Primitive Accumulation

The apparently Marxian phrase “primitive accumulation” initially began with Adams smith’s statement which stated “accumulation of stock should be in the nature of possessions, be proceeding to the division of labor” (Adams, vol 3, p277). Marx explained Adam’s statement as “ursprunglish (Marx $ Engels, p 23-27). Division of labor was found to be all over the history, it even exists in insects kingdom (Marx, vol 1,872).Marx stated that such an idea was deliberately wrong. Marx rebuked smith for trying to elucidate the present existence of class by focusing to mythical past. Marx maintained that, primitive accumulation cares for almost the equivalent role as in political economy as original sin does in theology (Marx, 1867: 873). Marx’s comparison between original accumulation of capital and the initial man’s is appropriate and suitable. Both initial accumulation and initial sin turn our concentration away from the present to a mythical past, which theoretically explicate the hardship that people suffer at the present. As Marx recapitulated it, primitive accumulation was a kind of deviation on the legend of the grasshopper and the ant: “In times long gone by there were two sorts of people: one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal élite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living…. Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labor, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defense of property…. In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly, force, plays the great part.” (Marx, 1867: 873).

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Marx has clearly defined the term “primitive accumulation”. At any particular period of time, the progression of accumulation of presupposes of the process that pre-accumulated capital was put into the method of production (Marx, 1867: p 864). It appears that the capitalist production process as a general presupposes some” initial” or “primitive” accumulation. Marx approach to primitive accumulation seems to be associated to the diverse hypothetical meaning that is based on the ideas of capital as a set relation. The capital-relation prepossesses a complete disconnection between laborers and the possession conditions for realization of their labor (Marx, 1867: p 864). Provided with a set relation, it thus follows that the process which form the capital relation can be nothing other than the method that separate the labors from possessing the labor condiction.This process is identified to be operating on two kinds of change, whereby the common means of production and subsistence are supposed to be converted into capital, and the instantaneous producers are converted into wage laborers (Marx, 1867: p 874).

To understand the Marx approaches to primitive accumulation we need to keenly look into two main aspects. The first one is basically the separation of the producers from the means of production which is a general character of both the primitive accumulation and accumulation of capital. In the hypothesis of surplus value Marx emphasizes that “accumulation replicates separation and the autonomous being of material riches in opposition to labor and increasingly scale” (Marx, 1971: 315) and consequently “simply presents as a nonstop course what in primitive accumulation seems to be a distinctive chronological process” (Marx 1971: 271). Over again, in the Gauderies analysis he explains that: “Once this separation is achieved, the production course can only manufacture a new, and replicate it on a stretched scale” (Marx 1858: 462).

The second one is that this separationis a middle class of Marx’s analysis of political economy. He meant that capital accumulation allows us to value the meaning he gave to the primitive separation. In the perspective of accumulation, separating the producer from the means of production means basically that the “purpose condition of living labor seem to be independent and separated, values which are opposite, living labor capacity as skewed being, which as a result appears to them as a value of another type (Marx 1858: 462). This initiative of separation means labor that is alienated from the means of production (Marx, 1844). The notion of separation allows us to explain capital accumulation as accumulation of societal relations: “The industrial method of production which is seen as a course of reproduction that not only produce products but it also produces capital relation and consequently the wage laborer.” (Marx 1867: 724).

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The historical process of separating the producer from the forms of production exposed magnitudes and characteristics that were reasonably different from the orthodox illustration of land enclosure from feudalism to capitalism in England. At this point primitive accumulation is dependable from perceptive of the capitalist economy as a global economy, (Bradley 1982:14), in which primitive accumulation at one location may match with a primitive accumulation in another location, this interpretation can be called “constant- intrinsic” primitive accumulation (Aston, 1987:33).

Another instance of primitive accumulation is the slave trade. Between the years 1680-1725 new ports were established such as Liverpool whereas the previous ones grew as an effect of development of slave trade (i.e. Bristol).The figures of shipped slaves grew rapidly from 26,700 in 16th century to an approximation of 50,000 to 70,000 in the late 18th century (Limbaugh 1991: 46).Marx expressed that Liverpool developed fast as a result of increase in slave trade and that certainly this was described as a method of primitive accumulation (Marx 1867: 923). Nevertheless, this form of primitive accumulation did not completely involve a classics-Marxist model that evolution related to Africa as from feudalism to capitalism. This type of model known as Marxist convention was very common until a few years back, it emphasized on the task played by land enclosures in the “evolution” from feudalism to capitalism form of production in nation of England. This role has resulted to the turn of the notion of primitive accumulation into a foundation of epic building which is known as “stage theory”. Moreover the example of slave trade show that primitive accumulation may happen in the course of interaction between south and the north, a global division of labor, obliteration of African communities and reliance on enslavement.

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Other types of primitive accumulation that Marx point out are the ones which are obtained through the handling of money by state. Marx considers international credit system, taxes and public debt as an elementary means to additional primitive accumulation. Unrestricted debt is basically a match to public debt in the modern fiscal structure, same as the global credit structure that grows along with national debt obligations. This example tries to show that Marx primitive accumulation argument does not only presuppose only the type of direct land enclosure in Europe, but it also takes place through other different means. A short survey carried out on the connection between developing country world debt and the worldwide spread poverty revealed that features of the 17th and 18th century’s capitalism have a sticking effect in today’s world.

John, (1992:133) explains that Primitive accumulation emerged as a group of freemen who are of equal status joined together to create a union for joint protection. After sometime the union developed into property classes. Those who were well endowed with capacity to save, wisdom, vigilance and strength, gradually acquired real properties. On the other side those who were less efficient, careless and stupid, remained without any property. Those who acquired wealth property rent their possessions to the less well off in return they earned huge profits and thus becoming richer and richer, while others continued being poorer. With time the primitive position of equal and free associates resulted to a group state through the inbuilt act of development. The industry owners did not have the authority to force anyone to take an industry job. They were supposed only higher individuals who were willing to work for them at the pay they offered to them. Despite the fact that this wages were low they had no other option, as other fields offered less that what they received in industries. For example when American multinational opened an industry people from Indonesia, china and Malaysia, were very happy and cheerful to work at the industry, despite the wages being too low (John, 1992:133).The industrial revolution had made it feasible for these people who had nothing more to offer to the market, sell their labor to the small group of capitalist in exchange for wages; this made it possible for this people to survive. Marx, (1967:123) argues that the moment that this people took this kind of industry jobs, indicates that although being disgusting to them, represented the best option they had at the time.


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