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Superexploitation and the Imperialist Drive of Capitalism: How Marini’s ‘Dialectics of Dependency’ Goes beyond Marx’s ‘Capital’

The Dialectics of Dependency: Ruy Mauro Marini
Andy Higginbottom is a former associate professor at Kingston University, London. He continues as an independent scholar and activist.

The publication in English of Ruy Mauro Marini’s The Dialectics of Dependency, fifty years after its original release in Spanish, has been a long time coming.1 The work, which has now been released with an extensive introduction by Amanda Latimer, is among the most important contributions to Marxism in the second half of the twentieth century and is, if anything, even more relevant today. Marini’s thought was directed at the fight for socialism in Latin America.2 His pathbreaking analysis argued for the necessity of emancipating the working class through revolution and acting against, not in alliance with, the bourgeoisie. He analyzed the state of capitalism in Latin America, with its distinct characteristics of underdevelopment and a different relationship to the world system of capitalism than Western Europe and the United States. Marini positioned his argument for socialism in the dependency paradigm, by which he understood that the capitalist underdevelopment of Latin America contributes to the development of the imperialist economies. The dependency relationship is expressed as the transfer of value from the poor, subordinated countries to the rich, dominating countries.

Marini’s original contribution was to explain the social relations of production at the root of international value transfer, thereby developing a distinct labor theory of imperialism that is the foundation of Marxist dependency theory. Marini identified the “super-exploitation” of labor as the fundamental social relation of capitalist underdevelopment. This is not his only strategic concept—his systematic analysis links labor superexploitation with unequal international exchange, the idea of a fractured internal market, and the concept of subimperialism; but this paper focuses on superexploitation.3

Labor superexploitation conceptually captures the real condition of the working class in Latin America. It involves three elements: low wages, long hours, and intense work to the point of exhaustion. Above all, it is characterized by “the greater exploitation of the worker’s physical strength, as opposed to the exploitation resulting from increasing his productivity, and tends normally to be expressed in the fact that labor power is remunerated below its real value.”4

Marini achieved an enormous theoretical breakthrough, not only as a foundation for Latin American Marxist dependency theory, but for the regeneration of Marxist theory worldwide. As is beginning to be more fully recognized, Marini’s work provides the key to unlocking the analysis of the last phase of globalized, neoliberal, and still capitalist imperialism in the twenty-first century.5

The Hostile Reception of Dependency Theory by Eurocentric Marxism

Over recent decades, the prevailing trends of Marxist thought in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the Global North have become increasingly Eurocentric in their assumptions. These trends were especially hostile to dependency theory when some of its authors became known in English in the 1970s. For example, the publication of Andre Gunder Frank’s works attracted a furor of opposition. I will select one entry from a catalogue of dependency deniers: in World Accumulation, 1492–1789, Frank cross-references superexploitation with Karl Marx’s analysis of surplus value in Capital, which was developed around absolute surplus value and relative surplus value. He cites two key passages where Marx himself introduces phenomena that do not fit into either of these two categories: chapter 24 of volume 1, on the conversion of surplus value into capital; and chapter 14 of volume 3, on the factors counteracting the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.6 In the first quote, Marx points to the cases of “forcible reduction of the wage of labor beneath its value”; and in the second, to the “reduction of wages below their value.”7 Frank concludes that superexploitation is identical with Marx’s “forcible reduction” or “depression of wages below the value of labour-power,” often conceptualized in Marx and Frederick Engels’s and subsequent Marxian analysis as “profits by deduction.”8 As Frank argues:

capitalist accumulation of capital is also based on a superexploitation of labor-power through excess-surplus value [extra surplus value], which often—and not only in British domestic industry—denies the laborer even the minimum necessary for subsistence by any definition and which, at some times and places, prohibits even the reproduction of labor power. Moreover, this less-than-subsistence superexploitation occurs both through wage labor and through other relations of production, as well as through the connection between the two.9

Frank did not develop the concept of superexploitation, nor did he explain its nonidentity with either absolute surplus value or relative surplus value. It was left to one of Frank’s critics, Jairus Banaji, to make the crucial point explicit: “for him [Frank] this appears to represent a third form of surplus value production which is neither relative nor absolute, whereas for Marx it is a form of absolute surplus value production.”10

Here, Banaji represents Marxist orthodoxy in response to the challenge of Marxist dependency theory, but in an unusually perceptive way. The idea of “a third form of surplus value” is substantially correct, and, as we shall see, Marini had already made this point in The Dialectics of Dependency. The usage of form in this context refers to configuration, kind, or dimension, rather than form as in outer shape or appearance, as it is often used by Marx as a contrast to inner essence. A “third form of surplus value” is thus another configuration or dimension of surplus value, the essential category of capitalist exploitation.11

Confirming Marini and Frank, I emphasize that labor superexploitation reveals another way to increase surplus value, reducing the cost to capital of labor power through lower wages and less commodity consumption by the workers. This method is also described by Marx in the English vernacular as “cheap labour.”12 More correctly, this is cheap labor power, which provides living labor to capital at a lower cost, and is therefore a basis for a higher degree of exploitation—a greater rate of surplus value due to a shortening of the labor time needed to produce the equivalent value of labor power. The lower cost is due to harsher and more oppressive exploitation of the relevant sections of the working class. This increase in the rate of surplus value is distinct from absolute surplus value, which, in Marx’s account, is due to longer working hours. The decrease of variable capital in this way is not relative surplus value either, since this, according to Marx, depends solely on the increase of productivity in the sectors that produce the commodities consumed in the reproduction of labor power.13

Since it is neither absolute surplus value nor relative surplus value as defined by Marx, increasing surplus value by reducing the remuneration of labor power is yet another category. As a necessary and essential feature of the capitalist mode of production, it is on the same ontological level as absolute surplus value and relative surplus value, but it cannot be reduced to either of these two categories, since in and of itself it involves more oppressive conditions of exploitation. I suggest that this aspect of the superexploitation of labor gives rise to the idea of relational surplus value, corresponding with Marcel Van der Linden’s concept of “relational inequality” within the world working class.14

Some Positions in the Current Debate in Latin America

How Marini’s labor superexploitation connects with Capital is under debate in Latin America. At one end, Carlos Alves do Nascimento, Fernando Frota Dillenburg, and Fábio Maia Sobral argue that superexploitation is already present as a theoretical category in Capital. They state that in chapter 10, on the working day, is “where Marx develops logically and historically, that is, theoretically, super-exploitation, the relation between the value of labor-power and its wear and tear above the level necessary to restore normal conditions.”15

They argue that superexploitation is present in the workers’ voices (based on the manifesto of striking construction workers) when they raise the issue of long hours of overwork as a cause of their exhaustion and premature death. “By an unlimited extension of the working day, you may in one day use up a quantity of labour-power greater than I can restore in three.”16 Labor power bought “at its value” must be considered over one’s working life. Rather than using up labor power over thirty years, burning through it in just ten years is greater exploitation. According to Marx, the worker says that “using my labour and despoiling it are quite different things,” a strong rejection of exhausting overexploitation, if not of exploitation as such.17

Hugo Figueira Corrêa and Marcelo Dias Carcanholo critique Nascimento, Dillenburg, and Sobral, arguing that this comment by Marx is no more than formative, not a conceptual theory, and that it does not need to be either. They argue that Capital addresses a more general, abstract level of pure theory, and at this level of conceptual definition, there is no need to account for the superexploitation of labor which is a feature of the particularities of Latin American countries, and thus belongs to a more concrete level of analysis.18

Jaime Osorio takes a yet different position. He examines the points in Capital where Marx relaxes his normal assumption that labor power is sold at its value and cites passages that carry the voice of workers that are also cited by Nascimento, Dillenburg, and Sobral. From this, Osorio argues that the superexploitation of labor can be seen as “the violation of the value of labor-power” rightly pointing out that labor power is not equal to other commodities in this sense. As we proceed, we will see that I converge with Osorio, with a different line of argumentation.19

In my evaluation, Nascimento, Dillenburg, and Sobral are right that exploitation tends toward superexploitation, that is, capital will seek to increase its surplus value and thus its profit. However, as Osorio argues, superexploitation has to be considered qualitatively.20 The superexploitation of labor cannot simply be reduced to more exploitation, and must be considered as a category in its own right. This shift from quantity to quality is because all capitalist labor exploitation must be examined in social as well as economic terms in order to consider how the social relation becomes the economic category.

By relegating the concept of labor superexploitation to an epistemological periphery, Corrêa and Carcanholo’s “levels of abstraction” argument denies the revolutionary impetus of Marini’s work, which is that the imperialist character of capitalism is inherent at the most essential level of definition of the capitalist mode of production. It is supremely important politically that labor superexploitation in the Global South and the corresponding mechanisms of value transfer are recognized by workers in the Global North as the general condition of their own relative privilege. Internationalism will then have a theoretical basis in a rejuvenated Marxism, which is something worth fighting for.

On Capital and the Fuller Determination of Surplus Value

Marini studied Capital closely. Both the work and Marini’s relation to it need to be probed further. In brief, my argument is that although the superexploitation of labor is not articulated as a theoretical category in Capital, the book gives us many clues as to how we might construct such a theory.

The critical category, and the real starting point of our discussion, is the concept of surplus value. The middle section of volume 1—parts 3, 4, and 5—concern capitalist production as the production of surplus value. The text switches between chapters that develop theoretical concepts and those with a stronger emphasis on the history of the capitalist mode of production from various perspectives. The concept of surplus value is introduced “as such” in its theoretical determinations as the essence of the capitalist mode of production; it then is developed through the particular methods of its increase as absolute surplus value and relative surplus value. Finally, the converted surplus value drives the general accumulation of capital as the reproducer of the class system overall.21

Although the racialized, colonial face of labor exploitation is included in Marx’s account of the “so-called primitive accumulation” of capital, it is marginal in this middle portion. The narrowing of the scope to focus on the center of the Industrial Revolution affects what is and what is not included in the concept of surplus value. Generally, the supply of raw materials is treated as a given. Marxist orthodoxy follows Capital literally in stating that the increase of surplus value depends on absolute surplus value, relative surplus value, and the intensity of the labor process. Marx examines variations of these elements in combination in part 5 of volume 1, where he returns to emphasizing that surplus value is the socially objective form of surplus labor in the capitalist mode of production.22

Surplus value is based on capital extending the working day beyond the labor time necessary to produce the equivalent value of labor power. But this surplus labor is only possible, in turn, if labor is sufficient to produce the value equivalent of its own labor power in less time than the full working day. Marx also points out that, although his linear presentation of the accumulation of capital—led first by absolute surplus value and then by relative surplus value—corresponds to a certain historical sequence within the capitalist mode of production as it takes hold, the two are completely inseparable and are dialectically related determinations of surplus value.23 Absolute surplus value, relative surplus value, and intensity do not and cannot exist separately, but are different aspects or dimensions of surplus value as such. The alternative methods of increasing surplus value apply levers in one or more of these dimensions. Following Marini, the crux of the argument here is that incorporating superexploitation into Capital requires reworking the concept of surplus value restricted to the three dimensions of the absolute, the relative, and intensity to include the increase of surplus value achieved through the payment of lower wages (or even no wages). Furthermore, I argue that this is one of the four modifications required to determine surplus value more completely.

The first two further modifications are the changes to surplus value related to the skill level of labor and the changes in surplus value resulting from the conditions of production governing the appropriation of use values from nature in particular localities. Both these modifications refer to the productivity of labor and were already recognized by Marx, but he treated them very differently in the architecture of Capital.

Marx puts aside the question of skilled labor from the very beginning of volume 1 as something that is solved in practice by reducing complex labor to simple labor. Marx makes a simplifying assumption about the formation of skilled labor power and its expenditure as skilled labor.24 In fact, later on Marx gives considerable attention to how capitalism restructures the division of labor in manufacturing and large-scale industry. He returns to the subject several times with significant insight in chapter 10 on the working day; chapter 14 on the division of labor; and chapter 15 on the factory, albeit without resolving some theoretical problems concerning the formation and expenditure of labor power.25

Marx’s method was radically different with regard to capitalist agriculture, a second modification to surplus value concerning how capitalism takes advantage of particularly favorable conditions found in nature, to which he gives an exhaustive treatment in Capital and again further in Theories of Surplus Value. A common error persists—understandable given the location of Marx’s main analysis in the sequence of the volumes and its presentation—that rent is only a question of the distribution of realized surplus value between capitalists and landowners (and extractive industries, such as mining in Marx’s time and oil since the late nineteenth century). What has largely passed unnoticed is that capitalist exploitation in agriculture also affects the workers employed therein who produce more or less surplus value, depending on their particular conditions. Marx anticipates his thorough treatment in volume 3 in a summary in volume 1. It starts with the significance of nature as the source of wealth for all societies, and goes on to state, “If we assume capitalist production, then…the quantity of surplus labour will vary according to the natural conditions within which labour is carried on, in particular the fertility of the soil.”26 To spell this out, the differentiations found in nature concern the production of surplus value, as well as its distribution.27

That is to say, the labor applied becomes more or less productive of surplus value according to the more or less favorable natural conditions for commodity production that capital finds and molds to its purpose. The more favorable particular conditions are, the greater is the extra surplus value produced, which is then available for capture as differential rent. There is thus a strong, though not complete, analogy between labor made more productive through early adoption of machine technology, and labor made more productive by the fertility of nature, and how it functions in capitalist social relations.28

Some Relevant Examples of Further Exploitation Introduced by Marx

On to the third modification of the theory of surplus value. Marx gives many examples of phenomena that raise the question of unequal degrees of exploitation associated with qualitative differentiation within the working class. Here I consider how he treats them theoretically, first focusing on examples.

Unfettered Labor Exploitation

The title of part 3, “The Production of Absolute Surplus Value,” covering chapters 7 through 11, is misleading as far as the first three chapters are concerned. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 have an internal unity that deals with the necessary determination of surplus value as such, based on the distinctions between labor power and labor activity and on the different roles of constant capital and variable capital. It is only from chapter 10 onward that we encounter the particular method of capital’s drive to increase surplus value by extending the hours of the working day.

Chapter 10 recounts the series of Factory Acts in England from 1833 to 1847, limiting the working day from twelve hours to ten hours. Marx gives many examples of the struggles to prevent the lengthening of the working day (and thus of surplus labor), which he later calls absolute surplus value. Moreover, he reports particularly harsh and oppressive exploitation as seen: a) before capitalism, b) in the production of raw materials for the factories, c) within the factories themselves, and d) in industrial sectors not covered by the Factory Acts at the time. The latter two cases were certainly examples of especially oppressive conditions within the capitalist mode of production, and there are arguments that in the supply of cotton, the most important raw material, slavery was also a capitalist sector with a particular mode of exploitation.

The limited protections of the Factory Acts began with spinning and weaving, and became generalized over thirty years. Marx writes of “certain branches of production in which the exploitation of labour is either still unfettered even now, or was so yesterday.”29 This exploitation “without legal limitations” included potters, rail workers, millers, blacksmiths, bakers, dressmakers, and so on, segments whose longer hours and dire conditions were destroying workers’ lives. In Capital volume 3, Marx explains the issue as the saving of constant capital by not spending on such things as room ventilation and safety guards for machines.30

The Positioning of Cotton Slavery

Marx points out the hypocrisy of the English manufacturing class who spoke out against the cruelties of the Spanish and slavery in the Americas while being extremely cruel to their own workers including, for example, dragging children from their beds in the middle of the night, and forcing them to work in dangerous conditions for ten hours at a time.31 As well as using slavery as a point of contrast with wage-slavery, chapter 10 indicates the distinct markets for the labor power of enslaved Africans.32 There is a contrast of the treatment of domestically traded “slaves” and the international “slave trade” (two types within the category of enslavement). In short, although Marx here displays the germ of recognition, he did not develop the specific value category pertaining to chattel slavery.33

To be truly general, the theory of surplus value needs to include free, waged labor and enslaved labor, as well as other forms of subjugated labor, as modes of exploitation. In fact, Marx showed that wage labor was not “free labor” in many circumstances. The cotton spinning mill is Marx’s leading example of the capitalist production process from chapter 7 onward. In addition to cotton spinning, extensive reference is made to the related trades of weaving, cloth dying, and garment making. Marx considers the interactions between these branches, especially their cycles of “boom-and-bust, for example, the mass attraction of workers into the weaving trade to keep pace with the rapid expansion of machine production of cotton yarn, and then the expulsion of these same workers when more productive machine looms replaced handlooms, with tragic consequences.34 This, in modern parlance, was a commodity chain; one that began not with the spinning of cotton, but with the growth and harvesting of cotton.

Marx recognizes that raw cotton is not truly raw; it did not fall from the sky, but has a value based on the labor time socially necessary for its production.35 While his text is peppered with accurate comments on slave production, Marx never brings them together in a focused analysis in the same way that he does so expertly for the later stages of the commodity chain. There are three strands here. One strand is that Marx’s commentaries often present enslaved labor as a point of contrast to wage labor, as Stephanie Smallwood points out.36 Another strand is that cotton as a commodity is treated as a given, as the bales arriving at Liverpool docks in large quantities to be transported to the cotton mills of Manchester. To this end, Marx had the advantage of access to Engels’s detailed accounts.37 This perspective of critical insider knowledge was simply not available to Marx as far as cotton production was concerned. For information on this, he relied on liberal sources, sometimes reproducing their Smithian views uncritically; for example, the quotation from John E. Cairnes and Frederick Olmsted that presents enslaved laborers’ “clumsiness” in their handling of the instruments of production as a sign of inherent inefficiency rather than interpreted as a form of resistance.38 The third strand, Marx’s comments on the cotton-based economy of the southern United States, cited by Marini, are much more trenchant: “the over-working of the Negro, and sometimes the consumption of his life in seven years of labor, became a factor in a calculated and calculating system. It was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products, but rather of the production of surplus value itself.”39

The point here is that large-scale production by enslaved Black labor on the plantations of the U.S. South was as essential to the Industrial Revolution as wage labor was in UK factories and workshops. Frank rightly stresses this point, as does Marx on occasion.40

To sum up this section: despite some lack of critical distance from his questionable sources, Marx’s Capital offers many insights into the cotton slavery of his time; however, there is also a lacuna, or absence of a full analysis of the first stage of the commodity chain.

Oppressed Sectors of the Working Class as Cheaper Labor Power

In cotton spinning, the core sector of the Industrial Revolution, capitalists made the most of the new “self-acting” machinery. They introduced the shift system, with alternating groups of workers and changed the profile of the workforce, with the extensive use of women, youth, and children. Marx drew from the reports of the factory inspectors, extensive narratives of the abuses of the manufacturers and of parents (for example, contracting out their children).41 Chapter 10, and, later, chapter 15, show how Britain’s capitalists employed women, youth, and children in even worse conditions than the adult male workers.42 Immediate family connections within the working class were pushed to the breaking point, not completely severed but abusively reproduced. The result was a segmented national labor market rather than separate labor markets, as was the case with enslaved labor. There was a fairly consistent relationship between the average wage rates of different sections that becomes lost when taking an overall average.

In chapter 11, Marx gives a conceptual summary of the rate and mass of surplus value. He begins with the following claim: “the value of labour-power, and therefore the part of the working day necessary for the reproduction or maintenance of that labour-power, is assumed to be a given, constant magnitude.”43 However, many examples have already shown that, with minor variations, women’s labor power was generally sold for a little more than half the average adult wage, young people for slightly less, and children for no more than a quarter.44 Despite this reality, differentiated exploitation is not reflected in the theorization of chapter 11 based on normalization, on a common rate of surplus value.

The introduction of women and children into capitalist production as oppressed sectors with significantly lower wages allowed the capitalist class to keep the wages of adult male workers reduced as well. Marx gives an account of labor markets, of children’s labor power sold by their parents, and begins to open up these very troubling questions in his discussion of the “family wage.” Marx observes: “It was not however the misuse of parental power that created the direct or indirect exploitation of immature labour-powers by capital, but rather the opposite, i.e. the capitalist mode of exploitation, by sweeping away the economic foundation which corresponded to parental power, made the use of parental power into its misuse.”45

This applies especially to the reproduction of gender relations and the oppression of women under capitalism. As a part of the working class, women are generally subjected to higher degrees of exploitation. This is structurally based on a qualitatively distinct, specific mode of labor exploitation that revolves around the gendered combination of unpaid domestic work in the family and subordinate positions in the workplace division of labor. Although Marx gives some indications of this in chapters 10 and 15, it is indisputable that he does not analyze this gender dimension—and yet the oppression of women is fundamental to the definition of the capitalist mode of production. Nothing is lost by admitting the incompleteness of Capital on this point.

At the beginning of the more theoretical chapter 12, on the concept of relative surplus value, Marx notes that one method available to reduce the time necessary to produce the equivalent of the wage would be, simply enough, to reduce the wage itself, by 10 percent in his example. But, he reflects, “This result, however, could be attained only by pushing the wage of the worker down below the value of his labour-power.… Despite the important part which this method plays in practice, we are excluded from considering it here by our assumption that all commodities, including labour-power, are bought and sold at their full value.”46

In this way, Marx places the harshest forms of exploitation, where the wage was pushed below the value of the worker’s labor power, outside the conceptual determination of surplus value. But Marx’s scientific rigor did not allow him to exclude these persistent phenomena; more than that, he emphasized them. Indeed, Marx continues to document with his remarkable thoroughness these realities of lower wages and worse conditions imposed on certain sections of the population. In a section of chapter 15, he shows that the introduction of machine production in spinning and then weaving had a knock-on effect in the garment trade, which was characterized by the proliferation of “outside departments”: auxiliary, contract domestic workshops employing women and girls in conditions horrendous for their health and welfare, remarkably similar to today’s informal economies. Marx writes of modern domestic industry, as compared to the earlier period of manufacture, commenting that “the division of labour is now based, wherever possible, on the employment of women, of children of all ages and of unskilled workers, in short, of ‘cheap labour,’ as the Englishman typically describes it.”47

The cheapening of labor power was clearly connected: “by sheer abuse of the labor of women and children, by sheer robbery of every normal condition needed for working and living, and by the sheer brutality of overwork and night-work.”48 Again here, we encounter in these “scattered handicrafts and domestic industries” conditions similar to those characterized by Marini as superexploitation: “The great production of surplus value in these branches of labor, and the progressive cheapening of their articles, were and are chiefly due to the minimum wages paid, which just sufficed for a miserable, vegetable existence, and to the extension of the hours of labor to the maximum endurable by the human organism.”49

In the cottage industry sectors, per piece-rate wages predominated as the form of remuneration at such low rates that women and girls work “excessively or at night.” Marx comments that, for these branches, “unlimited exploitation of cheap labour-power is the sole foundation of their ability to compete.”50

Fundamental Contradictions

The main story of chapters 13, 14, and 15 is that of how the methods by which the capitalist mode of production, as it was in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, led to increasing relative surplus value. Marx treats this dialectically, in the sense that he sees capitalism’s development of mechanized production as simultaneously attracting and repelling workers. Marx builds and builds on this idea of a central, ever-expanding, fundamental contradiction, one that cannot be resolved except by overthrowing the mode of production.

The fundamental contradiction is further revealed in Marx’s explanation of whether or not capitalists will adopt a new technology. He explains that the adoption of new forces of production is a lever for each individual capital to improve its competitive position through making its commodities cheaper while increasing their volume, and this strong incentive is an engine of the mode of production. However, it is not true that in every circumstance capital is set to gain from mechanization; in the end, the decision depends on the remuneration of labor (labor power). In general terms, in any mode of production, “the use of machinery for the exclusive purpose of cheapening the product is limited by the requirement that less labour must be expended in producing the machinery than is displaced by the employment of that machinery.”51

In the more specific logic of capitalism: the decision to displace the old with the new is not assessed against all existing labor, but only against existing paid labor. “For the capitalist, however…instead of paying for the labour, he pays only the value of the labour-power employed; the limit to his using a machine is therefore fixed by the difference between the value of the machine and the value of the labour-power replaced by it.”52

Marx then explains why the division between necessary labor time and surplus labor time, that is, the rate of surplus value, “differs in different countries,” and thus directly affects the decision whether or not to invest in machinery. To emphasize this point, according to this argument the degree of mechanization depends on the degree of exploitation, with more exploitation consistent with less mechanization. Of course, this is one of many factors in the concrete world, but a real one. Marx continues with the example: “The Yankees have invented a stone-breaking machine. The English do not make use of it because the ‘wretch’ who does this work gets paid for such a small portion of his labour that machinery would increase the cost of production to the capitalist.” Marx notes again the even worse oppression of women workers: “In England women are still occasionally used instead of horses for hauling barges, because the labour required to produce horses and machines is an accurately known quantity, while that required to maintain the women of the surplus population is beneath all calculation. Hence we nowhere find a more shameless squandering of human labour-power for despicable purposes than in England, the land of machinery.”53

These are very important points of connection between Capital and Marini’s theory of labor superexploitation, which he argues explains the supposed “backwardness” of his continent as a necessary internal dynamic of the capitalist mode of production considered internationally. Marini develops this idea, already strongly present in Marx.

Marx points out that relative surplus value depends on the cheapening of commodities through the relative reduction of new value and thus of the surplus value carried by each commodity. He therefore considers that “there is an immanent contradiction in the application of machinery to the production of surplus value, since, of the two factors of the surplus value created by a given amount of capital, one, the rate of surplus value, cannot be increased except by diminishing the other, the number of workers.”54

Once the new method of production becomes generalized in a sector and the value of the commodity falls due to the reduction of socially necessary labor time, this contradiction becomes even more acute. The expansion of production through the capitalist division of labor and the adoption of machinery increases constant capital in relation to variable capital, the relation between the size of capital and the surplus value produced is furthermore a relation between employed workers and expelled workers thrown into the labor market. These contradictions grow and grow until they are reproduced internationally and then on a world scale. This inevitably leads to antagonistic polarization, to polarization through the generation of an industrial reserve army, and to polarization because the system is bound to go into crisis.

Marx writes of the terrible crisis of 1846–47, quoting from the official reports of factory inspectors of the “great suffering” of the workers, as the manufacturers imposed “a general 10 per cent reduction in wages” up to wage cuts “of at least 25 per cent.”55 This was followed by the cotton booms of the 1850s and ’60s, punctuated by the crises of 1857 and 1866–67. Workers fought against wage cuts of 30 and 40 percent: “Apart from the rivalry this struggle gives rise to in the use of improved machinery for replacing labour-power, and the introduction of new methods of production, there also comes a time in every industrial cycle when a forcible reduction of wages beneath the value of labour-power is attempted so as to cheapen commodities.”56 Marx’s commentary on these crises is closely related to his treatment of the international expansion of the cotton industry as two sides of the same coin.

International Division of Labor

Consistent with the idea of a fundamental systemic contradiction that sublates through the levels of abstraction in the analysis, Marx begins to examine more concretely the international division of labor. The period between 1848 and 1860 saw rapid industrial expansion in England, with, for example, a doubling of cotton exports.57 The flip side of this was the massive increase in demand for machinery as instruments of production and, of course, for raw materials. In this connection, Marx cites interesting figures on the relative number of workers engaged in these various departments. He reports that 60,807 people were employed in the manufacture of machines in England and Wales in 1861. However, he compares this figure with his estimate that there were ten times as many wage laborers employed in the cotton industries and some four million enslaved African workers in the United States, of whom we conservatively estimate that almost a million were directly engaged in the production of cotton exported to Britain (probably about fifteen times as many as the workers producing the machines for cotton production). This is an indicator of the incipient polarization we have already mentioned between what are now (inaccurately) called capital-intensive and labor-intensive industries, and especially their social-geographical location.58

With the drive for surplus value in its various configurations, Marx gives us the internal driving force of what would otherwise be seen as a series of unrelated features. He details a huge increase in imports into Britain from the United States, India, Ireland, and Australia. He notes the supernumerary workers of the industrial sectors provided a new impetus to settler colonialism. At the same time, domestic production in India and Ireland was disrupted and destroyed, first by the repressive fiscal measures of the British colonial state, and then by undercutting by cheaper, machine-produced English goods. The author brings these points together in an overall synthesis: “A new and international division of labour springs up, one suited to the requirements of the main industrial countries, and it converts one part of the globe into a chiefly agricultural field of production for supplying the other [industrial] part.”59 This is at least the germ of a theory of imperialism and unequal exchange.

Land Dispossession, Migrant Workers, and Subsistence Plots to Cheapen the Products of Labor

Whether and how workers maintain the connection to the land is a crucial question in the incipient divergence between capitalist development or underdevelopment. The ultimate illustration of the “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation” in chapter 25 is Ireland, which describes how English landlord colonialism seized the land, caused famine, and plunged millions of peasants into poverty leading to their death or emigration. Marx sees this as an acute example of how the mode of production works. This is the capitalist mode of production, which generates a supposed “surplus population,” which is surplus only with regard to its own rapacious mechanisms.60

The concentration of land ownership in the hands of settler English lords and the introduction of capitalist agriculture meant that there was a continuing expulsion of impoverished Irish farmers from their ancestral lands. Apart from agriculture, Ireland’s principal industry was shirt production from flax. The labor process was again arranged through “the system of domestic industry” as already described by Marx, “which possesses its own systematic means of rendering workers ‘redundant’ in the form of under-payment and over-work.”61

Industrialists in England forged an alliance with English landowners in Ireland as they reaped the benefits of cheap commodities and cheap immigrant labor. Unfortunately, the same conditions that united the two main wings of the ruling class were also to bring about the division of the working class. The young Engels was sensitive to the appalling conditions imposed upon Irish immigrant workers, even worse than English workers.62

In a later article, Engels points to the situation of the rural workers in the Irish and German cottage industries, whose pay was so low that they depressed “the general level of wages.” This was possible in Germany because the semiproletarian workers still had a “little garden or field” for their own subsistence and some income, which meant that the capitalists could pay very low piece-rates, which were actually deductions “from the price of labor-power.” Engels concludes: “This is the reason which maintains Germany’s capacity to compete on the world market in a whole number of small articles. The whole profit is derived from a deduction from normal wages and the whole surplus value can be presented to the purchaser. That is the secret of the extraordinary cheapness of most German export articles.”63

Bringing These Strands Together

Here we have a contrast. On the one hand, Marx and Engels report the increased exploitation of sections of workers subjected to particularly harsh oppressions, thus remunerating their labor power below its real value. This was used by capital to extract (what I provisionally call) relational surplus value, necessarily in concrete combination with other methods of increasing surplus value. Examples include the introduction of women, youth, and children into factories and domestic industries; the racialized mode of exploitation of enslaved Black labor producing cotton; the colonial exploitation of poor Irish peasants forced off the land to enter the labor market in England as cheap, disadvantaged immigrant labor; and workers with access to small plots of land forced to supplement their meager wages with subsistence food production. All these oppressions are reproduced as capitalist social relations that structure divisive competition within the working class. In addition, there are points of crisis, whether sectoral or generalized for the system as a whole, where the capitalist class attacks the working class to provoke sharp wage reductions, to drive the price of labor power below its value and thus set the conditions for a new cycle of accumulation. It is a way of readjusting what is considered the value of labor power.

On the other hand, Marx repeatedly disciplines himself in the short, overtly conceptual chapters that punctuate volume 1 as the entry points (chapters 4 to 9, 12, 13, and 24) and consolidation points (chapters 11, 16 through 18) for the longer, more empirically rich chapters (chapters 10, 14, 15, and 25). Despite the reported inequalities in the working class, in his theoretical summaries of the laws of surplus value Marx sets these inequalities aside for the purpose of analysis, relying on the assumption of labor power paid at its value and the corollary of a standardized, average rate of surplus value applicable to the working class as a whole. Even in the “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,” chapter 25, where Marx is explicit about how the accumulation of capital causes the reproduction of different layers in the working class, this important recognition does not feed back to further develop the concept of surplus value.

The Dialectics of Dependency as an Advance on Capital

The shared perspective of dependency thought is the recognition of capitalist colonial exploitation and its neocolonial legacies. Eduardo Galeano summarizes this well in the distinction between free labor and subjugated labor involving further degrees of subordination and oppression.64 Now, according to Marini, subjugated labor is not precapitalist; it is a distinct entry point into the labor relation of capital in its maturity, stripped even of the liberal pretense of formal equality that was at the heart of Marx’s theoretical critique of political economy.

Marini followed Marx’s method by orienting theoretical explanation as a dialectical movement: from circulation to production, that is, from the initial appearance of export commodities in dependent economies to their essence; and then, based on the analysis of the essential social relations of production found there, back to their necessary form of appearance as commodities in international trade.65 In this combined approach, Marini analyses the reality of social relations in a subordinated region in conjunction with its export-oriented production axes. He shows that, as it emerged in Latin America, capitalism was both different from and dependent on capitalism in Europe. Specifically, the shift to modern industry in Britain was based not only on the increased productivity of factory workers in the metropolis, but simultaneously on the supply of cheap imports of food and raw materials. Like Marx, Marini examines capitalism at various levels of abstraction. The level of abstraction is not what differentiates Marini’s account from Marx’s, but his view from a subordinated continent, a different perspective at all levels of abstraction of the capitalist mode of production.

The Dialectics of Dependency is certainly concise; Marini often distills huge points into a few elegant sentences. This is in itself a challenge to comprehension. Sometimes the importance can be lost simply by the brevity of his expression. To unpack Marini is to understand him, to appreciate his paradigmatic contribution. Two key passages that have been highlighted in Latimer’s presentation deserve sustained attention. They are a) Marini’s positioning of the superexploitation of labor in relation to Marx’s theory of surplus value, and b) his response to Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s initial critique on unequal exchange.66 In addition, I would point to c) Marini’s comments on labor superexploitation and slavery which position his arguments in relation to both Marx and Cardoso in a way that is based on his interpretation of Brazilian historical reality in contrast to slavery elsewhere in the Americas, including in the (dis)United States.67 For the sake of brevity, we examine only the relation of superexploitation to Marx’s theory here.

The Superexploitation of Labor in Relation to the Theory of Surplus Value

Proceeding from the problem of how to explain unequal exchange, Marini presents superexploitation as the combination of three methods of increasing surplus value: “the intensification of work, the extension of the working day, and the expropriation of part of the labor necessary for the worker to replenish his labor-power—give rise to a mode of production based exclusively on the greater exploitation of the worker, and not on the development of his productive capacity. This is consistent with the low level of development of the productive forces in the Latin American economy, but also with the kinds of activities that are carried out there.”68

For Marini, in combination with longer and more intense work, superexploitation implies “a third procedure, which consists of reducing the worker’s consumption beyond its normal limit, so that ‘it transforms the worker’s necessary fund for consumption, within certain limits, into a fund for the accumulation of capital, which implies a specific mode of increasing surplus labor time.'”69

The quotation that identifies this “specific mode of increasing surplus labor time” is from Capital, chapter 24, on the conversion of surplus value into capital. It would seem that Marini agrees with Marx on this point. However, there is a difference between them, which is not in the content, but rather in the theoretical status given to this method of increasing surplus value. The category identified by Marini as the core of superexploitation fits exactly with the category briefly examined by Marx at the beginning of chapter 12 and then set aside until another brief discussion in chapter 24. In terms of his advance on Marx, Marini’s “third procedure” is crucial, and conforms with the “third form of surplus value” denied by Banaji.

In contrast to the confusions of bourgeois political economy that he criticizes, Marx makes it clear that he has not included this method of “reducing the worker’s consumption,” that is, cutting wages, in his general conceptualization of surplus value. He acknowledges that “in the chapters on the production of surplus value we constantly assumed that wages were at least equal to the value of labor-power. But the forcible reduction of the wage of labor beneath its value plays too important a role in the practical movement of affairs for us not to stay with this phenomenon for a moment. In fact, it transforms the worker’s necessary fund for consumption, within certain limits, into a fund for the accumulation of capital.”70

This particular “but” is massive. In theory, as in reality, reductions of wages below the value of labor power are essential to the mode of production in general. What matters is this: Is the remuneration of some workers below the real value of labor power part of the essence of the capitalist mode of production or not? That is the common thread to follow.

The three methods of increasing surplus value that Marx considers in some detail separately and in combination, that is, increasing the duration of labor, the productivity of labor, and the intensity of labor, become, in Marini’s theorization, four methods of increasing surplus value, with the inclusion of remuneration below the value of labor power. Marx shows time and again that the drive of capital to increase surplus value, to go beyond a given degree of exploitation, includes reducing wages. But he does not give this theoretical expression the form of a given concept. It is this that the legacy of Marini’s breakthrough puts firmly back on the table.

Overcoming the Limiting Assumption, the New Perspective in the General Analysis

We have seen that Marx gives many examples of wages below the value of labor power due to more oppressive conditions, and that in several cases he recognized this as increasing exploitation.71 Now Marx explains that in the capitalist mode of production the rate of surplus value is “an exact expression” of the degree of labor exploitation, so these cases would therefore correspond to increases in the rate of surplus value. So why did Marx not consider wages below the value of labor power as a different aspect or dimension of the determination of surplus value?72

I do not claim to have the definitive answer, which is in any case now impossible. Nevertheless, the question is important in terms of how it shapes what we do now. As the subtitle of the work says, Capital is both an analysis of the capitalist mode of production and a critique of classical political economy. Marx goes beyond the limits of the bourgeois horizon. Capital is an immanent critique of David Ricardo and Adam Smith, who both advanced versions of the labor theory of value but did not explain surplus value. Marx explains surplus value on the basis of equivalent exchange, and he succeeds because he realized that between capital and labor there is not just one exchange, but rather two distinct but related exchanges, one in circulation and one in production. What appears in the wage form as an exchange for labor is for labor power, the potential to create new value. There is then a second “exchange” in the labor process, in which labor actually produces new value, including the surplus value that is the motive that drives capital. Hence, even under conditions of a contract of equivalent values there is still exploitation. The key is the distinction between the value of labor power and the new value it produces, that is, surplus value. The assumption of equivalence is then of two distinct equivalences in the double relation between the capitalist class and the working class, which served to arrive at the concept of surplus value—an enormous achievement.

Equivalence should not be confused with equality. For example, in the text prepared for volume 3 of Capital, part 3, on the falling rate of profit, Marx begins to develop further the “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,” with a stronger sense of the imperative of internal contradiction that necessarily leads to systemic crisis. His notes identify important counteracting factors, which are mostly ways of increasing the exploitation of labor. However, Marx again postpones the theoretical analysis of the reduction of wages below the value of labor power on the grounds that “it has nothing to do with the general analysis of capital, but has its place in an account of competition, which is not dealt with in this work.”73

Yet Marx does look at competition among workers. In volume 1, chapter 25, on the “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,” he examines how the capitalist reproduction of social relations generates different layers of the working class. We might consider Marx’s exclusion as a pragmatic effort to limit his scope as he struggled to complete Capital as a project. Even though the organization of volume 3 is fairly clear, some of Marx’s notes were not, and the volume required a decade of work by Engels in order to be published. We are entering a realm of conjecture, but in my opinion, had he survived to do so, it is quite possible that Marx would have completed the counteracting factors along similar lines to his extensive detailing of the “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,” that is to say, he would have had to deal with competition among workers in the context of a profit crisis. However, it is also true that Marx intended to write six volumes, which would have allowed him to take up the subject again in more concrete terms. Such remarks would be completely hypothetical were it not for the fact that they refer us back to the question of levels of abstraction.

Marx represented the excessive and oppressive conditions of exploitation as unfettered, or with very weak and nominal limits. And how is this to be understood in relation to his fundamental concept of surplus value? It is true that the liberal bourgeoisie do not see exploitation when there is a “fair wage for a fair day’s work”; that they only see exploitation when it is particularly excessive and oppressive, which they believe can be solved by political arrangements within the system. But this is not a sufficient reason for Marxism not to explain these practices from the theory of surplus value, since they are the forms (configurations) that capital pursues to increase exploitation that cannot be resolved without overthrowing the whole system. Marxist theory cannot assume equality when all around we see structured inequalities. The capitalist mode of production systematically produces inequalities in the working class. Workers’ lives are objectively differentiated as of more or less value in capitalism. These differentiated social relations of exploitation and superexploitation are essential to the mode of production, rather than some epiphenomena of lesser general significance.

Countering the effects of competition between different sections of the working class features prominently in Marx’s popular lectures on Value, Price and Profit for the International Workingmen’s Association.74 While the efforts of the association united French and English workers, they were not sufficient to overcome the prejudices of the English trade union leaders, who were against the more militant Irish immigrants, especially in the struggle of those in the Fenian movement for independence. The disunity between the English-led unions and the Irish workers was one of the reasons for the breakup of the organization. Marx’s practice was informing his theory at this point. His chapter on the “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation” ends with a call to support the Fenians, the Irish national liberation movement of his time.75

While in the first volume of Capital, Marx stresses that the turn towards modern industry after 1848 brought capitalism in Britain into rapid economic expansion, he also encountered the political consequences of the turn. The new contours of the division of labor were just beginning to reshape the formation of the domestic working class, both materially and in terms of consciousness. As V. I. Lenin emphasized, from this time onward, a labor aristocracy began to consolidate, first in England and then more generally in Western Europe.76 Marini’s main focus in The Dialectics of Dependency is on precisely this same period of rapid industrial expansion. The move to relative surplus value methods in England was made possible by large-scale labor superexploitation in Latin America (and in India, Africa, and so on).

Another Look at Capital with Extended Dimensions of Surplus Value

With labor superexploitation, we see once again that the drive to increase surplus value in order to make more profit is the central motor of the capitalist mode of production. This drive overdetermines the law of value in its simple commodity form. Surplus value is not a fixed essence, but the internal dynamic of class exploitation. To complete the initial conception of surplus value, we must consider the methods of its increase. Marx’s exposition in Capital begins this path in volume 1 from chapter 7 onward, but the necessary linearity of the text, the complex structure of the work, and its incompleteness must also be taken into account. In chapter 7, Marx considers what the labor process consists of in any mode of production, and then what is the specifically capitalist imprint on the labor process. With this distinction in mind, we can see the following determinants necessary to increase the product of a given labor power, which hold under any mode of production, but are given a special stamp under the capitalist mode of production:

  • Extending the working day;
  • Intensifying labor activity;
  • Increasing the productivity of labor through cooperation, the division of labor and machinery (technology);
  • Increasing productivity through worker skill, ability, and education;
  • Increasing labor productivity through specific, favorable natural conditions;
  • Reducing the necessary labor time required by cutting the price of labor power (reducing variable capital).

These are all methods of increasing surplus value that are therefore its essential and yet contradictory determinations. They are all sublated as contradictions of the system as a whole.

The question is not so much one of the different levels of abstraction between Capital and The Dialectics of Dependency, but of the different perspectives on capitalism as a world system from which they are written. The impact of Marini’s thought, as a theoretical representation of the different experiences of the working class in Latin America, is that it brings a different perspective to that of Marx on the multiple levels of abstraction of the three volumes of Capital. Marini’s thought is a springboard for a comprehensive reworking of Capital. I argue that Marini effectively achieved this for the main conclusions of volume 2, and that a similar redetermination is possible for volumes 1 and 3.

Concerning volume 1, labor superexploitation points to another dimension of surplus value that is a general and essential feature of the capitalist mode of production. Concerning volume 2, later work by Marini and, independently, Hosea Jaffe rightly repositioned the departments of commodity production as differentiated between core (developed) and peripheral (underdeveloped) economies.77

As for volume 3, there are two substantial theoretical challenges flowing from Marxist dependency theory. First, the reframing of the transformation problem with different rates of surplus value will explain unequal exchange as a form of value transfer. Thus, the modification of production prices has a major implication for commodity chain analysis.78

The second substantial challenge in volume 3 is, as noted, the theory of land rent as an example of “surplus profit,” according to Marx. This topic is key for analyzing the extractivism of large-scale mining, large-scale agriculture, hydropower, and hydrocarbon fields that is so rapacious to this day. Imperialist rent is an extension of superexploitation, as it refers to surplus profits and the depletion of its source through favorable resources extracted from nature. The production of “false social value” leads to the analysis of the chain of profits and surplus profits, largely captured by states in consortium with national and multinational corporations.79

Conclusions and Tasks

We have examined the Marxism of Marxist dependency theory, focusing on the conceptual relationship between The Dialectics of Dependency and Capital. In our assessment, Marini takes Marxism beyond Marx in a very positive way, bringing it closer to the realities of the majority of the world working class. Marini takes Marxism further than Lenin’s generation and the classical theories of modern imperialism, because he directly addresses the reality of a divided world system and the international division of labor from the perspective of the subjugated working class—in fact, the majority of the working class.

Marini’s work prompts us to re-examine one of Marx’s key methodological assumptions, that of the exchange of labor power at full value, which assumes a common degree of exploitation across all sections of the working class, regardless of their unequal social treatment in practice. Marx recognized that this was a limiting assumption which he expressed as a standardized rate of surplus value. Even so, he gives many examples of the centrifugal dynamic pushing toward harsher conditions and lower wages. The assumption of uniformity does not correspond to a world in which the capitalist mode of production systematically generates international inequalities and regenerates specific oppressions in the working class, as seen in the global “race to the bottom.” Marini and other comrades in the tendency of thought that he founded have shown that labor superexploitation is fundamental to the contradictory dynamics of capitalism in the dependent and subordinated regions of the world. Working-class unity can only be achieved if the basis of its divisions by capitalism are understood both in theory and in practice. Hence, we argue for a comprehensive project that is based on Capital, yet goes beyond it, in order to take full account of the superexploitation of labor. We conclude that relational inequality generates and is reproduced by labor superexploitation and relational surplus value.

Marini provided an original theoretical synthesis on the fundamental role of superexploitation that should be at the center of future work on capitalist imperialism. Marini shifts our conception of the very essence of the capitalist mode of production to include its commitment to exploit cheap labor. This seemingly small step by Marini is a giant conceptual leap for the international working class, as it changes the paradigm of what is the essence of the capitalist mode of production. It is a journey from the epistemological periphery to the center of our knowledge of capitalism that corresponds best to reality, that labor superexploitation is the essence of capitalism as imperialism.

We argue that the reduction of wages below the value of labor power is part of the general analysis of capital and must therefore be included at all relevant levels of abstraction, starting from the elaboration of surplus value. To relegate the experience of the oppressed sections of the working class to a lower level than that claimed for the working class as a whole is a political as well as theoretical mistake, which in the end can be used as a defense of its most privileged layers. It is a way of blunting Marini’s edge, a bridge into assimilation by Eurocentric Marxism, just at the moment when we need to build the bridge on different terms, effectively starting in the opposite direction and building on the new foundations laid by Marini. The Marxist labor theory of value has to catch up with the reality of structural divisions in the world working class or it will wither and die.

Finally, what is the other necessary and indispensable modification of Marx’s theory of surplus value that we have mentioned, yet also not developed? Underpinning all forms of surplus value is the unpaid domestic and care work, mostly performed by women. This essential precondition of surplus value needs to be integrated into the discussion.80 With this qualification, the revolutionary legacies of both Marx and Marini are necessary for the coming struggles for socialism in the twenty-first century. Marini’s contribution was a great advance that still leaves much more to be done. We celebrate Capital and The Dialectics of Dependency by carrying them forward.


  1. Ruy Mauro Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2022).
  2. Marini’s works and related materials in Spanish and Portuguese are available at
  3. For the latter, see Ruy Mauro Marini, “Brazilian Subimperialism,” Monthly Review 23, no. 9 (February 1972): 14–24.
  4. Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 161.
  5. See especially John Smith, Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016). Other relevant contributions include Andy Higginbottom, “Structure and Essence in Capital and the Stages of Capitalism,” Journal of Australian Political Economy 70 (2012): 251–70; Jaime Osorio, “The Latin American Debate: Dependent Capitalism, Superexploitation, and Revolution,” Social Justice 40, no. 4 (2014): 5–24; Adrian Sotelo Valencia, The Future of Work (Leiden: Brill, 2015); Benjamin Selwyn, “Poverty Chains and Global Capitalism,” Competition & Change 23, no. 1 (2019): 71–97; Intan Suwandi, Value Chains (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2019); Zak Cope, The Wealth of (Some) Nations: Imperialism and the Mechanics of Value Transfer, (London: Pluto, 2019); Mariano Féliz, “Notes For a Discussion on Unequal Exchange and the Marxist Theory of Dependency,” Historical Materialism 29, no. 4 (2021): 114–52.
  6. Andre Gunder Frank, World Accumulation 1492–1789 (London: MacMillan, 1978), 239–40.
  7. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 3 (London: Penguin, 1981), 342.
  8. See John Bellamy Foster, “A Missing Chapter of Monopoly Capital,” Monthly Review 64, no. 3 (July–August 2012): 13–14.
  9. Frank, World Accumulation 1492–1789, 240.
  10. Jairus Banaji “Gunder Frank in Retreat?,” in Neo-Marxist Theories of Development, ed. Bruce McFarlane and Peter Limqueco (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983), 97–113. Emphasis added.
  11. For an explanation of the distinction based on translations from Marx’s original German, see Gérard Duménil, Le Concept de Loi Économique dans Le Capital (Paris: Maspero, 1978), 274–78.
  12. Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), 590.
  13. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 432–37.
  14. Marcel Van der Linden, “The Imperial Mode of Living in the Context of Crisis,” Conference on International Solidarity and Relational Inequality (Amsterdam: SOC21, 2020).
  15. Carlos Alves do Nascimento, Fernando Frota Dillenburg, and Fábio Maia Sobral, “Teoria da exploração e da superexploração da força de trabalho em O Capital (Livro I) de Marx,” Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Economia Política 40 (2015): 107–31.
  16. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 343.
  17. Nascimento, Dillenburg, and Sobral, “Teoria da exploração e da superexploração da força de trabalho em O Capital de Marx,” 114.
  18. Hugo Figueira Corrêa and Marcelo Dias Carcanholo “Uma teoria da superexploração da força de trabalho em Marx? Um Marx que nem mesmo ele tinha percebido,” Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Economia Política 44 (2016): 10–30. The authors’ argument is summarized in English in Marcelo Dias Carcanholo and Hugo F. Corrêa, “Ruy Mauro Marini (1932–97)” in The Routledge Handbook of Marxism and Post-Marxism, ed. Alex Callinicos, Stathis Kouvelakis, and Lucia Pradella (London: Routledge, 2021), 526–33.
  19. Jaime Osorio, “Fundamentos de la superexplotación,” Razón y Revolución 25 (2013): 9–34.
  20. Jaime Osorio, ““Fundamentos de la superexplotación,” 10.
  21. For a fuller explanation see Andy Higginbottom, “Reading Marx’s Capital for the 21st Century” (lecture series at the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, 2022),
  22. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 643–72.
  23. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 646.
  24. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 135.
  25. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 61–71, 303, 305, 470, 503, 545, 558–60, 590–91.
  26. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 648.
  27. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 650.
  28. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 510.
  29. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 353.
  30. Marx, Capital, vol. 3, chap. 5.
  31. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 337, 353–56.
  32. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 377.
  33. For different views on this, see W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (New York: The Free Press, 1998); Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 235–36; Charles Post, The American Road to Capitalism (Boston: Brill, 2011); Eugene Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014); Andy Higginbottom, “Enslaved African Labour: Violent Racial Capitalism” in The Palgrave Encyclopaedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, ed. Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019); John Clegg, “A Theory of Capitalist Slavery,” Journal of Historical Sociology 33 (2020):74–98; John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Brett Clark, “Marx and Slavery,” Monthly Review 72, no. 3 (July–August 2020): 96–114.
  34. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 557–58.
  35. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 318.
  36. Stephanie Smallwood, “What Slavery Tells Us about Marx,” in Race Capitalism Justice, ed. Walter Johnson with Robin D. G. Kelley (Cambridge, MA: Boston Review, 2017): 78–82.
  37. See, for example Frederick Engels, “The Condition of the Working Class in England,” Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 4 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2010), 295–596.
  38. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 303–4.
  39. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 345, cited in Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 131.
  40. Frank, World Accumulation 1492–1789, 257; Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 925.
  41. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 355, 369, 516–20.
  42. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 368–74, 517–26.
  43. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 417.
  44. See, for example, Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 518–19, 627.
  45. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 620.
  46. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 431. Emphasis added.
  47. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 590.
  48. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 599.
  49. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 601.
  50. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 605.
  51. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 515.
  52. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 515.
  53. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 516–17.
  54. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 531.
  55. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 396.
  56. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 582. Emphasis added.
  57. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 543.
  58. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 571, 574.
  59. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 579–80.
  60. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 862.
  61. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 863.
  62. Engels, “The Condition of the Working Class in England.”
  63. Engels, “Preface to the Second Edition of The Housing Question,” MECW, vol. 16 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2010): 424–33. Emphasis in the original. Thank you to Marcel van Linden for drawing attention to this source.
  64. Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973), 147.
  65. Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 136.
  66. Amanda Latimer, “Situating Ruy Mauro Marini (1932–1997)” in Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 21–101.
  67. Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 131–35.
  68. Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 131; see also 132.
  69. Marini, The Dialectics of Dependency, 130.
  70. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 747–48. Emphasis added.
  71. For example, Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 518, 564, 747.
  72. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 326.
  73. Marx, Capital, vol. 3, 342.
  74. Karl Marx, “Value, Price and Profit” MECW, vol. 20 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2010), 101–49.
  75. Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 870.
  76. I. Lenin, “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” Lenin’s Collected Works, vol. 20, chap. 8 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), 393–454.
  77. Ruy Mauro Marini, “Plusvalía extraordinaria y acumulación de capital,” Cuadernos Políticos 20 (1979): 19–39; Hosea Jaffe, La plusvalía oculta: ¿Cómo funciona el imperialismo? (Bilbao: Zero, 1978).
  78. See Andy Higginbottom, “Marx’s Capital, Labour, Super-Exploitation and a Fresh Take on the ‘Transformation Problem’” (online lecture series).
  79. See Andy Higginbottom, “‘Imperialist rent’ in Practice and Theory,” Globalizations 11, no. 1 (2014): 23–33; Jaime Osorio, “Ley Del Valor, Intercambio Desigual, Renta De La Tierra y Dependencia,” Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Economia Política 46 (2017): 78–102; Andy Higginbottom, “The Imperialist Multinational: Concentration, Fiction or Rent?” in Imperialism and Transitions to Socialism, ed. Rémy Herrera (Bingley, UK: Emerald, 2021), 39–57.
  80. See Olivia Adamson, Carol Brown, Judith Harrison, and Judy Price, “Women’s Oppression Under Capitalism,” Revolutionary Communist 5 (1976): 1–48; and especially Claudia Jones, An End to the Neglect of the Problems of Negro Women (New York: New Century, 1949); Carole Boyce Davies, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008); Charisse Burden-Stelly, “Modern U.S. Racial Capitalism,” Monthly Review 72, no. 3 (July–August 2020): 8–20.
2023, Volume 74, Number 11 (April 2023)
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