The first forms of private property

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The first forms of private property

Post by chlamor » Sun Jan 12, 2020 3:17 pm

These questions that Anax poses are not reducible to avarice or the inherent selfishness of human nature. There are two immediate things that don't stand up if that is true

1. It begs the question of how this tendency could ever be overcome and in fact converts that into the central issue

2. It paradoxically means that the way to overthrow capitalism would be to appeal to the selfish nature of the masses


Right you are. Cannot happen until there are surplus goods, which is a matter of 'technology', the means of production, which allows for larger societies which in turn required a different mode of relations.

Once again this is contradicted by the facts. Say that the world produces enough food, right now, to feed 12 billion people. Whatever the number, it is greater than the 6 or 7 billion people alive today. Surplus is an economic category, not a technical one.

Yes, technical changes in the mode of production are a significant factor, but if they were determinative or if it was a matter of necessity -- you say that a different mode of production is "required" -- then it would surely have happened by now. I would say that anyone living in the global south would indeed call such change a "requirement".[/quote:1rwpcz92]

It is not absolute surplus but relative surplus that is being discussed, specifically the ability of human beings to produce surplus product which, in turn, is the origin of surplus labor. It is true that what constitutes a "surplus" is socially determined but at the dawn of class society, we can be pretty well assured that a surplus is the capacity of a single human being to produce more than that which is minimally required to reproduce him or herself. Nor is a surplus sufficient in itself. It is a usable (or "movable") surplus that is required.

Human beings have lived on the planet, in one form or another, for over one million years. Class society, in contrast, has existed for less than 10,000. Over most of this time, it appears that people lived as tribes, clans, gens, and other small extended family groupings which, as we learn about them, seem to have been remarkably similar regardless of their geographic location. Some elements of these groupings survived to nearly our own times. In general, they lived under subsistence conditions. This is not to argue that relative surpluses in this or that product did not exist... they obviously did exist... but surplus product was not generalized to cause a change in either the "mode" of production, or its social basis.

Also, for most of their existence, these groupings sometimes clashed with their neighbors and sometimes acquired captives. Universally, these captives were either killed or adopted. The possibility of two or more "classes" of human beings did not arise until the basis for that arose first. For the Greeks, this post-dates agriculture and seems to have arrived with the appropriately named animal "husbandry". By tradition, the Greek gens great innovation was that young boys who were captured were at one point set to work as shepherds amongst the communal flocks but had no share in the surplus that was created. They merely were maintained at their subsistence. From this most unequal of "traditions", all that is Greek civilization flows. It is the future forms that this took which are at issue here.

Interestingly, the first forms of private property, other than personal property, amongst the Greeks seem to have been in flesh (i.e. other humans), well before the communal herds were divided up or other elements of communal property were expropriated. The arithmetic of this is simple. The more slaves that were had, the more sheep or goats were maintained, and the more surplus was created; the element that did not go to sustaining the slaves, becoming in turn a generalized surplus, spurring the development of trade, undermining the basic equality of the gens, and creating the basis for the classes to come. How much of a stretch is it to conceive of the evolution of raiding parties, which had begun as merely opportunist forays to acquire goods, into organized invasions for the purpose of acquiring slaves. From there, war for the purpose of enslaving entire peoples, either individually or collectively, are also an obvious development. In the meantime, we see the schism developing in the old society: increasingly some work so that others do not. Of course, the standards of human production are still quite low. The Athenians of the Golden Age live quite well, but it takes 32 slaves and other members of the intervening classes to maintain each "citizen" in the style to which they will become accustomed. The 1800 families of the Spartans cease to work altogether, and are forbidden to... but they are able to do this because of 30,000 helots and nearly a dozen subject peoples under their sway.

In this same way, all ancient civilizations are founded with slavery as both their foundation and their objective. There is a great deal written about this, not the least of which is by Marx and Engels (Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State is one good place to begin). Another more recent book is Woman's Evolution by the British Trotskyite, Evelyn Reed. But while going into the specific details of this history is interesting, Marx is discussing the history in much more general terms above, with an eye to pointing to the present. And it is not enough to say it was all "expropriation" So... lemme ask my questions again: who are these people? In what relation did each of them stand to each other? How were one set of class relations superseded by another? And so on...

- Anaxarchos

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