Marx’s Inquiry into the Birth of Capitalism: Why Does It Matter?

Differing approaches to the issue of the beginnings of capitalismimply different conceptualization of what capitalism is. This paperelaborates on the notion of original accumulation. It utilizes theMarxist notion of the mode of production to provide the conceptof the historicalfigure which Marx describes as the pre-capitalistmoney-owner. Two notions are introduced: (1) The money-begetting slave mode of production, existing since antiquity andclearly distinguishing itself from the classical slave mode ofproduction; (2) the contractual money-begetting mode ofproduction that emerged in the middle ages in relation tofinancialschemes based on partnerships or associations. The taskmaster ofeach of these two pre-capitalist modes of production is a pre-capitalist money-owner. His later“confrontation and contact”withthe labourer who has become a proletarian isfinally discussed.Original accumulation is not primitive developed or humanecapitalist accumulation, but the transformation of pre-capitalistsocial relations into capitalist social relations. No version ofcapitalism is the realm of democracy, freedom, or justice.Capitalism is a social system in which direct coercion guaranteeingeconomic exploitation of the ruled by the rulers is incorporatedinto the economic relation itself.“Freedom”is the form ofappearance of a historically specific system of class domination and exploitation.

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