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      Overexploitation of the Workforce and Concentration of Wealth: Key Issues for Development Policy in Brazilian Peripheral Capitalism



            This article aims to work out transformational proposals for development policies in Brazil sustained by Ruy Mauro Marini's analysis of the nature of peripheral capitalism in Latin America. In his analysis, superexploitation is constituted as a category showing the structural conditions of capitalism in Latin America, which tend to reproduce. In his most important work— Dialectics of Dependence (1973 [2000])—Marini shows that this very specific Latin American capitalism is deformed as compared to that observed in advanced countries. In this case, superexploitation does not impair the reproduction of labor power, but it limits the dynamics of accumulation through the extraordinary concentration of income and wealth. Considering that the political stance of Marini is clearly revolutionary, the proposals are valid only as an exegesis of his thought, and are not presented as a result of its theoretical propositions. The idea is to associate superexploitation and concentration of wealth, showing that the sui generis nature of peripheral capitalism represents a concentration of wealth and income much higher than that observed in developed capitalism.


            Author and article information

            World Review of Political Economy
            Pluto Journals
            Spring 2013
            : 4
            : 1
            : 4-24
            Copyright 2013 World Association for Political Economy

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            Political economics
            peripheral capitalism,development policy,concentration of wealth,superexploitation,Latin America


            1. As is well said in Hirsch (2010: 209–217), the limitation of scale imposed by the workers' underconsumption can be overcome by capitalist consumption (especially for consumer commodities production). However, there are likely to be dynamic effects of this as discussed later in this article.

            2. This is mentioned by scholars who study Marini's thought. See, for example, Osorio (2004: 90).

            3. In fact, it is a Descriptive Memorial, UNB's academic requirements for the process of his reintegration after his return to Brazil.

            4. See Fonseca (2004).

            5. See Bonente and Almeida Filho (2008), Almeida Filho and Corrêa (2011) and Bonente (2011).

            6. For a good review of the visions in dispute, in the 1960s in Brazil, see Bresser-Pereira (1985, cap1.—Six Interpretations of Brazil), available at http://www.bresserpereira.org.br/papers/1982/82-SeisInterpretacoes.p.pg.pdf (accessed March 8, 2012).

            7. See Arrighi (2008).

            8. In Arrighi (1995), there is a formulation of this idea, defining the Organic Nucleus of Capitalism, formed by the countries that have defined the direction of global development in the last fifty years.

            9. Development, in this precise sense, is the range of all possible dimensions of capitalist society. Bonente 2011) shows Marx's ontological development, keeping the potential meaning of privatization of all aspects of capitalist society. This way of understanding the development of capitalism in Marx can deduce limits to development, which are not permanent but that engender crises in social formations globally and nationally.

            10. As we shall see later, there are historical changes affecting these two elements, particularly the intensity of work that has occurred since the 1970s and especially in the 1990s.

            11. See “The reasons for neodesenvolvimentismo (response to Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Serra),” Marini (2000: 167–242).

            12. This article reproduces a debate confined to Brazilian development, considering the origin of the contenders and the importance of Brazil in Latin America.

            13. Reference to a brief text critical of Marini's propositions is “Misadventures of the Dialectic of Dependency,” Jose Serra and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, written in January 1978, available at http://www.cebrap.org.br/v1/upload/biblioteca_virtual/as_desventuras_da_dialetica.pdf (accessed January 22, 2012).

            14. As is shown in Carcanholo (2012), it would be better to say “overexploitation of the workforce.” Apparently, Marini is making a structural reference to Latin American capitalism, hence the reference to the overexploitation of labor, a product of class domination.

            15. This change in abstraction level is pointed out in Osorio (2004: 90): “The categories and relationships that work [capital] are the starting point to discuss the organization of analysis units less abstract (or concrete), but it does not do it entirely. Hence the need for new categories in order to analyze the capitalist world system, patterns of reproduction of capital, socio-economic formations and conjuncture. […] The notion of superexploitation explains the way in which dependent economies reproduce capital in the context of developing such systems. His treatment, such as imperialism or categories for the analysis of conjuncture, will not be found in the work of Marx, because the units of analysis that they express are not addressed in Capital .”

            16. The work of both Ruy Mauro Marini and Theotônio dos Santos is better known in other Latin American countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba than in Brazil. This piece of information is in the preface to “Dialectics of Dependence” written by Emir Sader as the introduction to Marini (2000).

            17. “The pattern of reproduction of capital points to the ways in which the capital is set out in specific historical periods and determined geographical-economic social areas, being regions or social economic formations. In this sense the pattern of reproduction of capital is a category that allows for mediation between general levels of analysis and less abstract or historical levels. In this sense, it uses conceptual and methodological levels present in the abstract, but claims of categories and methodologies that are proper” (Osorio 2004: 36).

            18. This is a contentious issue that divides authors who take shelter in the Marxist perspective. In Possas (1989) there is a proposition defining the object of Marx in Capital , arguing that grasping the more general nature of the movement of capital—a form of reproduction of capitalist society—is not sufficient to account for the actual dynamics. “(…) The important thing to note here is the impossibility of reducing the real dynamics, in its more concrete theoretical determinations, to the mere ‘expression’ outside of one or more laws of motion” (1989: 24). The author's proposition is to define, beyond the object of Marx in Capital , the object of Economic Dynamics, i.e. the movement of the accumulation level of the plurality of capitals, where the nature of the monetary economy (Keynes) is privileged. Osorio (2004: 90) calls this a cyclical plan.

            19. See Malta (2011: 196–199).

            20. This feature was more important until the 1970s. Thereafter, with the progress of the financialization of capitalist development and the growing integration of national economies, the macroeconomic scale became virtually identified with economic dynamics.

            21. It is important to note that we are referring to a debate that occurred in the context of critical thinking in its various forms. This debate has achieved orthodoxy, but then the discussion was set in the apparent level of the process of income concentration and so is not important for this article.

            22. The debate was established at the disclosure of data from the Brazilian Census of 1970. A comparison of these data with those of the Census of 1960 showed income concentration. The Brazilian military governments diffused a favorable image of Brazilian development. The book edited by Tolipan and Tinelli (1975) condenses different views of this phenomenon.

            23. This is an interpretation because he only deals with two groups of economies, developed and underdeveloped. Thus follows the idea of a global capitalist economic divide between these two groups. It must be noted that the theoretical work of Kalecki was done in a historical period of geopolitical and ideological polarization of the world, so the issue is with regard to the framework of capitalism, although we know of his concerns about underdeveloped socialist economies.

            24. This definition and its ramifications are better explained by Almeida Filho (1993).

            25. There are references to this phenomenon in several works of Brazilian development interpreters—Caio Prado Jr, Francisco de Oliveira, Celso Furtado, Maria da Conceição Tavares, Ignacio Rangel, Fernando Henrique Cardoso—and also in more recent works—Arandia (1992), Almeida Filho (1994), Cardoso and Pochmann Jr (2000), Ferreira (2000), among others. Therefore, it is a structural phenomenon that affects decisively the dynamics of accumulation in Brazil.

            26. The book by Joachim Hirsch (2010)— Materialist Theory of the State —is surely a reference to this embodiment. He maintains that: “The state apparatus is the field where it generates a regulation—by force or by consensus—of class relations, and where a policy of capital may appear relatively consistent which exceeds the existing competitive relationships. In the State system are reflected both the competitive capitalist relations and antagonistic class relations. This can result in an expansive dynamic which is not a direct product of the economic interests of valorization, as in the case of social consensus achieved by means of projections on the external enemy, or when internal legitimacy problems are offset by external aggression. That is, ‘trade’ may completely follow the flag” (2010: 215–216).


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