ok, then, what is capitalism?

Mark is right, as usual. All this recent discussion of <a href="http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/006989.html">'populism' and related matters</a> needs thrashing out in a public place that lacks a proper (if usually pseudonymous) header...

so, capitalism, then: 'An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.'

AND/OR

the thing that has killed, maimed, limited, been tied up with wars, conspiracy and devastation since AGES

So?
 
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martin

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I'd venture (perhaps wrongly) that 18th century is a bit late on- I thought it was born out of the Crusades?
 
yeah, hence '(at least)'....anyway, not the point! already argued with someone about this. Let's say 16thC, according to Ellen Wood, Marx, or 1770s, industrial-like....or...

It's controversial....15th century Venice is a contender....

Anyway, whatever, what does it mean now is point...
 

k-punk

Spectres of Mark
Hurray! (for the thread)

I can't get too far into this atm (work in the a.m. and its already late) but:

surely Martin's right, the 18C is too late. Isn't 1750 thought of as the approx date for the arrival of INDUSTRIAL capitalism; I think Braudel, for example, dates back earlier phases of capitalism to about 1500.

the 'free market' thing is also misleading. John Gray is very good, isn't he, on the ways in which what 'free markets' there have been in capitalism were artificially created by state controls.
 

martin

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Right, say I press up 500 DVDs and sell them, purely by hand and word of mouth, and make a profit on shifting the lot, all on my own. The contents of these DVDs contravene several state-enforced laws. I semi-financed their production with money from social security payments. Assuming I now want to repeat this operation, but perhaps on a larger scale, can I accurately be described as a capitalist?
 
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Rebis

New member
merchant capital

According to Giovanni Arrighi, who I am reading now and who pretty much follows Braudel, the "systematic accumulation of capital" dates back to merchants in Italian city-states (Venice, Florence, Genoa) of the 15th & 16th centuries.
 

bat020

Active member
Commodity exchange and systematic accumulation of capital go back donkeys years – the crucial point is when capitalists take over the means of production, ie break out of their confinement to supplementary "mercantile" roles such as distributors and/or financiers. That's when capitalism as such is instituted.

Re the pesky details of dates and places, Chris Harman's recent article The Rise of Capitalism provides a solid historical overview.
 

john eden

male pale and stale
martin said:
Right, say I press up 500 DVDs and sell them, purely by hand and word of mouth, and make a profit on shifting the lot, all on my own. The contents of these DVDs contravene several state-enforced laws. I semi-financed their production with money from social security payments. Assuming I now want to repeat this operation, but perhaps on a larger scale, can I accurately be described as a capitalist?
Most of this is irrelevant, surely - the means of distribution, the contents of the DVD, the origins of your capital.

If you produce something which you sell at a profit then you're petit bourgeois, I think? :confused: [edit - or a merchant/mercantile as Bat says]

If you buy your own specialised DVD duplication machine and/or employ staff then I would say you were a capitalist.
 

Grievous Angel

Beast of Burden
That Chris Harman article is pretty good.

I'm not sure that employing people necessarily makes you an exploitative "capitalist" in the classical sense. (But then, I'm not a Marxist -- oh, sorry, forgot, Thought & Politics are Marxist-only enclaves :p )
 

bat020

Active member
Making a living by flogging stuff that's a product of your own labour is "artisanal" production, if I recall correctly. Used to be loadsa them in the middle ages, but they get squeezed out by big capital in the long run.

Employing staff does mean that you're exploiting their labour, I'm afraid. Unless you hand over all your profits to them – which might piss off your investors somewhat.
 

jasonh

Newbie
It's an interesting point, as how can you see out of the system you are in to get the perspective required (unless we are already post-capitalist, as some would posit).

The feudal/capitalist switch is very difficult to unpick. If you look at it politically, you could see Magna Carta as a starting point in England as monarchial power was bartered to the rising baronial class - the final nail in this coffin being the Bill of Rights C1680 (can't remember the date). Enshrining the right of parliament (mainly burghers, proto-capitalists etc to run the country as they do now).

Economically...I'm not an expert. C1750 seems fine from a mechanisation perspective, but its a chicken and egg argument about the culture already being there without the technology.
 

borderpolice

Well-known member
bat020 said:
Employing staff does mean that you're exploiting their labour, I'm afraid. Unless you hand over all your profits to them – which might piss off your investors somewhat.
Accepting (i.e. risking) investments does mean that you're exploiting investors' labour, I'm afraid. Unless you hand over all your profits to them – which might piss off your workers somewhat.
 

borderpolice

Well-known member
2stepfan said:
I'm not sure that employing people necessarily makes you an exploitative "capitalist" in the classical sense. (But then, I'm not a Marxist -- oh, sorry, forgot, Thought & Politics are Marxist-only enclaves :p )
the marxists understanding of exploitation rests on marx rendition of what is called the
"labour theory of value" LToV. that theory is explained in the first volume of "Kapital".
everything in that book and much of socialist thought rests of the LToV, although
that isn't usually understood. unfortunatly, LToV is bullshit, as one can easily see, and
as has been pointed out many times by working economists and others, although, to
be sure, the amount of labour, measured in crude temporal units, is an important factor
in value creation, just not the only one. in many financial transactions it is a relativly
irrelevant factor.

without the LToV, the socialist conception of exploitation is in ruins. this doesn't mean
exploitation is a meaningless concept, just that it's most prominent theoretical redition is
BS.
 
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john eden

male pale and stale
borderpolice said:
unfortunatly, LToV is bullshit, as one can easily see, and
as has been pointed out many times by working economists and others
come on then, let's 'ave it! :D
 

borderpolice

Well-known member
bat020 said:
No, because investors do not work.
rubbish. (1) investors risk loosing their investments, and often do. the
question of work/no work is not the only evaluation criterion of
fair pay. degrees of risk are another cruicial party. (2) the investors
have to get their money from somewhere. in the mosts cases in
contemporary investment, the invested money
is the saved health and pension insurance of the masses.
[of course there are investors who do not work, for example those
who inherit their wealth, or those who discover oil in their back yard,
but this hardly accounts for all investment.]

So by saying, investors should not be compensated for risking their
investments, you are saying the working class has no right for their
pension and health care savings to be fairly treated. By saying investors
do not work, you are saying that the working class does not work.

interesting POV.

As an aside, the stupid fiction that investors do not work, are pure
exploiters, is a cruical and prominent part of nazi ideology.
 
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Grievous Angel

Beast of Burden
I am by no means an expert on this but I have read on zmag and elsewhere that at least some reasonably hardcore leftists who take an interest in economics feel that the LTOV doesn't stack up. In other words I think there's some dialectical progression happening within Marxism...
 

bat020

Active member
borderpolice said:
(1) investors risk losing their investments, and often do.
True but irrelevant. "Risking a loss" isn't working – it's gambling.

borderpolice said:
the investors have to get their money from somewhere.
True but irrelevant. All this shows is that investors may have worked in the past. But they do not work for moneys they receive from investing (interest, dividends, rent etc) – ie investors qua investors do not work.

borderpolice said:
the stupid fiction that investors do not work, are pure exploiters, is a crucial and prominent part of nazi ideology.
No, Nazi ideology distinguishes between industrial and finance capital, venerating the former while vilifying the latter. Finance capital (banking, moneylending etc) is thereby made a scapegoat for capitalism in general, which opens the door to all the standard racist tropes of Jew-as-parasite. But that is quite different from the Marxist position, which views all capitalist investment as exploitative.
 

k-punk

Spectres of Mark
So by saying, investors should not be compensated for risking their
investments, you are saying the working class has no right for their
pension and health care savings to be fairly treated. By saying investors
do not work, you are saying that the working class does not work.

interesting POV.
There's a difference between saving and investing. Investors don't expect their investments to be 'fairly treated', they, self-evidently, want to make a profit from them.

As an aside, the stupid fiction that investors do not work, are pure
exploiters, is a cruical and prominent part of nazi ideology.
Comparison to Nazis, so early in the thread? Well done...

As for Labour Theory of Value, it is not at all clear that Marx endorsed it. As it happens, I'm reading a book at the moment - Karatani's Transcritique - which holds that it was early socialist economists like Ricardo who believed in the LTOV, and that everything that was interesting in Marx came out of a critique of that view.
 
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