[OPE-L:5839] contemporary social formations

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 15 Dec 1997 09:31:30 -0500 (EST)

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Paul C wrote on Mon, 15 Dec:

> > Do you really think that the National Health Service is a "communist
> > element" within a capitalist social formation ???
> Certainly,
> it was explicitly set up according to the principle applying in
> the higher phase of communism ' from each according to ability to
> each according to need '.
> After the 1940s the British social formation was a combination of
> domestic, capitalist, state-capitalist and communist modes of
> production. The political class struggle here since then has
> centered on the struggle between modes of production and the
> classes they throw up. <snip>
> Analysing contemporary social formations as a combination of modes of
> production rather than restricting ourselves to a critique of the
> categories of early 19th century economists.

I would express the nature of these contemporary social formations
somewhat differently: i.e. that they are capitalist social formations, but
that these individual social formations differ re:

a) the specific history and character of class struggle, including the
level of organization and militancy of the working class;

b) the specific relation between the classes, including landowners and the
peasantry (and, by implication, the extent to which pre-capitalist
relations continue to influence social relations);

c) the particular nature and history of social stratification by gender
and race, etc. (and, by implication, the continuing role of patriarchy
and the legacy of colonialism and slavery);

d) the specific character of the state, including its relation to other
states and the major economic classes;

e) the history and extent of divisions within classes, e.g. struggles
among capitalists and struggles among wage-earners.

I don't think that it is appropriate to speak of a domestic mode of
production. Nor do I think that the existence of reforms instituted by
the capitalist state as a result of working-class organization and
militancy is evidence of the "communist mode of production."

What I do think is important is to recognize the extent to which
capitalism dominates other modes of production globally and the extent to
which pre-capitalist relations, while they continue to exist partially,
have only a limited impact on capitalist social formations.

I think this is a pretty important topic for us to discuss.

What do others think?

In solidarity, Jerry