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Primitive accumulation.

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Rugged Free-Marketeer Posted: Mon, Oct 29 2012 5:36 PM

What's the Austrian view on what Marx describes as the ''primitive accumulation of capital'' in part 8 of Capital Volume 1?

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By Austrian view, do you mean the use of a priori deductions, as opposed to empirical observations and history?

Like, why and how would a rational person come about accumulation of capital before capitalism?

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No, not in that sense, I should have used a different word(s) and been more clear. I mean those ideologies that are fervently pro-capitalist, and argue for limited government or no government at all, no regulations or minimum regulations, etc. I consider Austrians to be part of that group.

I’m interested to find out whether the adherents of such ideologies dispute Marx’s explanation of the origins of capital as he outlines it in Part 8 of Capital Volume 1. Marx claims that the state was a fundamental agency for the creation of capital, the state under control of special interests, in England (he gives a different explanation for other parts of the world, albeit it shares the same theme i.e. violent expropriation), violently expropriated (Marx describes this process as ‘’ruthless terrorism’’) the land of peasants, creating a mass of property-less people, the proletariat, who were left with no choice but to sell their labour to maintain existence, and consequently a new form of exploitative class relations between capitalists and workers was born, and it still exists today, or so Marxists claim. That’s a bit simplified but that’s generally it. Marxists today like to use Marx’s explanation for the origins of capital as an argument against free-market anarchists e.g. ‘’Capitalism only exists because of the state! You want to get rid of it, you’re utopian!’’. 

I know Adam Smith offers a different explanation for the origins of capital, I’m just wondering whether there are more explanations. In particular, I’d like to know the stance of Mises and Rothbard on this subject. Furthermore, It would also be interesting to find an explanation that disputes the role of the state in the process of ''primitive accumulation''.

 

 

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This may be of interest:

the Mises Institute constitutes a veritable cult dedicated to the “legacy” of Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises, liberal agnostics whose ethical,  philosophical  and even theological blundering (promoted relentlessly by Woods) are the book’s primary subject.

So I guess if you follow the trail to Tom Woods, you may found a lot of references.

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I’m going to view those links later, thanks.

What’s your view of ''primitive accumulation''?

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Neodoxy replied on Wed, Oct 31 2012 12:20 AM

I didn't know that that's what Marx meant by the term. Anyway, the usual Austrian interpretation is mainly that factories started up and they had better pay than the farms. Even if you agree that the state made many property less in the beginning (may have, this isn't at all contradictory to Austrian theory) the fact is that millions more people left the farms for the factories even after the state was done robbing them of their land. I assume that this has to do with the enclosure movement right?

Mises states it here beautifully:

"The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job. They could only hire people who were ready to work for the wages offered to them. Low as these wage rates were, they were nonetheless much more than these paupers could earn in any other field open to them. It is a distortion of facts to say that the factories carried off the housewives from the nurseries and the kitchens and the children from their play. These women had nothing to cook with and to feed their children. These children were destitute and starving. Their only refuge was the factory. It saved them, in the strict sense of the term, from death by starvation."

This is by far one of the best chapters in Human Action

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I'm not sure of the entire context, but these quotes might be relevant:

"All ownership derives from occupation and violence. When we consider
the natural components of goods, apart from the labour components they
contain, and when we follow the legal title back, we must necessarily
arrive at a point where this title originated in the appropriation of
goods accessible to all. Before that we may encounter a forcible
expropriation from a predecessor whose ownership we can in its turn
trace to earlier appropriation or robbery. That all rights derive from
violence, all ownership from appropriation or robbery, we may freely
admit to those who oppose ownership on considerations of natural law."
--Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, 1922

"Private property is a human device. It is not sacred. It came into
existence in early ages of history, when people with their own power
and by their own authority appropriated to themselves what had
previously not been anybody's property. Again and again proprietors
were robbed of their property by expropriation. The history of private
property can be traced back to a point at which it originated out of
acts which were certainly not legal. Virtually every owner is the
direct or indirect legal successor of people who acquired ownership
either by arbitrary appropriation of ownerless things or by violent
spoilation of their predecessor."
--Mises, Human Action, 1949

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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