "The wants of men, in the original and most simple state of society, are so few, and their desires so limited, that they rest contented with what they can add to these by their own rude industry. They have no superfluities to dispose of, and few necessities that demand a supply." In a similar vein, James Anderson (1777, 61) asserted: "For without commerce or arts, what inducement has the farmer to cultivate the soil? In this case every man will only wish to rear as much as is sufficient for his own sustenance, and no more. . . . For this reason a nation peopled only by farmers must be a region of indolence and misery."

William Temple (1758, 17, 52) was more explicit, calculating: "If mankind employed themselves in nothing but the productions absolutely necessary to life, seven in eight must be idle, or all be idle seven eighths of the time. And yet they might indulge intemperance, and sink into the beastly vices of slovenly gluttony and drunkenness." Finally, let me cite the Reverend Joseph Townsend (1786, 404), in "a Well Wisher to Mankind," argued that "the poor know little of the motives which stimulate the higher ranks to action-pride, honour, and ambition. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them on to labour; yet our laws have said, they shall never hunger."

The mind-set of the time might sound fairly crude to some, but it still resonates today. For example, during the Reagan years, George Gilder (1981, 118) bravely revived the spirit of the primitive accumulationists, proclaiming, "In order to succeed, the poor need most of all the spur of poverty," an advantage that was denied to Gilder himself. More recently, the Clinton administration, awash with rhetoric that would have made the primitive accumulationists proud, succeeded in "reforming" the welfare system.

The Creation of Scarcity

The key to avoiding the curse of a comfortable life was to create artificial scarcity for the rural poor. As Arthur Young observed in 1771, "everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious" (cited in E. P. Thompson 1963, 358). Access to common land touched a particularly sensitive nerve among more affluent property owners. Marx (1977, 88i; see also E. P. Thompson 1963, 217) cited a Dr. Hunter, who fretted that "a few acres to the cottage would make the labourers too independent."

Such fears were commonplace during the period of classical political economy. A 1794 report to the Board of Agriculture on Shropshire noted that the use of "the commons now open . . . operates upon the mind as a sort of independence." Others remarked that enclosure would ensure a "subordination of the lower ranks of society which in the present times is so much wanted" (Bishton 1794, 24; cited in McNally 1993, 19). According to one proponent of the eighteenth-century enclosures:

The possession of a cow or two, with a hog, and a few geese, naturally exalts the peasant. ... In sauntering after his cattle, he acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half, and occasionally whole days, are imperceptibly lost. Day labour becomes disgusting; the aversion increases by indulgence. And at length the sale of a half -fed calf, or hog, furnishes the means of adding intemperance to idleness. (Billingsly 1798, 31; cited in Horn 1981, 52)

John Arbuthnot, a large farmer, expressed a contemptuousness toward pre-enclosure cottagers that was typical for the time. His attack on the supposedly perverse incentives prefigures the modern conservative argument against welfare. In his words:

The benefit which they are supposed to reap from commons in their present state, I know to be merely nominal; nay, indeed, what is worse, I know that, in many instances, it is an essential injury to them, by being made a plea for their idleness,some few excepted, if you offer them work they will tell you they must look up their sheep, cut furzes, get their cow out of the pound, or perhaps say they must take their horse to be shod, that he may carry them to the horse race or a cricket-match. (Arbuthnot 1773, 8i; see also Wilkinson 1964, 18)

From there, Arbuthnot offered an analysis of chilling clarity. He proposed that if "by converting the little farmers into a body of men who must work for others [by enclosing the commons] more labor is produced, it is an advantage which the nation should wish for" (Arbuthnot 1773, 124; also cited in Marx 1977, 888).

E. P. Thompson (1963, 217) cited the 1796 perspective of a Lord Winchilsea: "Whoever travels through the Midland Counties and will take the trouble of enquiring, will generally receive for answer, that formerly there were a great many cottagers who kept cows, but that land is now thrown to the farmers," not because they want to farm the land, but because "they rather wish to have the labourers more dependent upon them." William Cobbett (1831, 1:88) found much the same attitude among those who hired labor when he proposed to offer each laborer an acre of wasteland on the condition that he enclose, cultivate, and live on it: "Budd said, that to give the labourers a bit of land would make them 'sacy'; Chiddle said, that it would only make them breed 'more children'; and Steel said, it would make them demand 'higher wages.'"

According to Marx (1977, 910-11): "[Capital] transformed the small peasants into wage-labourers, and their means of subsistence and of labour into material elements of capital. . . . Formerly, the peasant family produced means of subsistence and raw materials, which they themselves for the most part consumed. These raw materials and means of subsistence have now become commodities."

In their plan to convert the peasants into wage laborers, the primitive accumulationists were still mindful of the efficiency of self-production. Toward this end, they wanted to allow workers to produce for their own needs, but their access to land was to be at the pleasure of the large farmer who owned it. Here is Arbuthnot's (1773, 83) explanation:

My plan is to allot to each cottage three or four acres, which should be annexed to it without power of alienation, and without rent, but under the covenant of being kept in grass, except such small part as should be necessary for a garden,this would keep the cottager in more plenty than a very extensive range of common; he and his family must then cultivate the garden, or suffer as they ought to do: and to obviate the plea of their wanting fuel, let it be fenced and planted with ash and other quick growing trees, at the expense of those who are to have the property of the common.

As this struggle to build up the proletariat intensified, workers increasingly lost more of their capacity to provide for themselves. Foreign visitors were struck by the final result of this process, noting that "not one of all the many thousand English factory workers has a square yard of land on which to grow food if he is out of work and draws no wage" (Escher 1814, 35 ). Indeed, by the nineteenth century, England "presented a unique and amazing spectacle to the enquiring foreigner; it had no peasants" (Hobsbawm and Rude 1968, 3; see also Deane and Coale 1967, 3, 256). Yet primitive accumulation was neither as complete nor as rapid as these visitors might have imagined. For example, as Marx (1977, 911) reminded his readers: "This transformation had already begun in part under the feudal mode of production. For example, hand mills were banned to make people dependent upon the mill belonging to the lord."

The Occasional Acknowledgment of the Economics of Primitive Accumulation

After around 1830, we hear less and less about the urgency of primitive accumulation from the classical political economists. Marx (ibid., 931) interpreted this silence as evidence that they did not understand its importance. He charged that "political economy confuse[d] on principle, two different kinds of private property, one of which rests on the producer himself, and the other on the exploitation of the labour of others." The economists conveniently forgot that the "latter is not only the direct antithesis of the former, but grows on the former's tomb and nowhere else" (ibid., 93 1 ; see also Marx 1967, 2:35; for a reflection of this conflict in Japan, see T. Smith 1966, 75).

Marx gave the political economists too little credit. They were not confused at all, but with few exceptions, preferred not to address this matter publicly. Those who did break the code of silence tended to be secondary figures. Take the case of Mountifort Longfield, writing from Ireland, where capitalism still had to contend with a vigorous subsistence farming sector in 1833. Longfield used the unwaged worker to close his system in much the same manner that Ricardo used the concept of norent land.

According to Longfield's (1834, 190-91; see also Earle and Hoffman 1980) formulation, the standard of living of the subsistence farmer sets the level of wages, which given the existing technology, determines the rate of profit. Unfortunately, the crucial role of the subsistence sector was not explicitly spelled out.

John Ramsey McCulloch (1854, 34) also stumbled on this relationship between the rate of profit and the subsistence sector. He argued that the degree of poverty among the peasantry determined the wage rate, which within the context of his Ricardian perspective, would have set the rate of profit, given the usual assumptions of his school. As was his practice, McCulloch, however, failed to translate his perceptive observation about the real world into a theoretical analysis.

McCulloch was not alone in this respect. In spite of an intense, practical concern with the subsistence sector, on an abstract level, classical political economy was generally unwilling to openly recognize the antagonism between capital and the traditional economy. Moreover, it generally failed to acknowledge in its theoretical works the role that the subsistence sector played in augmenting profits in the capitalist sector.

Where political economy did come close to confronting this conflict, it appeared to be intentionally obscure. One partial exception was Senior (1836, 74), who chose to treat the matter as a cultural phenomenon, sneering at that "rude state of society [in which] every man possesses, and every man can manage, every sort of instrument." In advocating a market economy based on a more complex social division of labor, he casually noted, "Indirect production is, in a great measure, the result of civilization" (1928, 133).

Even after Senior's concept of indirect labor reappeared in Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk's (see 1959, esp. 1:87) elaborate theory of roundaboutness, the social relations of that category were nowhere to be found. Nonetheless, Senior, for all his other deficiencies, deserves a modicum of credit for raising a concept parallel to the social division of labor to a level faintly approaching abstract theory.

The Silent Compulsion of the Market

The more practical primitive accumulationists wistfully dreamed of a world in which the poor would be forced to "work everyday in the year" (cited in Hill 1967, 278). This vision was attractive enough to win wholehearted support of the majority of the ruling classes for enclosing the common land. Robert Wallace (1809, 17) went beyond the usual crude identity of self-interest and national interest, suggesting that the production of surplus and the creation of a more refined social division of labor could ultimately produce tangible benefits for society in general:
If the lands be divided into very unequal shares, and in general, may produce much more than will decently support those who cultivate them, the country may notwithstanding be well peopled, if the arts be encouraged, and the surplus above what would support the labourers of the ground be allotted for such as cultivate the arts and sciences.

At times, the primitive accumulationists seemed to comfort their consciences by imagining themselves as helping to elevate people, while actually thrusting them deeper into poverty. For example, William Temple (1758, 43) calculated:

If all the lands in the kingdom were to be divided among the people, they would not amount to four acres a-piece. A man is not poor because the refinements of the arts, policy and manners have left him without lands . . . ; but he is poor because he spends what he acquires from the arts of refinement in a foolish manner; or neglects from sloth to make so proper and prudent advantage of those arts as he might.

Given this perspective, Temple concluded, "The best spur to industry is necessity" (ibid., 27). In this spirit, one pamphleteer of the time wrote:

Nor can I conceive a greater curse upon a body of people, than to be thrown upon a spot of land, where the productions for subsistence and food were, in great measure, spontaneous, and the climate required or admitted little care for raiment or covering. (Forster 1767, 10; see also Steuart 1966, 1:45-46)

In the same vein, Hume (i752d, 266-67) blamed the poverty of France, Italy, and Spain on their benign climates and rich soil.

Temple and his class were too intent on the brutal conquest of the natural economy creating artificial scarcities by limiting the common people's access to natural wealth to bother with the niceties of ideological obfuscation. Some of the forthright accumulationists, however, were sophisticated enough to have realized that once the work of primitive accumulation was complete, what Marx (1977, 899) called the "silent compulsion" of the market could be far more profitable than the brute force of primitive accumulation. Consider again the generous vision of Reverend Joseph Townsend (1786, 404, 407):

[Direct] legal constraint [to labor] ... is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise, . . . whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but as the most natural motive to industry, it calls forth the most powerful exertions. . . . Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjugation to the most brutish, the most obstinate, and the most perverse.

Similarly, Rodbertus, a German socialist and government minister rather than an outright primitive accumulationist, asserted:

Originally this compulsion was exercised by the institution of slavery, which came into existence at the same time as tillage of the soil and private ownership of land. . . . When all the land in a country is privately owned, and when the same title to all land has passed into private ownership of land and capital exerts the same compulsion on liberated or free workers. . . . Only now the command of the slave owner has been replaced by the contract between worker and employer, a contract which is free only in form but not really in substance. Hunger makes almost a perfect substitute for the whip, and what was formerly called fodder is now called wages, (cited in BohmBawerk 1959, 253)

As might be expected, Adam Smith put a voluntaristic twist on this silent compulsion. He attributed primitive accumulation to the greed of the feudal aristocracy rather than the rising bourgeoisie, while failing to acknowledge explicitly that this greed arose because the aristocrats began to take on the trappings of the bourgeoisie:

But what all the violence of the feudal institutions could have never effected, the silent and insensible operation of foreign commerce and manufactures gradually brought about. These gradually furnished the great proprietors with something for which they could exchange the whole surplus produce of their lands . . . without sharing it either with tenants or retainers. All for ourselves, and nothing for the people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. (Smith 1776, 3.4.10, 418)

Presumably, this vile maxim would disappear with the rise of market relationships.

Self-Provisioning as a Subsidy to Capital

Primitive accumulation was largely successful. Once industrial technology became substantially more productive than self-provisioning, the household economy became even less of a threat to the capitalist sector of the economy. At that point, capital could take advantage of the economies of self-provisioning, so long as household labor would not interfere with the commitment to wage labor.

In line with the classical model of primitive accumulation, many agents of capital soon recognized that household labor could serve a useful purpose once workers were engaged in wage labor. Capital could use the household economy to provide for some of the workers' needs. In this way, household production could allow money wages to fall below subsistence level, thus raising the rate of surplus value. In effect, the household economy could help capital profit from relative surplus value (reflecting efficiencies in the production of labor power) rather than absolute surplus value, which depends on the brute extension of the working day— meaning the hours that labor works for wages.

Few poor farmers could aspire to anything like self-sufficiency. Returns from small holdings fell so low that the period between 1788 and 1803 became known as the golden age of handloom weaving, since many smallscale farmers could not survive without augmenting their earnings in this manner (see Smelser 1959, 138).

Despite the worsening circumstances of the petty commodity producers, they could still supply much of their basic subsistence needs themselves, allowing them to survive with a modest level of wages. In light of Mountifort Longfield's observation that petty commodity producers determine the reservation wage, we should not be surprised at Phyllis Deane's (1957, 92) discovery that between 1770 and 1800, real wages in England were falling or at best stagnant.

Even in urban environments, many workers continued to combine agricultural pursuits with industrial employment. For example, in the United States as late as the nineteenth century, urban workers often grew much of their own food (see Smuts 1959, n-13; Ware 1924, 39, 74). London also had extensive backyard agriculture, including chicken coops, sheepfolds, and pigsties above and below ground (see Dyos and Wolff 1973, 898).

Workers produced much of this food in their spare hours, notwithstanding certain unwelcome environmental consequences of living in close proximity to the animals. These activities may attest either to the strength of the attachment to self-provisioning or to inadequate incomes from wage labor. Either case implies a victory for primitive accumulation.

A number of writers acknowledged that such partial self-provisioning, as opposed to more complete self-provisioning, could be highly profitable for employers. For example, William Thornton observed that the money wages of labor were far lower in medieval times because workers' monetary requirements were minimal then. Workers could squat on neglected land. They had land to grow gardens, to graze a cow, a few sheep, and some geese, poultry, and pigs, as well as access to wood and places to fish (Thornton 1869, i2ff.). Thus, the decline in household production would raise wages.

Adam Smith noted in passing that workers who farmed or gardened for themselves required less money for their own support (1976, 1.x.b. 48-49, 133-34). This factor was not irrelevant in England, where gardens adjoining workers' cottages provided important supplements to the commodities purchased with wages (see Chambers and Mingay 1966, 134; E. Thompson 1963, 214, 230, 269, 276; Mantoux 1961, chap. 3; Hammond and Hammond 1919, 3-5; Engels 1845, 9-13).

Others seemed to realize that this combination of industry and agriculture would work best where farmers were poor. For example, Daniel Defoe (1724-1726, 2, 5, 49 1 (noted that manufacturing had already taken hold in "wild, barren, poor country" such as Devonshire on Halifax, where the land was divided into small parcels, presumably because self-provisioning allowed employers to pay less in wages. Similarly, Arthur Young (1794, 412-38; see also Berg 1980b) found a similar pattern during his travels in France.

Sir fames Steuart (1767, 1:1 11), a vehement opponent of the totally selfsufficient household, still allowed that many wage workers "prosecute their manufactures in the country, and avail themselves, at the same time, of small portions of land, proper for gardens, grass for cows, and even for producing certain kinds of fruits necessary for their own maintenance." Here was the same technology that once supported the selfsufficient household economy, yet in an entirely different context, it served to further the process of accumulation. Indeed, Steuart (ibid., 11112; see also Steuart 1769, 328; Marx 1977, 911) carefully differentiated this form of household production in terms of its social relations:

This I do not consider as a species of farming. . . . Here the occupation of the inhabitants is principally directed towards the prosecution of their trades: agriculture is but a subaltern consideration, and will be carried on so far only as it occasions no great avocation from the main object. It will however, have the effect to parcel out a small part of the lands into small possessions: a system admirably calculated for the improvement of a barren soil, and advantageous to the population, when the spirit of industry is not thereby checked, (emphasis added)

We get an even clearer reflection of the relationship between household labor and the rate of surplus value in an anonymous review of William Cobbett's Cottage Industry, a precursor of contemporary self-help books designed to teach families to produce their own food. After first distancing himself from the author's dangerous political views, the reviewer for the prestigious Edinburgh Review, probably either Francis Jeffrey or Henry Brougham (see Fetter 1953, 251), explained the particular advantage of inculcating a spirit of self-sufficiency among the working class:

Let it be remembered, that after procuring raiment and shelter, almost the whole time and attention of the bulk of the people in every community, is of necessity devoted to the procuring of sustenance, that their comfort depends exactly on the greater or lesser degree of the abundance, and the better or worse quality in which this sustenance is obtained. Whatever therefore, by how little soever an addition, enables them to increase its quantity and mend its composition, brings a solid improvement to their condition and helps the great business of their whole lives. The points to which the book before us directs their attention, are of greater importance, because no cultivation of the economy recommended can be attended without the counteracting check which follows close behind so many other improvements in the labour of the poor, a fall of their wages. Whosoever should teach the reaper to do his work in half the time, would at the same time teach the farmer to give him half the wages, nay, a general practice of working farm work two or three hours extra would not increase his hire, but he will receive as much wages as if he industriously brews and bakes, and tends useful animals at by hours, as if he consumed these and his earnings together at the alehouse. (Review 1823, 119)

We could hardly hope for a more vivid expression of the logic of classical political economy. Although these words did not come from the pen of one of the most important luminaries of classical political economy, they did come from an editor of the Edinburgh Review, a position that made the reviewer a highly influential promoter of political economy (see Fetter 1 957, 1 9)Such people knew that the structure of domestic production was no trifling matter. The savings that household labor could offer could be quite substantial. The reviewer of Cobbett's book presumed that the inevitable result would be a fall in the level of wages. An example of this principle is suggested by Steuart (1767, 3:304; see also Smith 1976, I.x.b.48-49, 133-34), who estimated that two days' earnings from spinning were required to nourish a Scottish spinner for a single day during the eighteenth century.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Part 2 of 2

Calibrating the Model of Primitive Accumulation

Classical political economy quickly recognized that once people could no longer grow all their own food, they would become at least partially dependent on the market for their nourishment. As we saw from the protoMarxian model of primitive accumulation, this dependence was not necessarily absolute.

Writers at the time paid considerable attention to the effect of varying the extent of dependence, or what we might term, "relative primitive accumulation." They wanted to make sure that workers would be able to be self-sufficient enough to raise the rate of surplus value without making them so independent that they would or could resist wage labor. Such calculations about the appropriate extent of household production were exceedingly common in the eighteenth century, as this proposal in an 1 800 issue of the Commercial and Agricultural Magazine shows:

A quarter acre of garden-ground will go a great way toward rendering the peasant independent of any assistance. However, in this beneficent intention moderation must be observed, or we may chance to transform the labourer into a petty farmer; from the most beneficial to the most useless of industry. When a labourer becomes possessed of more land than he and his family can cultivate in the evenings . . . the farmer can no longer depend on him for constant work, and the hay-making and harvest . . . must suffer to a degree which . . . would sometimes prove a national inconvenience, (cited in E. Thompson 1963, 219-20)

Robert Gourlay (1822, 145-46), an associate of Arthur Young, made a similar point:

The half acre of land is condescended upon as being such a quantity as any poor man could make the most of at his spare hours, and from which he could raise sufficient food for a cow, along with his liberty of pasturage on the common; but there are reasons which would make it politic and right to diminish both the extent of the common and the garden plot. A quarter of an acre is the proper size for a garden, and 25 instead of 50 acres of common would be quite sufficient. A rood of land, under good garden culture, will yield a great abundance of every kind of vegetable for a family, besides a little for a cow and pig. ... It is not the intention to make labourers professional gardeners or farmers! It is intended to confine them to bare convenience. The bad effects of giving too much land to labourers was discovered more than thirty years ago, in the lowlands of Scotland. . . . [T]he bad effects of the little potatoe farms in Ireland are well known,and nothing but dirt and misery is witnessed among the Crofters of the Highlands of Scotland. A tidy garden, with the right of turning out a cow in a small, well-improved and very well fenced field, would produce efforts of a very different kind indeed.

The Earl of Winchilsea, G. Firth (1796, 5-6), offered another example of the calculus of primitive accumulation. In a letter to Sir John Sinclair, president of the British Board of Trade, he wrote:

Nothing is so beneficial both to them [the laborers] and to the Land Owners, as having Land to be occupied either for the keeping of Cows, or as gardens, according to circumstances. ... By means of these advantages, the Labourers and their families live better, and are consequently more fit to endure labour; it makes them more contented, and more attached to their situation, and it gives them a sort of independence which makes them set a higher value upon their character. . . . [Wjhen a Labourer has obtained a Cow, and Land sufficient to maintain her, the first thing he has thought of, has been, how he could save money enough to buy another.

The earl estimated that four-fifths of the labor put into a garden will come "at extra hours, and when they and their children would otherwise be unemployed" (ibid., 14). As might be expected, he cautioned against allowing a laborer access to even several acres of arable land because that much land "would occupy so much of his time, that the Take would, upon the whole, be injurious to him" (ibid., 13).

Calibration must necessarily adjust with changing technology. For example, progress in spinning, traditionally an agricultural sideline, failed to increase the capacity to weave cloth (see Smelser 1959, 65). Accordingly, the textile industry needed to move more people from part-time farming into full-time spinning.

In this spirit, the British Board of Agriculture attempted to assist those who employed farm labor to benefit from a more self-sufficient labor force. It offered a gold medal "to each of the five persons, who shall, in the most satisfactory manner, prove, by experiment, the practicability of cottagers being enabled to keep one or two milch cows on the produce of the land cultivated with spade and hoe only" (cited in Sinclair 1803, 850).

To be sure, the board did not intend to return to precapitalist subsistence farming. Its president, Sir John Sinclair (ibid., 851), wanted small farming to operate under three principles:

1. That a cottager shall raise, by his own labour, some of the most material articles of subsistence for himself and his family;

2. That he shall be enabled to supply the adjoining markets with the smaller agricultural productions, and

3. That both he and his family shall have it in their power to assist the neighboring farmers, at all seasons, almost equally as well as if they had no land in their occupation.

Sinclair had two objects in mind, both of which pertained to primitive accumulation. First, he thought that the provision of a small plot of land would make peasants accept enclosures more readily. Second, a glance at Sinclair's three points indicates that he thought that if small-scale farms could be properly proportioned, agricultural employers could profit from a cheap labor force. Sinclair calculated that the cottagers would earn slightly more than half their income from wages. The rest was expected to come from their sales of agricultural produce. Moreover, in excess of onethird of their money wages was expected to return to the landed gentry in the form of rents paid for their tiny plots of land (ibid., 854).

Sinclair's vision, in many respects, had already been put into practice. By the nineteenth century, the bulk of the very small farmers were wage earners who supplemented their earnings with agricultural pursuits (see Wordie 1974; Wells 1979). Even so, Sinclair, like the rest of the primitive accumulationists, agreed that capital had to exert great care lest the worker become "a little gardener instead of a labourer" (cited in Chambers andMingay 1966, 134).

Josiah Tucker and the Sociology of the Model

Of course, capital was not united with respect to the extent of selfprovisioning. Some types of labor are more compatible with a strong household economy than others. Nonetheless, just as we would expect within the context of the classical model of primitive accumulation, more and more people found reasons to support a strengthening of self-provisioning once the initial work of primitive accumulation was completed.

Naturally, these changes in the attitude toward self-provisioning did not follow a smooth and regular path. Cyclical macroeconomic conditions, especially the state of the labor market, affected stances toward self-provisioning. For example, when relatively advanced economies begin to decline, the peasant sector offers a convenient buffer that saves the need for welfare costs. Recall the earlier discussion of the resurgence of gardening during depressions. Once the pace of economic activity picks up, capitalists might look upon self-provisioning as an unwelcome competitor for scarce labor resources.

At one point, Marx seemed about to touch on this matter, almost casually observing, "England is at certain epochs mainly a corn-growing country, at others mainly a cattle-growing country. These periods alternate, and the alternation is accompanied by fluctuations in the extent of peasant cultivation" (Marx 1977, 912). Unfortunately, Marx never followed through with this thought.

Once we recognize some of these more complex considerations, we should not be surprised that we cannot mechanically apply the simple model of primitive accumulation. Indeed, agents of capital rarely spoke with a single tongue with respect to self-provisioning (see Berg 1983b, 6467 for an excellent discussion of the issues). Those who identified with aspiring lower-middle-class interests differed from those who aligned themselves predominately with agriculture.

Consider Josiah Tucker's (1758, 36) comparison of the economies of Yorkshire, where the household economy retained its importance, and the West Country:

In many Parts of Yorkshire, the Woolen Manufacture is carried on by small Farmers and Freeholders: These People buy some Wool, and grow some; their Wives, Daughters, and Servants spin it in the long Winter Nights, and at such Times when not employed in the Farms and Dairies; the Master of the Family either sells this produce in the Yarn Market, or hath it wove up himself.

In this competitive environment, no great differences separated the status of workers and employers. Tucker (ibid., 37) reported that:

[The workers] being so little removed from the Degree and Condition of their masters, and likely to set up for themselves by the Industry and Frugality of a few years Thus it is, that the working people are generally Moral, Sober and Industrious; that the goods are well made, and exceedingly cheap; and that a riot or a mob is a thing hardly known among them.

By contrast, a more advanced factory system existed in the West Country. There, according to Tucker (ibid., 37-39):

The Motives to Industry, Frugality and Sobriety are all subverted to this one consideration viz. that they shall always be chained to the same Oar (the Clothier), and never be but Journeymen. ... Is it little wonder that the trade in Yorkshire should flourish, or the trade in Somersetshire, Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire be found declining every day?

One Person, with a great Stock and large Credit, buys the Wool, pays for the Spinning, Weaving, Milling, Dying, Shearing, Dressing, etc., etc. That is, he is the Master of the whole Manufacture from first to last, and perhaps employs a Thousand persons under him. This is the Clothier whom all the Rest are to look upon as their Paymaster. But will they not also sometimes look upon him as their Tyrant? And as great Numbers of them work together in the same Shop, will they not have it more in their Power to vitiate and corrupt each other, to cabal and associate against their Masters, and to break out in Mobs and Riots upon every little Occasion? . . . Besides, as the Master is placed so high above the Condition of the Journeymen, both their Conditions approach much nearer that of Planter and Slave in our American Colonies, than might be expected in such a Country as England; and the Vices and Tempers belonging to each Condition are of the same Kind, only in inferior Degree. The Master, for Example, however well-disposed in himself, is naturally tempted by his Situation to be proud and overbearing, to consider his People as the Scum of the earth, whom he has a Right to squeeze whenever he can, because they ought to be kept low, and not to rise up in Compensation with their Superiors. The journeymen on the contrary, are equally tempted by their Situation, to envy the high Station, and superior Fortunes of their Masters; and to envy them the more, in Proportion as they find themselves deprived of the Hopes of advancing themselves to the same Degree by any Stretch of Industry, or superior Skill. Hence their Self-love takes a wrong Turn, destructive to themselves, and others. They think it no Crime to get as much Wages, and to do as little for it as they possibly can, to lie and cheat, and do any other bad Thing; provided it is only against their Master, whom they look upon as their common Enemy, with whom no Faith is kept. . . . their only Happiness is to get Drunk, and to make Life pass away with as little Thought as possible.

Tucker seems to have anticipated the modern literature lauding northern Italy's industrial districts; however, not everybody shared Tucker's enthusiasm for economic development based on small, independent businesses, scattered throughout the countryside.

James Anderson's Alternative Analysis

Unlike Tucker, James Anderson applauded the concentration of workers in urban areas. He argued that urbanization was conducive to superior morality. Anderson, an influential writer on agriculture, probably had his eye on more earthly matters than workers' morality. He worried that the working poor would earn so much spending money from domestic industries that the social relations in the countryside would sour:

[If] manufacture be of such a nature as to admit of being carried on in separate detached houses in the country, and may be practiced by any single person independent of others, it must invariably happen that the whole of the money that is paid for the working up of these foreign materials flows directly into the hands of the lower ranks of people, often into those of young women and children; who becoming giddy and vain, usually lay out the greatest part of the money thus gained in buying fine cloaths, and other gaudy gewgaws that catch their idle fancies. (Anderson 1777, 26)  

Worse yet, these workers might not feel compelled to do low-waged agricultural work.

Another writer was more blunt than Anderson in his dual concern with morality and the labor market, warning that "a daughter, kept home to milk a poor half starv'd cow, who being open to temptations, soon turns harlot, and becomes a distressed ignorant mother, instead of making a good useful servant" (Bishton 1794, 24).

Anderson worried that domestic industry would have other undesirable consequences. Because small farmers resist severing their ties with agriculture, they are willing to pay higher rents than larger farmers. As a result, Anderson (1777, 29) predicted: "The whole order of rich and substantial tenants is totally annihilated, and all the country becomes parceled out into small and trifling possessions, which do not deserve the appellation of farms." Accordingly, he recommended industries that would provide markets for agriculture without seducing away farm labor. Such arrangements would maintain the dependent conditions of the urban workers:

For if the manufacture necessarily requires to be carried on by people in concert with one another . . . , where those who practice it stand in need of the assistance of each other, so that it must be carried on with a number in one place, it will have attendance to promote rather than retard the progress of agriculture, (ibid., 36)

Both Tucker and Anderson offered a relatively detailed analysis of the manner in which the structure of primitive accumulation affects the sociological characteristics of people in the countryside. Yet both analyses were incomplete. Each advanced an alternative vision of primitive accumulation, without acknowledging the logic behind the perspective of competing visions. Dugald Stewart (1855, chap. 2, pt. 3) was unique, to my knowledge, in attempting to sort out the various approaches to domestic industry, contending:

a domestic manufacture must always be a most unprofitable employment for an individual who depends chiefly for his subsistence on the produce of a farm.

A man, indeed, who exercises a trade which occupies him from day to day, must, of necessity, be disqualified for the management of such agricultural concerns as require a constant and undivided attention. But it does not appear equally evident, how the improvement of the country should be injured by his possessing a few acres as an employment for his hours of recreation,nor does it seem likely . . . that his professional skill and industry will be more impaired by his occasional labour in the fields, than by those habits of intemperate dissipation in which all workmen who have no variety of pursuit are prone to indulge, (ibid., 175-76)

Stewart (ibid., 178-79) frowned upon "the extravagance of general declarations in favor of agriculture." He was especially harsh on Arthur Young, who was brash enough to proclaim, "There is something in manufactures pestiferous to agriculture" (cited in ibid., 162). Nonetheless, Stewart (ibid., 177) admitted that "much may be alleged in support of his system," adding, "The fact is, that in all human establishments we may expect to find a mixture of good and evil; and the only question is, which of the two predominates."
The Conservative Influence of Petty Commodity Production

Friedrich Engels approached the Anderson-Tucker question from a different angle. He was concerned that in parts of Germany, where workers heavily relied on self-provisioning as a supplement to their wages, this arrangement contributed to workers' conservatism in ways that even Tucker had not realized.

Engels observed that self-provisioning reinforced the power of the German capitalists. First of all, as the reviewer of Cobbett's book had noted, employers profited from the ability "to deduct from the price of labour power that which the family earns from its own little garden or field" (Engels 1887, 301). Petty commodity production offered another dividend, over and above the boost that it gave to the rate of surplus value. Engels contended that the ownership of a morsel of property reduced the level of wages even further by restricting workers' mobility to areas within a short distance of their land (ibid., 301). In addition, as Engels wrote in a 30 November 1881 letter to Eduard Bernstein, the very poverty of groups like the Saxony handweavers made them far less resistant to drawn-out struggles (Marx and Engels 1973, 35:237-38).

The domestic industry in which households performed simple piecework tasks for merchants to supplement their pitiful earnings from agriculture, could be held responsible, at least in part, for the abysmal poverty of the German worker (see, in contrast, Sismondi 1827, 230). In response to these German conditions, Engels denounced gardening and domestic industries as "the most powerful lever of capitalist exploitation" (Marx and Engels 1975, 358-59).

Engels was not antagonistic to domestic industries and household work as such. Although he was critical of the cultural deprivation of the traditional economy based on the combination of domestic industries and gardening (see Engels 1845, 9-13), he recognized that this arrangement had earlier formed the basis for a modest prosperity (ibid., 9-13; Engels 1887, 301). The overall impact of this form of work in his day was decidedly negative, however. To begin with, "the kitchen gardening and agriculture of the old rural hand weavers became the cause by virtue of which the struggle of the hand loom against the mechanical loom was everywhere so protracted and has not yet been fought to a conclusion in Germany" (Engels 1887, 301).

Engels's verdict also seems applicable to the case of Flanders. According to the recent testimony of Franklin Mendels (1975, 203; see also Mendels 1972), the influence of domestic industries was "perverse in the sense that it perpetuated the dismal pressures that had first induced its penetration into the countryside."

Of course, Engels did not mean that the elimination of the handloom was an end in itself. His immediate concern was the political situation in Germany, where the unwillingness of many workers to abandon their house garden compelled them to accept employment in domestic industries, long after mechanization had substantially devalued such labor. Not only were these workers reduced to a meager subsistence level, but their competition in the labor markets dragged industrial workers down with them (Engels 1887, 300). Lenin (1894, 317; Engels 1887, 303), too, saw much the same process taking place in his native land.

Even when such peasant workers do find employment in modern industry, they frequently refuse to identify with workers' struggles because they expect to become full-time agriculturalists again in the near future (see Sabel 1982, io2ff.). German workers, according to Engels, were tolerating the intolerable, but he consoled himself that toleration would soon turn to rebellion as the pressures intensified.

While Engels (1887, 304, 302) opposed the reliance on domestic industries, both German capital and those whom he termed the "bourgeoissocial philanthropists" regarded "the introduction of new domestic industries as the sole remedy for all rural distress." He remarked on the irony in this situation. The opponents of capital called for a more rapid introduction of technologies associated with modern capitalism, while the capitalists themselves— perhaps because they reasoned in terms of something like the simple model of primitive accumulation— preferred more primitive methods.

As late as the 1930s in the United States, Henry Ford required that his employees tend gardens,furthermore, a staff of inspectors kept his company informed about those who were remiss in their horticultural responsibilities. Those whose gardens were deemed to be inadequate were dismissed (Sward 1972, 228-29). While Ford might want a full-time effort from his workers on the job, he knew that they would experience irregular employment. Gardens would help tie workers to Ford. They would also blunt the criticism of those who would point to the plight of the workers during their periodic bouts of unemployment.

Engels's condemnation of household production retains much of its relevance in the Third World today. Consider the situation of a twentiethcentury wife in an impoverished Bolivian family of miners that depends heavily on household labor:

The miner is doubly exploited no? Because with such a small wage, the woman has to do much more in the home. And really that's unpaid work we're doing for the boss, isn't it? . . . The wage needed to pay us for what we do in the home, compared to the wages of a cook, a washerwoman, a babysitter, a servant, was much higher than what the men earned in the mine. (Barrios de Chungra 1979, 44-45 )

The reasoning expressed by this woman might seem so obvious that it might even appear to be without analytical content. Appearances, in this case, are misleading. For example, compare the insights of this unschooled Bolivian woman with Thomas C. Smith, a generally insightful student of Japanese agrarian development. Smith (1966, 83, 110) makes repeated reference to the complaints about higher wages paid to Japanese workers during the nineteenth century. Although he notes the loss of access to communal resources (ibid., 99) and the consequent need to purchase more from the market, he gives no indication of being able to recognize the connection between the increase in variable capital and the decline in self-sufficiency (ibid., 144).

The case of domestic industry in Germany or housework in Bolivia illustrates how capital may benefit from a high degree of household selfsufficiency. Obviously, other considerations must be taken into account as well. Engels pointed to the manner in which a resilient household economy impeded technical advances in Germany; however, in Japan, and to a lesser extent in Taiwan, the major force for development had been the manufacturing carried on during the spare time of the peasant household (see T. Smith 1966; Chinn 1979). In this context, domestic production ultimately turned out to be a powerful stimulus in the advancement of modern industrial practices. True, in East Asia, the social relations of production were substantially different from those of the occidental peasant farmer (see Berque 1976).

In conclusion, Engels's analysis suggests that the preferred mix of household labor and wage labor will depend on a complex calculus of class struggle within a given technological matrix. In this sense, the contrast between a Marxian analysis of household production and the classical model of the same phenomenon becomes readily apparent.

The Traditional Sector and Resistance to the Geographical Extension of Capital

Engels's Germany and Lenin's Russia were at the periphery of capitalist strongholds. In more distant lands, small-scale farming and handicrafts reinforced each other even more effectively. Alone, either form of production might have had difficulty withstanding the competitive pressures from more modern methods of production (see Lenin 1898, 362), but combined, they displayed remarkable resiliency (Marx 1967, 3:33334; Marx and Engels 1975, 412). As Adam Smith (1976, I.xi.g.28: 224) observed:

As the money price of food is much lower in India than in Europe, the money price of labour is there lower upon a double account; upon account both of the small quantity of food which it will purchase, and of the low price of that food. But in countries of equal art and industry, the money price of the greater part of manufactures will be in proportion to the money price of labour; and in manufacturing art and industry, China and Indostan, though inferior, seem not to be much inferior to any part of Europe. The money price of the greater part of manufactures, therefore, will naturally be much lower in those great empires than it is anywhere in Europe.

Even counting transport costs, as late as 1780, Indian producers of calico and muslin fabrics had a 60 percent cost advantage over British producers (Schwartz 1994, 86; citing Kawakasu 1986, 636). In the case of China, Marx quoted a Mr. W. Cooke, who had been a correspondent of the London Times at Shanghai and Canton, to demonstrate the efficiency of a combination of small-scale farming and handicrafts. According to Cooke, Chinese costs were so low that British exports often had to be sold in China at prices that barely covered their freight (Marx 1858, 334; Marx to Engels, 8 October 1858, cited in Avineri 1868, 440; see also A. Smith 1978, 491; Myers 1980, 151).

Marx (1967, 3:334) repeated the same idea in the third volume of Capital, where he wrote: "The substantial economy and saving in time afforded by the association of agriculture with manufactures put up a stubborn resistance to the products of the big industries, whose prices included the faux frais of the circulation process which pervades them."

Earlier, in 1859, Marx (375) expanded on the nature of the Indian economy, comparing it with that of China:

It is this same combination of husbandry with manufacturing industry which, for a long time, withstood, and still checks the export of British wares to East India; but there that combination was based upon a peculiar constitution of landed property which the British in their position as the supreme landlords of the country, had it in their power to undermine, and thus forcibly convert part of the Hindoo self-sustaining communities into mere farms, producing opium, cotton, indigo, hemp and other raw materials, in exchange for British stuffs. In China the English have not yet wielded this power nor are they ever likely to do so.

Still earlier, Adam Smith (1976, 1.x.b.50, 134) had noted a similar phenomenon: "Stockings in many parts of Scotland are knit much cheaper than they can anywhere be wrought upon the loom. They are the work of servants and labourers, who derive the principal part of their subsistence from some other employment."

The efficiencies associated with primitive self -provisioning did not offer much affluence to its practitioners. In Karl Wittfogel's (193 1, 670; cited in Medick 1988, 381) colorful expression, we may see the fate of these traditional economies as "a famishing lilliputian cottage industry choked off large industry."

Around the same time that Marx was writing about the resiliency of the Chinese economy, he associated the resistance of traditional absence of economies with the scale of agriculture (Marx to Engels, 8 October 1858, in Marx and Engels 1985, 347). Rajat Kanta Ray (1988, 271) recently made the same point, observing:

Peasants who were part-time artisans and artisans who were parttime peasants were a frustrating combination for the mills, the reason why neither Manchester, nor Bombay, could accomplish their long desired objective, namely monopoly of the immense market for piecegoods in India. Except towards the very end of our period (192,9), handloom production kept pace uniformly with mill production.

What was true for China and India had, at one time, also held in England and the other western European nations (see Wieser 1927, 287-88; see also Rodbertus 185 1; Marx 1 963-1971, pt. 2, chap. 8, pt. 4). In this regard, Marx (1977, 911) observed that "only the destruction of rural domestic industry can give the home market of a country the extension and stability which the capitalist mode of production requires." For example, a nineteenth-century owner of a cotton spinning plant near Portland, Maine, was said to have had to charge nothing for a considerable time until people came to be dependent on his services (Colonial 1816, 62).

Eventually, the technological capacity of the capitalist sector increased by leaps and bounds, especially with the tapping of the power of fossil fuels. Even so, some traditional methods of production can be relatively economical even in modern times. Their relative efficiency must have been considerably greater during the age of classical political economy. This insight reinforces the realization that the purpose of enclosures and other forms of primitive accumulation was not technical. Primitive accumulation appealed to the ruling classes because it was so effective in subordinating the working classes.

The Recapture of Labor Time

Over time, the relative costs and benefits of partial self-provisioning changed. The accumulation of expensive capital goods put a premium on workers' full-time commitment to wage labor.

Because time spent in the household economy limits the number of hours available for wage labor, the tenacious attachment to selfprovisioning eventually becomes inconvenient for employers. Business had no interest in adapting itself to the rhythms of the agricultural cycle. In England, for instance, as capitalist farming came to depend more and more on specialized labor in the middle of the eighteenth century, spinning and weaving in the cottages was sometimes prohibited lest it interfere with the supply of agricultural labor (Ashton 1972, 115). As British industrialist Edmund Ashworth told an early-nineteenth-century economist, Nassau Senior, "When a labourer . . . lays down his spade, he renders useless, for that period, a capital worth eighteen pence. When one of our people leaves the mill, he renders useless a capital that has cost 100 pounds" (Marx 1977, 529-30; citing Senior 1827, 14; see also Baldwin 1983).

Although employers may have preferred the full-time work of their employees, given the cost of eradicating these last vestiges of the traditional economy during the early period of the Industrial Revolution, many employers on both sides of the Atlantic were forced to content themselves with the services of people who worked on their own farms during all but the slack periods of the agricultural cycle (Mantoux 1961, 70; Diamond and Guilfoil 1973, 206).

This arrangement proved troublesome. We hear a report from a Quaker merchant during the Seven Years' War apologizing for a delayed shipment with the excuse: "Our nailors are so much out in harvest time" (cited in George 1953, 44). In addition, the household economy also seemed incapable of adjusting to changing technological requirements. For example, the increasing capacity to weave cloth was unmatched by comparable progress in spinning, traditionally an agricultural sideline (see Smelser 1959, 65).

As capitalism matured, some workers still maintained an attachment to their agricultural endeavors. Until the early 1900s, Belgian coal miners would take time off to tend their potato patches in what were called "potato strikes" (Henneau-Depooter 1959, 117). As late as 1925, J. Russell Smith (1925, 381) told of workers in the southern United States who disdained agricultural wage labor because they could "get an equal amount of food by going hunting, fishing or berrying— facts of profound influence in checking the development of manufacture." Even more recently, Roy Cavender, contractor manager and director of product integrity for the sportswear division of Levi-Strauss, complained, "Many times during the fall in farm areas, there is an increase in absenteeism due to crop harvest" (cited in Sabel 1982, 247).

The report from Levi-Strauss is exceptional in a modern economy. As technology became more capital intensive, firms could no longer afford to let their equipment lie idle for the convenience of its farmer-employees. Consequently, full-time wage labor became imperative.

Extensions of the Calculus

The colonial economies offer clear confirmation of our analysis of capital's need for primitive accumulation. Capitalists were justly appreciative of the work done in the household in these societies, but only after primitive accumulation had progressed far enough to ensure an adequate labor supply. Consider the experience of a Boer farmer in 1852: "I have asked Kaffirs ... to enter my service, and they have asked whether I was made to suppose that they would go and work for me at 5s. per month, when by the sale of wood, and other articles they could obtain as much as they wanted" (cited in Magubane 1979, 75).

One colonial report recommended that

native labourers should be encouraged to return to their homes after the completion of the ordinary period of service. The maintenance of the system under which the mines are able to obtain unskilled labour at a rate less than ordinarily paid in industry depends upon this, for otherwise the subsidiary means of subsistence would disappear and the labourer would tend to become a permanent resident . . . with increased requirements, (cited in Meillasoux 1972, 102; see also Deere 1976)

As a result of this sort of arrangement, the modern South African mining industry is free to pay a wage that its own management admits "isn't sufficient to meet the needs of a man and his family unless it's augmented by earnings from a plot of land in the man's homeland. A family man from Johannesburg, for instance, couldn't live on what we pay" (cited in Magubane 1979, 116-17; see also 123).

In late-nineteenth-century Nigeria, Acting Governor Denton applied much the same logic to argue for the continued reliance on slavery: "In much fear that they [the slaves] can find means of subsistence ready to hand without work they will cease to do anything in the way of cultivating the land as soon as the restrictions of domestic slavery are removed" (cited in Hopkins 1966, 96).

Contemporary development studies return to this refrain. The World Bank report for Papua New Guinea reads:

The prospects for improving traditional agriculture by adding cash crops or by diversifying subsistence production are difficult to assess. Characteristic of New Guinea's subsistence agriculture is its richness; over much of the country, nature's bounty produces enough to eat with relatively little effort. . . . Until enough subsistence farms have their life styles changed by the development of new consumption wants, the relative ease of producing traditional foods may discourage experimentation with new ones. (International Bank 1977, 43; see also Payer 1982, 218-19)

Finally, we might mention that the calculation of the proper degree of self-provisioning is not unique to capitalism. A sixteenth-century Polish writer advised, "The peasant must have as much land as necessary so that in a good year a good worker need not buy bread" (cited in Kula 1976, 49), although the context was quite different in this case, of course.

Concluding Note on Political Economy and Poverty

James Kay-Shuttleworth charged that in England, "the aristocracy is richer and more powerful than in any other country in the world, the poor are more oppressed, more pauperized, more numerous . . . than the poor of any other European nation (cited in E. Smith 1853, 152; see also Sismondi 1827, 195). We should not be surprised that the rich and powerful did painfully little to ameliorate the lot of the poor. After all, the victory of the one group came at the expense of the other.

Neither the Game Laws nor the other aspects of primitive accumulation won a prominent place in the annals of political economy. But then, classical political economy rarely directly addressed the question of poverty. Instead, wealthy members of British society preferred to live in a comfortable state of cognitive dissonance. As Adam Smith (1759, 51) explained:

The poor man goes out and comes in unheeded, and when in the midst of a crowd is in the same obscurity as if shut up in his own hovel. Those humble cares and painful attentions which occupy those in his situation, afford no amusement to the dissipated and the gay. They turn their eyes from him, or if the extremity of his distress forces them to look at him, it is only to spurn so disagreeable an object from among them. The fortunate and the proud wonder at the insolence of human wretchedness, that it should dare to present itself before them, and with the loathsome aspect of its misery presume to disturb the serenity of their happiness.

The well-to-do, in fact, go to great lengths to avoid confrontations with poverty. For example, Engels (1845, 348) noted how the physical layout of Manchester served to protect the sensitivities of the bourgeoisie:

And the finest part of the arrangement is this, that the members of this money aristocracy can take the shortest road through the middle of all the labouring districts to their places of business without ever seeing that they are in the midst of the grimy misery that lurks to the right and the left. For the thoroughfares leading from the Exchange in all directions out of the city are lined, on both sides, with an almost unbroken series of shops, and so are kept in the hands of the middle and lower bourgeoisie, which out of self-interest, cares for a decent and cleanly external appearance.

One could expect the poor in England to keep out of sight. When they dared to impose themselves, they evoked an angry reaction, even when they appeared in small groups. Since the bourgeoisie generally spared itself a direct encounter with poverty in its daily life, it often first witnessed squalor on visits to the Continent or Ireland. There, poverty appeared to be something foreign. The shock of viewing poverty abroad confirmed the belief of the British bourgeoisie in the correctness of the British system.

From time to time, the poverty within the cities drew young people who dared to explore the hinterland of the market economy. The squalid conditions there shocked sensitive people of all stripes who stumbled into the poorer quarters (Engels 1845). Steven Marcus (1974, 28-66), a Dickens scholar, claims the wretchedness of early-nineteenth-century Manchester was so extreme, neither Dickens nor the others could even write articulately about what they had seen.

For some, the study of political economy promised a false hope of finding an answer to the misery of the poor. For example, Alfred Marshall wrote:

I read Mill's Political Economy and got much excited about it. I had doubts as to the propriety of inequalities of opportunity, rather than of material comfort. Then, in my vacations I visited the poorest quarters of several cities and walked through one street after another, looking at the faces of the poorest people. Next, I resolved to make as thorough a study as I could of political economy, (cited in Keynes 1963, 137)

William Stanley Jevons (1972, 67; see also Black and Koenigkamp 1972, 17) also expressed a "curiosity about the dark passages between the strand and the river." However, we have no record of either Jevons or Marshall continuing their firsthand encounters with poverty once they had established themselves as mature economists.

Similarly, we hear virtually nothing in classical political economy about the suffering of those who made possible the success of the market society. This studied pose of ignorance did not mean a lack of awareness. In the discussion of the doctrines of classical political economy that follows, we shall see that political economy applied the classical theory of primitive accumulation with unerring accuracy. In every case, classical political economy called for action with respect to self-provisioning that would maximize the production of surplus value.

The deterioration of the position of the self-sufficient household continued well into the twentieth century. As dispossessed people flocked to the overcrowded, industrial cities, poverty increasingly crept into view.
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Re: The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy

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Chapter 6: The Dawn of Political Economy

[A] real state and a real government only arise when class distinctions are already present, when wealth and poverty are far advanced, and when a situation has arisen in which a large number of people can no longer satisfy their needs in the way in which they have been accustomed.

— G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History


A Great Beginning

As I have already mentioned, classical political economy was never willing to rely completely on the market to organize production. It called for measures to force those who engaged in self-provisioning to integrate themselves into the cash nexus. This chapter will demonstrate that this assertion holds true for William Petty Richard Cantillon, the Physiocrats, and other early classical political economists.

For much of classical political economy, self-provisioning was nothing more than a residue of a savage past. True, the classical political economists did not treat self-provisioning as a theoretical category. Instead, they camouflaged their hostility to it under a theoretical apparatus that denied legitimacy to all activity that did not conform to the norm of production by wage labor.

The sociological backdrop to early classical political economy also contained implicit judgments about nonmarket activities. For example, the famous Four Stages theory of Smith and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot proposed that the essence of social development was an inevitable passage from hunting and gathering to animal husbandry, then agriculture, and finally commercial society (see Meek 1977b). This classical anticipation of Marx's base and superstructure theory represented an undeniable advance in the understanding of the past, but it also served an ideological purpose.

Classical political economy often identified the working classes with savages (see Berg 1980a, 136-44). For example, John Rae (1834, chaps. 7, 9) faulted both savages and the working class for an inadequate effective desire for accumulation. Two years later, Nassau Senior (1836, 69) made exactly the same point in terms of his category of abstinence.

In addition, a discipline that associated hunting for one's food with savage life could hardly be expected to display a great deal of sensitivity to the restrictions on hunting that society enforced at the time. After all, JeanBaptiste Say (see 1821, 165; Platteau 1978, 1:157-70) condemned primitive people as anarchists. On reviewing the major figures in the pantheon of political economy, an unremitting hostility toward self -provisioning of all kinds emerges— at least insofar as it interferes with the recruitment of wage labor.

Sir William Petty: An Introduction

Classical political economy began with a period of adolescent brilliance. Perhaps none of its practitioners was so brilliant or so adolescent as the irrepressible William Petty, whom Marx (1970, 52n ; 1977, 384) generously credited with being "the father of English political economy."

Petty was a polymath. Before winning his spurs as a political economist, he had achieved both fame and notoriety as a doctor. He had also served as a professor of music and dabbled in the design of ships.

Petty's scientific activities led him to extreme technological optimism. In his enthusiasm, he predicted that the day would come "when even hogs and more indocile beasts shall be taught to labour; when all vile materials shall be turned to noble use" (cited in Strauss 1954, 137). In general, Petty kept his vivid imagination in check. Instead, his keen powers of perception, together with a vision of a market society, inspired his views. Like others of his day, he caught a glimpse of the power of capital accumulation in the rapid reconstruction of the wealth of London following the Great Fire of 1666 (Petty 1690, 243; see also Appleby 1976, 502).

Petty also recognized that the prospects for the future could be advanced through changes in the system of social organization. Not only did he perceive that a more rational organization of society could increase the quantity of labor, but he also seems to have been the first writer to describe how the division of labor within the workshop results in improved efficiency (Petty 1690, 260; 1683, 473; see also George 1964, 173-75). His example of the manufacture of watches was one of the few areas in which England was a technical innovator rather than a mere imitator (George 1953). Petty's naval experience may have helped him to see the strategic importance of this new method of organizing production. When he traveled to Holland, Petty witnessed firsthand the remarkably refined division of labor in Dutch shipbuilding (Kindleberger 1976). The combination of Petty's parallel interests in the architecture of ships and the social division of labor lends some support as well to Engels's speculation that the division of labor originates in the military (see Marx and Engels 1975, 90-91).

Unlike the other practitioners of classical political economy, for whom the division of labor was primarily a matter of theory, Petty profited from it handsomely in his capacity as the organizer of the great survey of Ireland. After initially winning an appointment as the chief medical officer to Oliver Cromwell's forces in Ireland, he subsequently acquired the contract to survey the newly defeated land.

Private individuals financed a significant part of Cromwell's army, based on the assurance of shares in the 2.5 million acres of Irish land, which the English intended to confiscate. Speed was of the utmost necessity, since Cromwell had to complete the survey before the impatient conquerors could divide the spoils among themselves.

Petty employed a thousand workers who were untrained as surveyors, in this task, first teaching them the rudiments of the separate parts of the profession of surveying (Strauss 1954; Aspromourgos 1988). His work was quick enough, but in the process, Petty picked up 13,000 pounds sterling and 18,000 acres of land for himself in direct violation of the terms of his initial agreement (McNally 1988, 44-45).

Petty's Vision

Petty's analysis is particularly valuable. His broad experiences put him in touch with some of the most dynamic forces of his era. In addition, his survey of Ireland gave him the opportunity to examine the social and economic conditions of an entire people.

Petty's early life as a cabin boy, as well as his military duties in Ireland, suggested England's future as a sea power. This perspective provided him with a different context for analyzing primitive accumulation. Whereas most observers were reluctant to move against the peasant society too quickly because of its ability to produce inexpensive foot soldiers (see Marx 1977, 880-81n; Smith 1976, V.I. a. 6, 692-93; Weulersse 1910, 1:246), Petty insisted that England's military future lay with a strong navy rather than an infantry. Certainly, England's geographic position gave naval power considerably more importance than was the case in other nations. England could thus afford to sacrifice some of her peasantry in the course of forming a new society in which defense would rest primarily on a navy (see B. Moore 1966, 30).

Sailors, for Petty (1690, 259), were simultaneously soldiers, artisans, and merchants. He used the following calculation to demonstrate the advantage of his implicitly proposed social division of labor: "The Husbandman of England earns but about 4s. per Week, but the Seamen have as good as 12s. in Wages, Victuals (and as it were housing) with other accommodations, so as a Seaman is in effect three Husbandmen" (ibid.). Indeed, the navy became the eventual foundation for the British imperial system (Frank 1978).

Creating a new social division of labor in England was so integral to Petty's mission that he even attempted to design ships that would best support it (see Strauss 1954). Although his naval designs were not successful, his social program was. The navy that Petty envisioned only made economic sense if the people could be led to produce sufficient commodities for export. Given the diminished need for infantry troops and the importance of increased exports, Petty called for an intensification of primitive accumulation.

Petty found confirmation of his vision of a new social division of labor in the experience of Holland. Indeed, Tony Aspromourgos (1986, 40; see also Petty 1690, 255) believes that a central feature of Petty's work was an attempt to explain the material basis for the contrast between Irish poverty and Dutch success based on his experience living in those two countries. Petty (1690, 266; see also Appleby 1976, chap. 4) claimed that Holland relied on the international economy for much of its food and exported goods, although in reality Holland mostly exported services rather than material products.

Petty's overt concern with revolutionizing the structure of the British economy led him to take notice of the changing social division of labor. He observed: "The Trade of food was branched into Tillage of Corn and grazing of Cattle, that of clothes into Weaver, Tinker, and Taylor, Shewmaker and Tanner and that of Housing in Smith, Mason and Carpenter" (Petty 1927, 1:212). The peasantry, which did not accept wage labor as a matter of course, was unlikely to embrace Petty's vision of a new social division of labor that eliminated the source of their livelihood.

Perhaps because the household economy was so solidly entrenched, Petty did not raise the question of the sort of incentives that might make people forego producing for their own needs in order that they would specialize in narrow occupations. For Petty, however, individual choice was not an issue. Rather, he assigned the government the responsibility for the creation of a new social division of labor.

Petty appropriated the language of bullionism to lend theoretical support to his notion of a new social division of labor. He calculated: "The Wealth of every Nation, consisting chiefly, in the share which they have in the Foreign Trade with the whole Commercial World, rather than in the Domestick Trade, of ordinary Meat, Drink, and Cloaths, &c. which bring in little Gold, Silver, Jewels, and other Universal Wealth" (Petty 1690, 1:295). Petty's universal wealth was merely a sign of power, derived from the development of the economic forces of the nation. Thus he estimated that England was substantially more powerful than her great rival, France (ibid.).

Petty closely associated universal wealth with the rise of a new social division of labor. He expressed this connection even more clearly in a similar passage, which directly follows his estimates about the superior productivity of seamen (259-60)

Petty and the Social Division of Labor

Petty demonstrated a lifelong interest in prodding the government to take actions that would reduce the vitality of household production. Specifically, he recognized the strategic importance of transferring workers out of agriculture (Petty 1690, 256, 267). In his chapter of Veibum Sapienti titled "How to Employ the People, and the End Thereof," he explained that an efficiently run society must set people "upon producing Food and Necessaries for the whole People of the Land, by few hands" (Petty 1691, 118-20).

Petty, as was common in his age, wanted to set everybody to work: "Thieves, robbers, beggars, fustian and unworthy Preachers in Divinity in the country schools, . . . Pettifoggers in the Law, . . . Quacksalvers in Physick, and . . . Grammaticasters in the country schools" (cited in Strauss 1954, 137). Petty recommended that the law "should allow the Labourer but just wherewithal to live; for if you allow double, then he works but half so much as he could have done, and otherwise would" (Petty 1662, 87). Toward this end, he insisted that food be kept sufficiently scarce; surplus grain was to be put into granaries rather than allowing it to be "abused by the vile and brutish part of mankind to the prejudice of the commonwealth" (Petty 1690, 275).

Many other writers at the time advocated the value of high food prices (see Furniss 1965; Wermel 1939, 1-14, 17, 24), although not always in language as vigorous as Petty's. With characteristic audacity, Petty (1690, 287) rhapsodized that "that vast Mountainous Island [of Ireland would sink] under Water," thus expropriating its inhabitants from their land and livelihood, and forcing them to migrate to England, where they could be exploited efficiently, "a pleasant and profitable Dream indeed." More practically, Petty (1687, 560; see also 1927, 58-61) called on the government to hasten the development of a proletariat by removing a million Irish to England, leaving the remaining population to manage Ireland as a cattle ranch or in his words as a "Kind of Factory."

Perhaps the only adequate commentary on Petty's social vision came from the acid pen of Jonathan Swift (1729), whose "Modest Proposal" essay suggested consuming the flesh of children. Georgy Wittkowsky (1943) finds numerous stylistic parallels to support his contention that Swift's satire had been chiefly modeled after Petty's work. Gulliver's description of an "odd kind of arithmetick ... in reckoning the numbers of our people by a computation drawn from the several sects among us in religion and politicks" also seems to be an allusion to Petty (Swift 172,6, 131). In addition, Swift (1731, 175) parodied Petty's proposal for the Irish cattle factory, as well as Petty's list of professions that could be put to the productive labor that was cited above.

Given the haphazard data available at the time, Petty's method sometimes invited satire. For example, Guy Routh (1977, 45) provides the flavor of Petty's method:

In comparing wealth of Holland and Zealand to that of France, he takes guesses by two other people, does not like the results and ends up with a guess of his own. He estimates the population of France from a book that says that it has 27,000 parishes and another book that says that it would be extraordinary if a parish had 600 people. So he supposes the average to be 500 and arrives at a population of 13V2 million. And so it goes.

Despite his fanciful predictions and wild guesses, Sir William Petty still managed to set political economy on the course it was to follow for the next three centuries, even though legal intrigues arising from his Irish land grab sapped most of his intellectual energy.

Richard Cantillon

Richard Cantillon, the second major figure of classical political economy, was a shadowy presence. In terms of economic sophistication, Cantillon represented a significant advance over Petty (Brewer 1992). Indeed, Cantillon (1755, 43, 83) was openly contemptuous of Petty's work, which he twice dismissed: once as "fanciful and remote from natural laws"; and once as "purely imaginary and drawn up at hazard."

Unlike most of the writers encountered in the study of primitive accumulation, Cantillon went beyond calling for an intensification of the process. True, he joined in the complaints about the excessive number of holidays enjoyed by people in the countryside (ibid., 95 ), but so did almost every other political economist at the time. Cantillon (ibid., 43) also wrote, "Individuals are supported not only by the produce of the Land which is cultivated for the benefit of the Owners but also at the Expense of these Same Owners from whose property they derive all that they have."

Much of what we know of Cantillon's life comes from court records. Where Petty was frequently hauled into court for his land speculation, Cantillon was deeply involved in litigations concerning his dealings in credit. Specifically, Cantillon lent people money to buy shares in John Law's scheme. As security, he required that the shares be left in his custody. Anticipating a fall in their value, he sold them. Those to whom he lent the money charged that Cantillon had betrayed their trust. They took the position that merely standing ready to buy new shares was not equivalent to holding the original shares as collateral (see Fage 1952; Hyse 1971).

Indeed, if the price of the shares had risen, Cantillon might have gone bankrupt, leaving him unable to repurchase the stock. His borrowers would have lost any of their own money that they might have invested in those stocks. If the shares fell, Cantillon was guaranteed a double profit, consisting of interest paid on the loan as well as the profit earned from repurchasing the stock at the diminished price. Cantillon's angry clients sued him, setting off a wild sequence of events.

Antoin Murphy (1986) has reconstructed Cantillon's strange story, including the bitter litigation, his scandalous family life, the probable faking of his own death, and his likely ultimate demise incognito in the jungles of South America. Gripping though his personal experiences may be, Cantillon's importance here lies in the realm of theory.

Cantillon, in fact, made several key contributions to economic theory in his famous Essay, even though he probably intended it as a contribution to his lawyer's brief (see ibid., 246). To begin with, he clearly pointed out that land generates a surplus, over and above the sustenance of the people who work it. For Cantillon, this surplus represented the material from which all other classes lived. This insight prepared the way for the French Physiocratic school, which we will discuss at length later (see Walsh and Gram 1980, 19).

Even more fundamentally, Cantillon went far beyond Petty's practical call for a reorganization of the economy. Cantillon built this analysis into the structure of his Essay, which he divided into three books. The first seems to be about the feudal Irish world in which he was born, and the next two about the monetary world to which he emigrated (Murphy 1986, 17). According to Cantillon (1755, 63 ff .; Walsh and Gram 1980, 298), the system of prices in the economy that he described in the final sections of the Essay could give the same result as a system of direct command over labor typical of a feudal economy. In effect, Cantillon recognized for the first time that market relations could be an effective means of control. His contribution to the political economy of primitive accumulation is thus incalculable.

The French Economy

Almost all observers concurred that the French economy was dysfunctional at the time when classical political economy came to France. Marx (1977, 239) spoke of "the unspeakable misery of the French agricultural population." Alex de Tocqueville (1858, 120) claimed that the peasants on the eve of the French Revolution were worse off than their thirteenthcentury forbearers. One mid-eighteenth-century visitor to southern France claimed that he saw no birds because the peasants had consumed them all (Kiernan 1991, 78). The despondent Francois Fenelon warned that "France was being turned into a desolate and starving poor house" (cited in Salvemini 1954, 53).

As French society veered toward revolution, the educated public began to take a keen interest in economic matters, especially insofar as they pertained to agriculture. Dupont de Nemours noted: "We . . . place at that epoch [1750] the origin of discussions about political economy" (ibid.). In this spirit, Voltaire wrote: "Around 1750, the nation, satiated with verses, tragedies, comedies, operas, novels, romanesque stories, with moral reflections still more romanesque, and with theological disputes over grace and convulsions, set itself to reason about grains" (cited in Weulersse 1910, 1:25). Comte de Mirabeau went so far as to proclaim that "all politics emanates from a grain of wheat" (ibid., 2:2; the source cited by Weulersse appears to be incorrect). We might roughly translate Mirabeau's image to mean that the locus of "principal contradiction" (see Mao 1937, sec. 4) of French society was the agricultural crisis.

Most middle-class observers agreed on the causes of France's plight: An oppressive tax system, which largely exempted both the aristocracy and nobility; a peasantry that was too poor to afford the necessary investment; and a church that contributed to the peasant's laziness by supporting an excessive number of holidays. We have already mentioned Voltaire's proposal for shifting holidays. The cantankerous English novelist, Tobias Smollett (1766, 59, 38) apparently agreed, complaining:

The great number of their holidays not only encourages this lazy behavior, but actually robs them of what their labour would otherwise produce. . . . Very nearly half of their time, which might be profitably employed in the exercise of industry, is lost to themselves and the community, in attendance upon the different exhibitions of religious mummery.

Not everybody conceded that the French economy was as disastrous as these commentators made it out to be, although Say was the only classical political economist who seemed skeptical of the great superiority of the British economy (see above). More recently, some historians and economists have begun to judge the French economy more favorably. Robert Aldrich (1987, 99; see also Kindleberger 1984) sums up this research: "It is possible to consider the long-term development of France as a more humane transition and perhaps a not less effective one in the transition to industrial society."

In other words, France's development may have differed from Britain's, but it was not altogether inferior. Although peasants may have been impoverished, their lot may not have been worse than what the unskilled, urban worker encountered in England. We might even arrive at the conclusion that France's transition to modern capitalism might have been more humane than England's. Unfortunately, a humane transition had less attraction for the primitive accumulationists than the great profits to be had from coercing labor into submission.

The Economic Interests of the Physiocrats

In France, a group of economists, collectively known as the Physiocrats, more or less sought to emulate the British system. As might be expected, they counted themselves among those who would profit from the changes they proposed. In Norman Ware's (1932, 608) words, "The Physiocrats were not professional economists but officials of various sorts emerging from the French bureaucracy and climbing into the land-owning and even the noble classes."

These officials could not easily cease to be bourgeois. They were too poor to ape the aristocracy and treat their estates as playthings. They had to earn revenue. Not surprisingly, their theories justified a new system of production and reform of the archaic financial system that burdened them.

Francois Quesnay, for example, the leader of the Physiocrats, published his first economic essay in 1 7 5 6, the year after he bought a large estate and became a nobleman (ibid., 614). According to his economic table, which was a schematic analysis of the new social division of labor, the expected rate of return on agricultural investment was between 2,50 and 300 percent (Weulersse 1910, 1:354). No wonder that Gabriel Bonnot de Mably was moved to write, "Here then is M. Quesnay entirely occupied with this new object. His first discovery was, that if the price of land increase, the revenue of his new domain would increase equally and he would have made himself an excellent purchase" (cited in Ware 193 1, 614).

The Physiocrats built on Cantillon's analytical foundations, centering on rent. The Marquis de Mirabeau, Frangois Quesnay's loyal disciple, claimed to have been in possession of Cantillon's work for sixteen years, planning to publish it as his own. Eventually, he heard that somebody else had a copy and was about to issue the book with the proper attribution. As a result, Mirabeau finally published the book in 1755 as the work of Cantillon (Higgs 1931).

The Physiocratic identification of surplus and rent reflected the prevailing opinion within the French middle classes, as well as Cantillon's theory. At the time, the French bourgeoisie was incapable of imagining any other source of wealth and power than landed property (Nallet and Servolin 1978). For instance, their legal framework gave no indication of an awareness of the potential expansion of capital (ibid.).

Despite their fanatical support for large-scale farming, the Physiocrats understood that small-scale, labor-intensive agriculture could produce substantially higher yields (Weulersse 191 o, 2:317). Recall the success of Ponce and the Parisian market gardeners discussed in chapter 5 (see also Kropotkin 1898, 62ff. ; 1906, 20; Ponce 1870, 32-49).

True, these market gardeners devoted a prodigious amount of labor to their work. Mirabeau even claimed that the majority of Parisian gardeners slept with a pail of water near their bed to quench the thirst of their plants when they gave off sounds that indicated the need for moisture during the night (Weulersse 191 o, 2:317); however, even if their working day had been halved, their output would still have remained substantial.

Attitudes toward Labor

The Physiocrats saw England as the most successful example of what they considered to be a well-functioning society. Still, they distanced themselves from the basic English model of the social division of labor in one respect: they called for the initial concentration of wage labor in agricultural pursuits rather than industry. They looked with suspicion on textile production, the mainstay of the Industrial Revolution in England, since textiles might prove to be an unwelcome competitor for agricultural labor (Weulersse 1959, 28n). In contrast, the British were more troubled by the thought that agricultural activities might compete with industry.

The Physiocratic movement differed from British political economy in one other crucial respect. Although almost everybody in polite society agreed that the French peasants were lazy (Weulersse 1910, 1:321), the Physiocrats did not adopt an ostensibly hostile attitude toward them. Unlike the British, whose typical tone was contentious at best when discussing the common people, the French often expressed concern about the well-being of country folk.

Where the British violently opposed hunting by the lower classes, the French worried that people had to content themselves with coarse food such as chestnuts (ibid., 1:488), now an expensive gourmet item. The Parliament of Toulouse lamented the fate of women who spun at night after spading or even plowing during the day (ibid., 2:687). With a more free form of commerce, such women were promised lighter workloads. Enclosures were even recommended as a method for expanding the demand for labor (Weulersse 1959, 149).

Ultimately, such differences came down to matters of style, since the Physiocrats could be as brutal as anyone in their attitude toward the working classes. Mirabeau (1763, 8) identified the agricultural laborers along with working cattle as tools of cultivation. Certainly Quesnay (1757, 86) did not express much sympathy toward the workers when he wrote:

It is very harmful to allow people to get used to buying corn at too low a price. As a result they become less hard-working; they spend little on the bread they eat and become lazy and presumptuous; farmers have difficulty in finding workers and servants and are very badly served by them in years of plenty. It is important that the common people should earn more, and they should be spurred on by the need to earn. In the last century, when bread was much dearer, the people were used to it and they earned in proportion, and as a result were more hard working and better off. Net and Gross Product

What, then, was the advantage of the new technology of large-scale farming? The answer from England, where the French first learned about the new husbandry, seemed clear. One article, published more than a half century after the age of the Physiocrats, reveals the British perspective:

The proprietor of the land, cultivating his farm under the old system, was obliged, we will suppose, to keep ten horses, ten labourers to plough, sow and reap, ten women to card and spin. Under the present system of providing a series of different crops in succession, we may assume that five horses and five labourers are sufficient to carry on the work of the same farm, and that the use of machinery in carding, spinning, and weaving, may enable two women the same quantity of wrought goods, which formerly required the labour of ten. (Edwards 1827, 417)

Boyd Hilton (1977, 121) attributes this citation to Edward Edwards, the same writer whom Joseph Dorfman (1966b) credits with being the author of two books written under the pen name Piercy Ravenstone, generally considered to be two of the most noteworthy works of "Ricardian Socialism." Ravenstone, however, opposed profits, although the author of the above passage does not argue so much against profit as in favor of rent. This divergence lends support to Piero Sraffa's (1951, 11:64) contention that the author of the Ravenstone works was Richard Puller.

Regardless of the authorship, this quote throws light on one important aspect of the new agricultural technologies: although these techniques seemed to save labor, on closer examination, these savings become more ambiguous. To begin with, much of the improved economy of labor was not at all due to the production of more output with a lesser quantity of labor. Instead, it was nothing more than the result of an intensification of labor.

The new system not only speeded up labor (see A. Smith 1976, V.I.a.15, 697); it also redirected it to meet the needs of capital. Under the old system, the demand for agricultural labor was irregular. Specific tasks, such as planting and harvesting, required considerable labor. During other, less demanding periods, agricultural workers had more time available to produce for their own needs. The author of the above cited article considered this activity to be a loss for capital. He recommended that "the occupier of any tenant must have maintained in his own house, or at least within the limits of his own farm, a number of hands, sufficient, not only to perform the work of tillage, but to manufacture all the articles of clothery required by himself, his family, and his working people" (Edwards 1827, 416).

Thus, although in the long run, a far-reaching expansion of the productive powers of labor accompanied the new agricultural technology, the major attraction at the time appeared to be the reduction in the expense of maintaining labor over the extensive periods that rural workers had previously devoted to household production. Workers, who had formerly divided their hours between the production of grain and the production of their other domestic needs, were now required to more or less specialize in grain. As a result, the net product would increase, since fewer workers would be required on the farm to perform those tasks specifically directed to the production of grains (Weulersse 1910, 2:314-15).

Thus, Mirabeau, the self-proclaimed "Friend of the People," justified capitalist farming by virtue of its ability to force people to cease living at the expense of the proprietor (ibid., 2:350; see also Cantillon 1775, 47). Under the Physiocratic program, as L. P. Abeille (1768, 95; cited in Weulersse 1910, 2:686) recommended in his Principles sur le liberte du commerce des grains, the worker was to be considered a commodity like all other commodities. To give this program theoretical support, the Physiocrats excluded grain consumed by cultivators (and presumably also all other goods they produced for their own needs) from the national wealth (see Maitland 1804, 125-27).

The Physiocratic contention that the success of agriculture should be judged by the net product did not go uncontested. Others, such as Frangois Forbonnais, countered that the support of people was an end in itself (Weulersse 19 10, 2:314-15). In effect, the Physiocrats wanted to convert traditional agricultural production into a commodity-producing enterprise directed toward the creation of surplus value; their critics analyzed agriculture from the point of view of the production of use values. In short, the much vaunted success of the capitalist agriculture recommended by the Physiocrats was not merely a matter of technical improvements.

The Reception of the Physiocrats

The Physiocrats evoked widespread antipathy. For example, David Hume (1769, 216) wrote to a French friend, "I hope that you will thunder them, and crush them, and pound them, and reduce them to dust and ashes. They are, indeed, the set of men the most chimerical and most arrogant that now exist." Baron Grimm, one of their severest critics, ridiculed their pretensions:

They begin with a good dinner, then they labor; they chop and dig and drain; they do not leave an inch of ground in France. And when they have either labored all day in a charming saloon, cool in summer, and well warmed in winter, they part in the evening well contented, with the happy thought that they have made the Kingdom more flourishing, (cited in Hale and Hale 1887-1888, 1:8)

In a 6 August 1770 letter, Jean-Baptiste-Antoin Suard wrote to Abbe Galliani: "I have been so disgusted by the jargon and the tiresome repetitions of the economistes, the exportists, the libertyites, etc! But having barely finished the first four pages [of the Dialogues] I was swept up till the very end without being able to do anything else" (cited in Kaplan 1976, 593).

What explains this hostility? In part, the Physiocrats appalled conservatives by challenging existing institutions. For example, Tocqueville (1858, 159, 162) bristled:

Our Economists had a vast contempt for the past. . . . Starting out from this premise, they set to work, and there was no French institution, however venerable and well founded, for whose immediate suppression they did not clamor if it hampered them even to the slightest extent or did not fit in with their neatly ordered scheme of government. . . .

According to the Economists the function of the state was not merely one of ruling the nation, but also that of recasting it in a given mold, of shaping the mentality of the population as a whole in accordance with a predetermined model and instilling the ideas and sentiments they thought desirable into the minds of all.

Finally, Tocqueville charged that the Physiocrats called for economic but not political liberty (ibid., 159). Of course, the other classical political economists also feared universal suffrage. More damaging to the Physiocrats, Tocqueville interpreted their reliance on the state as a form of socialism (ibid., 164), yet we will see throughout this book that classical political economists generally called for state action to sweep away traditional barriers to capitalism, although they generally did so more discreetly.

More recently, both Terrence Hutchison (1988) and Friedrich von Hayek (1948, 1959, 189) have renewed the charge that the Physiocrats were the spiritual forbearers of modern communism, although the former grudgingly grants that they were "perhaps rather less dictatorially directed than the Marxians" (Hutchison 1988, 285). Hutchison's position is especially curious, since he also condemned what he termed "Colbertist-Stalinist" tendencies, even though the Physiocrats strenuously opposed Colbert's system (ibid., 295).

Nonetheless, Adam Smith, the patron saint of laissez-faire, adopted a great deal of the Physiocratic analysis, except for its specifically French emphasis on the exclusive productivity of agriculture. He also made his own version less abstract than the Physiocrats, in the process obscuring the importance of primitive accumulation. Indeed, Smith's transformation of Physiocratic doctrine led Dugald Stewart, whom we have already met in the context of his clearheaded sorting out of the various theories of domestic industry, to conclude that Physiocrats were more scientific than Smith. However, Stewart (1855, 1:306) judged that the doctrines of Smith were "with very few exceptions, of greater practical utility" to statesmen and businessmen.

Certainly, with respect to primitive accumulation, Stewart's verdict is correct. The Physiocrats put the subject on a much more theoretical basis than any of the classical political economists, but their analytical clarity was unwelcome. In contrast, the English political economists preferred to write as if all hardship were due to the silent compulsion of the market, rather than the intended result of extraeconomic actions.

In conclusion, with the Physiocrats, as with Sir William Petty, we get some idea of the connection between the creation of a new social division of labor and the rise of capitalism— a connection that is generally expressed in terms of hostility toward the self-sufficient household.
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