Social Scientist. v 11, no. 127 (Dec 1983) p. 36.

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This immanent tendency of capitalist development to centralise the scattered production processes and transform the technical base of production is usually severely retarded or restricted in the underdeveloped countries. The persistence of lower forms of capitalism over large segments of industry has generally been accepted as a characteristic feature of these countries. It is within this context that some have questioned the usefulness of the traditional Marxian framework for analysing the experience of underdeveloped countries.

A major part of the confusion arises from a wrong understanding of Marx's treatment of the problem. It should be remembered that Marx's schematic description of capitalist development, which we have outlined above,1 is only an abstraction and not a description of any concrete historical situation. The actual historical process is not an unilinear process where the lower forms are superseded by higher forms in a uniform chronological sequence. A careful reading of Marx or Lenin does not give any impression of monotony or simplicity in the process of capitalist development. The development of capitalism is accompanied by the constant emergence of lower forms in new industrial branches or even within the same industry. However, these petty production structures are sooner or later destroyed througli a process of internal differentiation amongst them or through competition from higher forms of production. Therefore, the lower forms increasingly tend to survive only as adjuncts to higher forms or as a part of an industrial structure dominated by the higher forms. Thus, domestic industry, for example, can be found within a manufactory industrial structure as well as under a modern factory system. This Marxist position sharpiv differs from variants of "dualist theories" that ignore the interrelationships of various forms and conceal their tendencies of motion.

Domestic industry is subordinated to the higher forms by what Lenin describes as "an intricate web of economic relations".2 The dominant forms find it useful to conserve them. "By giving out material to be worked up at home, the employers lower wages, economise on premises, partly on implements and supervision, evade the not always welcome demands made on manufacturers...get workers who are scattered, divided and less capable of self-defense and also unpaid masters for these workers—'middlemen', 'subcontractors' the shape of handicraftsmen they employ and who in turn employ wage labour."3

The survival of the lower forms of production depends precisely on the preservation of those conditions that enable them to economise on labour and capital. 'The preservation of these conditions is not something that is determined merely by the pace of development or the requirements of the dominant forms. This is the pitfall of various 'dependency theories', in which the articulation of the relations between the lower and higher forms is seen as a mere fulfilment of the needs of the latter. To treat the lower forms as a mere residual category will be tantamount to neglecting the internal dynamics of the lower forms.

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