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Re: [ox-en] Fundamental text by StefanMn and StefanMz - Part 2 (was: Re: [ox-en] Fundamental text by StefanMn and StefanMz - Part 1)

Hi list!

3 days ago Stefan Merten wrote:
StefanMz and I are currently working on a quite fundamental Oekonux
I'll post the first part here and
continue with the others.

Here comes the second part.



--- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< ---

Capitalism as a (historical) germ form

When we say that germ form theory is able to explain historical
changes even on big time scales, then it is very interesting to see
how the last major historical shift--namely the shift from feudalism
to capitalism--can be perceived using germ form theory.

Early capitalist elements

If we talk of capitalism here, we are thinking of two main fundaments
of capitalism: Abstract labor and exchange on the one hand and
industrial production on the other hand.

By abstract labor we mean labor which is not done for the result of
the labor--i.e. a certain product--but for some reason alienated from
the labor itself--for instance to earn money. By exchange we mean a
social situation where two parties exchange two goods or other things
based on an assumption of some equalness between those goods. What is
considered equal we call the exchange value of those goods. By
industrial production we mean a process involving big machinery which
is beyond what were possible to organize in a feudal society. This
applies to the technical side of industrial production as well as to
the social side.

According to the five step model we need to check where these
fundaments appeared in history to find the spots where capitalism can
be seen in the emergence step.

Exchange as just defined is represented well by the money system. Of
course money as a phenomenon has been around for quite a long time in
human history. However, most of the time money was a mean to
facilitate the exchange of goods. That is what Marx named the C -> M
-> C type of money use. Marx distinguished that usage type of money
from the capitalist usage type of M -> C -> M' where M' > M
[Marx-CMCvsMCM]_. Only in the second variant money is capitalist money
as we know it today.

If we compare the money phenomenon with the example about our simple
organisms then money represents the feature of orientation as such. It
is a common phenomenon throughout many human societies. The original
usage type of money C -> M -> C is a common phenomenon. The capitalist
type of money usage M -> C -> M' is, however, a deviation of the
common money usage. This type of money usage is a mutant like the eyed
organisms in our example above.

We can see this mutant in pre-capitalist forms like in the North
Italian cities around 1300 but also in the mercantile usage of money
later on. At that time money existed but in general for the society as
a whole money was a rather marginal phenomenon far outweighed by the
feudal structures which depended on completely different things than
money. It is a historical truth that at this time there were
deviations which later became capitalism but at that time did not take
off. These are nice examples for a germ form which did not realize
it's potential.

Indeed also the other major element of capitalism has been seen before
the 18th century. There actually were manufactures involving abstract
labor and sometimes even big machinery as early as in the Roman
Empire. However, as of this time this type of production did not take
off and stayed a niche phenomenon. Instead the feudal organization of
labor involving peasants and artisans and crafts as the most developed
forms of production had several hundred years to live. When looking
back like we do here according to germ form theory we can conclude
that there were either missing elements or the crisis of the old form
were missing. Indeed probably both is true.

The potential of early capitalism

Indeed in the 18th century and 19th century things were more mature.
Especially in Europe the Enlightenment brought up a whole new way of
thinking emancipating at least from the church and revolutionizing the
natural sciences. Indeed the Enlightenment brought a massive paradigm
change for all of the European society fabric. A paradigm change
indeed for which thinking back beyond it is very hard to do with a
modern mind set--if at all possible.

The breakthroughs in natural sciences posed hard philosophical
questions. They put the whole God centered model of the world at
stake--a development the echoes of which still can be heard today.

And those breakthroughs made new technologies possible. These new
technological possibilities like big machinery, however, did not fit
into the societal framework of feudalism work organization. In fact
the early industry needed abstract labor which as of this time was not
very common. And the industry of this time also used money in a new
way: It has been invested not only in machines but also in human labor
and the results of these investments have been sold on a market
realizing the surplus value and giving way to the next cycle. Capital
as we know it today was born and for the first time the mutant of
money usage became visible on the historical stage. Indeed the
technological development of this time together with the changes in
the overall societal framework made this positive feedback cycle
possible increasing speed of development.

In addition at this time the governance system which feudalism was
based on eroded. Just take Louis XIV. of France as an example of how
much the aristocrat class has separated itself from the real social
movements. Or think the early revolutions in the United Kingdom
questioning the old governance system more and more.

However, none of these aspects would have had much meaning if
capitalism had not shown some potential in terms of improved products.
Indeed from the perspective of the users of these products there were
a couple.

First the new industrial way of organizing labor together with the
improved technology resulted in higher productivity which in turn
lowered the prices of the commodities produced this way. Where money
already played a role this was of course an advantage of the products.
These cheaper products had so much of an advantage over the old home
manufacturers' and guild organized products that these groups started
to rebel against this--see for instance the weaver uprisings

Second the mass availability of products was another advantage of the
capitalist model. This was especially useful for those fields where
you had mass consumption. As of this time one direct field is
represented by the feudal lords which needed mass production to equip
their armies. Today it seems obvious that a mass equipment with
uniforms and weaponry is only feasible with an industrial way of
production. But also the mercantile field appreciated the mass
availability of products because it made it much simpler--and thus
cheaper--to acquire the products which are sold later on some
arbitrary market.

Third the industrial production--and at that time that meant already
capitalist production--were able to produce things which had not been
possible before. Especially the heavy industries which needed lots and
lots of free workers were able to produce things like railways, huge
bridges like the `Forth Bridge`_ and so on. Again war played a big
role here because at least part of the new products like cannons were

Forth the industrial products showed new features like uniformity
which is one of the typical results of a uniform production process as
distinguished from an artisan production process. This in turn
simplified the industrial use of those products because for a uniform
process it is always good to have uniform input.

These advantages in the resulting products were the final reason why
capitalism and industrialization had their major breakthrough. Though
some elements existed in earlier historical phases they were not
mature enough to lead to a breakthrough or the old system was still
too vital. Only at the dawn of capitalism the preconditions were
mature enough to make way for this new mode of production.

Once this new mode of production gained size there were several
positive feedback cycles the most important being the new logic of
abstract money M -> C -> M'. Together with the crisis of the old
feudal system these positive feedback cycles through a historically
very short time changed the whole societal fabric massively. They
unleashed a technical development which was unknown to mankind. But
they also unleashed massive social changes--just because the new mode
of production "called" for these changes. In particular the
organization of human work was revolutionized. Free workers like
capitalism needed did not exist before but are standard today.

Capitalism improved the efficiency of material production at this time
as far as was possible and it freed material production from the
limitations of the feudal system--namely guilds. Today we see it also
as emancipation for the people from the feudal regulations which have
been in effect for several hundred years.


In the early 19th century these features made capitalism an important
part of the overall development process--the precise definition of a
germ form in the dimension step. During this dimension step
contradictions between the old and the new form are a logical
consequence. Indeed if there are no or little contradictions the
supposed new form is probably not really new but can be integrated
somehow. According to germ form theory, however, these contradictions
happen deeply inside and throughout the whole social fabric.

If germ form theory can be applied to capitalism as a germ form then
there should be contradictions. Indeed there were. The most important
probably is how many aristocrats reacted to the early forms of
capitalism: They used it for their own needs. Especially war and
armies are a field where capitalism was able to deliver [Kurz-War]_.
One less obvious common denominator is that the alienated nature of
feudal wars is nicely reflected by the alienated nature of capitalist

There were even a few feudal Lords which furthered Enlightenment and
with it capitalist values [Wikipedia-Josephinism]_. All this did not
prevent capitalism from gaining control over society step by step
obsoleting feudal rule at the same time.

Indeed here is something very important to learn about fundamental
historical changes in general: The roots of the change emerge and grow
in niches but there must be a dimension step where the germ form
contradicts the old system full-scale *while* being important for the
old system. If it does not contradict fully then there is probably not
much potential. If it does not become important it is not (yet) strong
enough compared to the old system.

The developed germ form

In fact capitalism took over slowly and feudal societies have been
replaced by capitalism step by step. This process took time. 100 years
in the most industrialized countries but even today there are
countries where pre-capitalist relationships are still important. One
of the most important signs of the victory of capitalism over
feudalism is that religion doesn't matter much nowadays

Since with capitalism we can survey the development of a germ form
from its early beginnings to its--as we suggest--replacement by a new
mode of production we can also ask: What happened to the dominant
production of the earlier form? Indeed part of the dominant production
of the feudal form was agriculture. In feudalism agricultural
production was really the main basis of the society--be it because the
big majority of people were involved in it.

Of course as far as the use value of the products is concerned
agricultural production is still an important basis for mankind.
People need to eat and agricultural products are for eating. In feudal
times the majority of the people literally worked to eat.

Though agricultural production is of the utmost importance it became
an appendix to industrial production step by step. Today agricultural
production in the industrialized countries is totally dominated by the
logic of industry and thus capitalism. Though agricultural production
once dominated the social fabric today this is no longer the case.
Though people still need to eat today they do not work for food but
for money--and this difference is important because it indicates a
fundamental change. Indeed this is a typical development if a germ
form is in its restructuring step and takes over all of society.

If we think of peer production as a new germ form then if peer
production reaches its restructuring step it will have organized
industrial production according to its own logic. And probably as
agriculture today differs largely from agriculture in the feudal ages
this type of industrialization will look differently from what we know


.. [#ReligionToday] In fact it seems like religion gains importance
   during the last few decades. However, we think this type of
   religion can not be compared to the feudal type of religion mainly
   because the new types of religion usually have no common church
   which is the center of power as we know it for instance from the
   Christian church during the Dark Ages.

   But even if the modern fundamentalisms of all sorts are considered
   a return of religion this is more an indication of the decline of
   Enlightenment than anything else. However, this type of
   fundamentalisms won't be able to create new societies which can be
   wished for by the children of the Enlightenment.

.. _Oekonux:

.. _Forth Bridge:


.. [Kurz-War] XXX Text by Robert Kurz on the early phase of capitalism
   and feudal wars

.. [Marx-CMCvsMCM] XXX Marx on CMC vs. MCM

.. [Wikipedia-Weberaufstand]

.. [Wikipedia-Josephinism]

Contact: projekt

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