[lbo-talk] Accumulation (was IRA & ETA)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sun Mar 28 23:55:27 PST 2004

Grant Lee grantlee at iinet.net.au, Sun Mar 28 20:37:41 PST 2004:
>>Or at least that's what "primitive accumulation" means in the
>>Marxist tradition -- the expropriation of the agricultural
>>population from the land, to increasingly transform agriculture for
>>capitalist agriculture and to turn the former peasants into
>Michael Perelman (et al.) may disagree with me here, but I think the
>above is far too narrow a definition

Actually, Michael Perelman would agree (and so would I) with you that to confine the term "primitive accumulation" to the period of emergent capitalism alone is far too narrow a definition. It can be usefully employed to refer to the ongoing process of expropriation.

>Marx was far more concerned with the forms of PA which _did_ become
>capital, but that does _not_ mean that he thought there was no
>accumulation, long before capitalism, as a straightfoward, minor
>economic practice, began (whenever and wherever that was; there is
>no agreement among scholars). The pre-capitalist existence of
>_classes_ in itself would have implied some kind of accumulation to

Sure, but the topic under discussion was the process of ancient Greek emigration and creation of new settlements, and the question was whether it resembled the colonization of Ireland which became an integral part of primitive accumulation in the process of emergent English capitalism.

For instance, Thomas R. Martin writes: "The case of the foundation of a Greek colony in Cyrene (in what is now Libya in North Africa) in about 630 B.C. reveals how full of tensions the process of colonization could be. The people of the polis of Thera, on an island north of Crete, apparently were unable to support their population. Sending some people out as colonists to Cyrene therefore made sense as a solution to population pressures. A later inscription purports to tells us what happened at the time of colonization and reveals the urgency of the situation at the time: "One adult son [from each family] is to be conscripted....If any man is unwilling to leave when the polis sends him, he shall be subject to the death penalty and his property shall be confiscated." [M. Crawford and D. Whitehead, Archaic and Classical Greece: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation, Cambridge, 1983, no. 16B] Evidently the young men of Thera were reluctant to leave their home for the new colony" ("5.9. V. The Tensions of Colonization," _An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander_, <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0009;layout=;query=section%3D%2337;loc=5.8>). Conscripting one adult son from each family for forced emigration sounds more like a community's desperate attempt at survival, necessitated by demographic pressures, than accumulation even in a simple sense, i.e. the rich in Thera grabbing local land at the expense of the poor, causing the latter to seek land elsewhere. -- Yoshie

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