Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Marx on agriculture

Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 3:

The moral of the tale, which can also be extracted from other discussions of agriculture, is that the capitalist system runs counter to a rational agriculture, or that a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist system (even if the latter promotes technical development in agriculture) and needs either small farmers working for themselves or the control of the associated producers.

So "rational agriculture" requires either "small farmers working for themselves" or "the control of the associated producers."

We see where this puts Marx in relation to pre-industrial figures, like Jefferson*, in the first case; while his criteria for evaluating large-scale agriculture as it has developed since can be found in the second. What is the common principle between examples?

*It should be said, in principle.

1 comment:

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Interesting to wonder about the distinction between technical developments in agriculture, and technological ones.

Easy to say, retrospectively, that technological developments have pushed fewer improvements in what matters for farming: sustainability, ease of retaining quality control over what's grown. The aims of a capitalist system are to seek "efficiency" but only with respect to profitability, and not with respect to long-term utility. There's nothing efficient about destroying the growing platform's nutrients, and then having to pump all sorts of fertilizers into the ground to enable growth, which growth requires more management time and material than a natural growth that is in harmony with natural cycles of soil nutrification and its depletion.

Of course technological "advancement" drives technique, especially when large-scale industrial farms push farming away from a nature-conneced activity and into a purely commercial one.

Commerce doesn't care about nature's ways. It's an artificial, man-made construct that wishes natural order didn't exist. It's more than a little arrogant.