It is impossible to talk about primitive accumulation without talking about commons. On the other hand, the reverse is not just possible but seems to be the norm, at least since commons began to gain general public currency after Ostrom’s Nobel prize and Hardt and Negri’s popularisations. Relieved from their role in specialist historiographical discussion about the transition to communism, commons nowadays seem to be on everyone’s lips. But the upsurge of the popularity of the commons, both as a theoretical concept and as a political idea, comes at a price. At least locally, commons seem to gain popularity in inverse proportion to the concept of primitive accumulation.
Thus liberated from their anti-capitalist (or, at the very least, pre-capitalist) charge, commons began to function as a projection screen for the same old weary left-liberal political fantasies and to take up space abandoned by the notion of civil society. Neither state nor market – so it must be civil society, or, in a somewhat modernised left liberal speak, the community. Safe and responsible enough to be included in ‘sustainable development’ agendas, but still appearing fresh and radical, commons seem like a godsend to exhausted left liberal political imaginary.
But there is another trajectory of thinking about the commons, one that doesn’t see them as community ghettos but as a way to transform (and, in a long term, transcend) the existing society. This involves taking the struggles to the workplace, social services, political and financial institutions, and breaking with the reductionist view of the commons as involving only natural resources and selected goods (like health or knowledge). Why shouldn’t money, state budget, public utilities and means of productions be common?
Potential topics of discussion include:
a critique of reductionist/liberal theory of the commons;
the commons in historical perspective;
material and immaterial commons;
public (goods, services, utilities) and/versus common;
commons and communism (socialised production, withering away of the state, abolishment of wage labour).
The Age of Austerity ushered in by the global crisis of 2008-9 centrally involves cheapening the reproduction of labour-power by means of reducing both private wages and the social wage administered by the state. These policies have decided class, gender, racial and generational dimensions. To properly elucidate these dimensions, however, requires that we also grasp ongoing primitive accumulation as a crucial ‘moment’ in the austerity agenda. To accomplish this means addressing the role of the reproduction of the global reserve army of labour, and of precarious migrant workers, in the restructuring of labour-power on a world scale.
In order to develop the theory of primitive accumulation in these directions, this paper returns to tensions in Marx’s account of the social reproduction of labour-power. Here I argue that not only does Marx’s conceptualization require a gender analysis, but that it also needs to be developed with respect to the problematic of labour migration. I show where Marx points to ways in which we might do this. The analysis presented underlines the decisive importance of an anti-racist defence of migrant workers for any effective working class politics in the Age of Austerity.
David McNally is Professor of Political Science at York University and a leading member of the New Socialist Group (www.newsocialist.org). He has written extensively on the critique of political economy. His publications include Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance and Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism.
Prvotna akumulacija, migrantski delavci in družbena reprodukcija v dobi varčevanja
Doba varčevanja, ki jo je povzročila svetovna kriza iz let 2008–2009, v veliki meri temelji na pocenitvi reprodukcije delovne sile s pomočjo zniževanja tako zasebne mezde kakor družbene mezde, s katero upravlja država. Te politike so odločilno posegle v razredna, spolna, rasna in generacijska razmerja. Da bi jih lahko celovito osvetliti, pa moramo upoštevati tudi trenutno prvotno akumulacijo kot ključni »moment« varčevalne politike. Zato moramo analizirati vlogo, ki jo pri preoblikovanju delovne sile na svetovni ravni igrajo reprodukcija svetovne rezervne armade delovne sile in prekarni migrantski delavci.
Da bi lahko razvili teorijo prvotne akumulacije s tega gledišča, se bomo vrnili k napetosti v Marxovi obravnavi družbene reprodukcije delovne sile. Pokazali bomo, da Marxova konceptualizacija potrebuje ne samo analizo spolov, temveč jo je treba razviti tudi z vidika delavske migracije. Izpostavili bomo mesta, kjer nam to omogoča sam Marx. Predstavljena analiza bo poudarila ključnost antirasistične obrambe migrantskih delavcev za učinkovito politiko delavskega razreda v dobi varčevanja.
David McNally je profesor na kanadski Univerzi York in eden vodilnih članov kolektiva New Socialist (www.newsocialist.org). Ukvarja se s kritiko politične ekonomije. Med drugim je objavil knjigi Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance in Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism.