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Róbinson Rojas Sandford
Doctoral dissertation, London, 1984
* This section illustrates the case of a dependent system of production, which, at the same time is dynamic and "modernizing". ( I do suggest reading also pp 157-160, 161-189, and 190-241 of R. Rojas Sandford, "Latin America: blockages to development" )
[pp. 252-260]

    In my thesis I attempted to explain the state of social and
economic backwardness (generally labelled as "underdevelopment") in
Latin America by going beyond some of the major limitations which
exist in the theories of underdevelopment (Gunder Frank et al),
dependency (Dos Santos et al), development (mainly ECLA), and
capitalist world system (Wallerstein, Amin, Warren, et al).
    The major limitations of these theories are that they locate,
in various forms, the expansion of the world market as the origin
(cause) of the capitalist development, on the one hand, and that,
therefore, the underdevelopment of the peripheral areas is a
consequence of the former's development, on the other hand. Such
analyses are based on the assumption that the extra-historical
universe of individual profit maximizers competing in the market
are the cause of capitalist development (and capitalist
underdevelopment as a necessary condition of the former); hence the
development of societies is located outside, or above, any system
of relations of exploitation ( social relations of production which
make possible the expropriation of a surplus belonging to one social
group by another social group ).
    Consequently, the logic of such analysis is that the rise of
specific class relations based on a specific dominant relation of
production, is not the basis of that specific development, but its
result. It seems to me that this is an  analysis that cannot
explain much of the historical evidence, let alone the fact that in
Latin America there is a relatively extended capitalist development
and, nevertheless, the class structure prevailing in the region
does not correspond to that capitalist development. Thus, the
economic overdetermination of these theories does not permit them
to explain the class and productive structure existing in the
region, but are only fair descriptions of them, leading to focus on
technical solutions (economic planning, free market, etc), rather
than to look at the sociology of the process as a first step.
    Historical evidence shows that the origin of any development
of a new system of production is located in the emergence of new
relations of production between individuals, as an outcome of class
struggles, the latter, both conflict and social classes originated
within the old social relations of production. Thus, as Marx states
"all development of merchant's capital tends to give production
more and more the character of production for exchange-value and to
turn products more and more into commodities. Yet its incapable by itself of promoting and explaining
the transition from one mode of production to another". Moreover,
"on the basis of every mode of production, trade facilitates the
production of surplus-products destined for exchange, in order to
increase the enjoyments, or the wealth, of the producers (here are
meant the owners of the products)". (1)
    Consequently, the character of a mode of production is not
given by the extension of its trade, but from the specificity of
social relations within that mode.
    "In production, men not only act on nature but also on one
    another...In order to produce, they enter into definite
    connections and relations with one another and only within
    these social connections and relations does their action on
    nature, does production, take place"..."Capital, also, is a
    social relation of production"..."Are not the means of
    subsistence, the instruments of labour, the raw materials of
    which capital consists, produced and accumulated under given
    social conditions, in definite social relations?". (2)
    Ignoring this historical evidence, theories such as those of
underdevelopment and dependency cannot give a valid point of
reference for understanding the prevailing situation in Latin
America. Therefore, my thesis attempted to overcome these major
limitations in the process of explaining two major issues ever
present in recent Latin American history:
    a) the chronic inability of the region to industrialise along
    the model characterising the industrialised countries;
    b) the ever present contradiction of the greater the
    presence of capitalist relations of production in the  region,
the more its political institutions depart from what   is called
bourgeois democracy, as defined following Western European
    My argument has been composed of two parallel lines of
analysis. The first, using notions of Marxist theory of modes of
production, takes as its starting point that the historical
sequence of modes of production in Western Europe (described and
utilised by Marx in his work) is only a particularity with no
universal validity. Hence, I argued that the specific character of
each new mode of production is a product of the particularities
related to each historical event as individually considered.
    I argued that the collision between two modes of production
results in either,
1) the destruction of one of them, or
2) the appearance of a new mode of production, distinctive from   
the former two modes, as an outcome of the fusion, or   
articulation, of them. In this particular use of the notion   
"fusion", its meaning is direct: blending of different things   
into one; that is, as in "articulation", with the meaning of   
"join together" and "giving expression to" something.
    In the event of articulation, or fusion, it is potentially
possible that the social structure of one of the modes of
production was able to adapt itself to the relations of production
of the other mode; that is, dialectically, adapt these alien
relations of production to its social structure, not altering the
latter, but only modifying it. It follows that the resultant mode
of production will have some features belonging to both former
modes of production, but articulated in such a way that these
features will acquire a specificity of their own. That is, the
creation of a particular mode of production.
    I also contended that a major factor related to the permanence
through historical time of a specific mode of production is the
strength of its social structure, determined both by the rigidity
or elasticity of its specific relations of production and the
ability of its ruling class to overcome the class struggle carried
out against its domination by the class of direct producers. At the
same time, this specific social structure is the major barrier that
places specific limits on the various forms of economic
development. This is so, because it is the economic development (as
a specific economic structure) which reproduces the basic
conditions needed by the specific social structure to reproduce
itself and prolong its permanence.
    The notion of collision utilised in my analysis is
incorporated as an analytical tool to describe the inter-relation
of different modes of production. My notion of collision states
that this inter-relation is historical, hence particular, not being
overdetermined beforehand by any "universal law", that is, by an
extra-historical notion.
    In the second part of my analysis I stated that Portuguese and
Spanish colonisation of Latin America (that colonisation being the
bearer of the Western European feudal mode of production) produced
three major changes in the system of production prevailing there at
the time:
-it destroyed a portion of the native system of production;
-adapted another portion to meet the needs of the colonial        
-and, eventually, brought forward (articulated) a new mode of     
production, neither feudal nor native.
    The basic relation of production of this new mode of
production was one based on bartering surplus labour for the right
to cultivate means of subsistence on a tiny plot of land. This
relation of production, known as the relation hacendado-peon, took
various forms throughout the continent.
    Underpinning this specific relation of production (as distinct
from feudal rent, and from capitalist labour power as a commodity),
the colonial ruling class monopolised ownership of land and all
means of production, and the new system of production was a barrier
to accumulation of surplus labour by direct producers. Hence, the
social structure adequate to this system of production was one that
was extremely polarised and of the utmost rigidity (leaving almost
no room for middle sectors to develop from within the system), and,
at the same time, the ruling class was homogeneous, with the large
landowners being at the same time miners, or bankers and merchants,
and vice-versa. In this way, monopolistic ownership of land ensured
political and economic power, without the former being a barrier to
an economic growth shared by the entire ruling class.
    The relation hacendado-peon (reproduced at a different level
through the prolonged existence of the indian communities) ensured
an unlimited supply of labour power with a minimal cost, while,
simultaneously, keeping a substantial majority of the population
outside the domestic market, sidestepping in this way pressures of
a money economy.
    Conversely, the domestic market was overwhelmingly the market
of the ruling class. This situation, again, constituted a barrier
to the emergence of capitalist relations of production within the
Latin American social formation.
    In the XIX-XX centuries there occurred a second "collision".
This time, between the Latin American mode of production and the
capitalist mode of production. In this process, the colonial social
structure succeeded in adapting capitalist relations of production
(absorbing them gradually), and creating a system of production
that suited the needs of the colonial social structure to remain in
the same state with only marginal modifications.
    Therefore, in this phase of development, this non-capitalist
social structure placed boundaries (limits) within which capitalist
relations of production could develop in the system of production
in the region.
    Some of the major characteristics (from the point of view of
the ruling class) of this new system of production are as follows:
a) the enlarged accumulation of capital is tightly interlocked    
  with the capacity to import;
b) the domestic market must be relatively small to constitute a   
  source of profits and political power.
    At every stage of the development of capitalist relations of
production in Western Europe, there existed a capitalist class in
conflict with a landowning class. Conversely, in Latin America, the
capitalist class appeared and developed within the ranks of the
landowning class, in such a way that the appearance of the
capitalist class occurred as a necessity for the landowning class
to adapt to the economic needs of the whole system.
    The dominance of the capitalist mode of production in Western
European society was the outcome of a class struggle in which the
emergent industrial bourgeoisie destroyed the feudal social
structure. Conversely, in Latin America, there was not such a class
struggle, and the landowning class partially became the industrial
bourgeoisie through the capacity of the social structure to remain
largely in the same state.
    It follows that this new social and economic system prevailing
in Latin America reproduces pre-capitalist relations at the social
level while utilising capitalist relations at the level of
    These pre-capitalist relations at the social level give shape
to the mode of distribution, whose pattern is as follows:
- a highly regressive income distribution (which feeds back the   
 extreme social inequalities in the region).
- a fractured domestic market, with two main distinctive          
         1) ruling class consumption at the world capitalist    
         2) subordinate classes consumption largely at           
            subsistence level.
    The above corresponds to a similarly fractured system of
production, with a tiny minority of the labour force working in a
modern sector, with productivity levels similar to those found in
the industrialised countries, and, more than one third of the
labour force engaged in almost colonial production.
    From the economic point of view, this specific articulation
could be kept functioning through inter-relating the mechanisms of
enlarged accumulation of capital in Latin America to the world
capitalist mode of production ( the industrialised countries ) in
two main ways:
a) by supplying capital goods through imports and not trough      
  domestic production.
b) by producing basic commodities to sell in the world capitalist 
  market, without processing for the domestic market.
    This economic arrangement reinforces the consolidation of a
social structure polarised between a ruling and a ruled class, with
a socio-economic rigidity which constitutes a barrier to the
development within the system of middle sectors whose interests
could be antagonistic to those of the upper sectors. This situation
locates the Latin American middle class largely as supporters of
the prevailing social structure, which, in its turn, results in a
highly conservative and traditional political structure.
    The constant failure of attempts to "democratise" trough
popular fronts or middle sector reformist movements, as in Chile,
Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, etc.,
demonstrates this structural weakness of the middle sectors in the
continent. Moreover, it has been my argument that the failure of
the entire system to carry out agrarian reforms, even resisting
pressure from U.S. imperialism in this direction, demonstrates the
validity of my analysis.
    On the other hand, the combined action of the regional mode of
distribution and mode of accumulation dislocates the structural
relation existing between the sectors of production of capital
goods and consumer goods ( Department I and Department II, in
marxist terminology ) in a capitalist mode of production. In the
latter, Department I and Department II are interlocked through the
domestic capitalist market, within its system of production. The
growth of this domestic market is the main lever to the development
of the capitalist mode of production ( in this part of my analysis
it was not necessary to take into account the capitalist
contradictions between maximising profits, maximising output and
growth of the domestic market, as a result of enlarged labour force
at work and increased average wages).
    Conversely, in the Latin American system of production, the
growth of Department I is only marginally interlocked with its
domestic market. Moreover, Department II is also split in two: one
sector, with relatively high technology, producing for export and
the national ruling class; the other sector, with low technology,
producing for the subordinate classes. Thus, the development of
Department I is linked to the capacity to import, and not to the
absolute growth of the domestic market. This situation results in
a fractured system of production: a modern productive system to
meet the demands of the ruling class and the world capitalist
market, at one extreme, and a primitive production sector to cope
with the demand at the level of subsistence of a substantial part
of the population, at the other extreme.
    It follows from this that there is a rationality in the fact
that this system is attached to the mechanism of foreign
indebtedness, and that its overall dependence ( military,
political, ideological and economic ) on the world industrialised
centre is part of its mechanism of reproduction.
    Thus, the type of state that corresponds to such a system of
production is an all-powerful, all-penetrating one. Its presence is
a component part of daily life in Latin American society. By and
large, it is a corporate state, whose role is not only to maintain
the social fabric together for the ruling class's sake, but to
regulate the economic behaviour of this ruling class, and, in the
first place, to control the capacity of direct labourers to
organise. Hence, the general situation in the continent, consisting
of a trade union movement incorporated with the state system, and
the state regulating the functioning of the main economic levers of
the system. In sum, the state is an all-powerful political and
economic agent.
    Consequently, this type of state produces forms of government
that are authoritarian, with dictatorship as the general norm and
some forms of democracy as exceptions. This type of state places
limits on the various forms of government possible, which can vary,
for example from the bureaucratic dictatorship prevailing in
Mexico, to the military dictatorship existing in Chile under
general Pinochet. Such a state creates a tendency (social
necessity) to authoritarianism because its features are consistent
with the needs of the system of production as a basis for the
prevailing social structure.
    To summarise:
    1) U.S. imperialist domination in Latin America is not a
    cause, but an effect of the social and economic structure of
    the region.
    2) It is not capitalism that produced Latin American
    underdevelopment, but the social and economic system
    prevalent in the continent which produces both its
    backwardness and its imperialist dominance and exploitation.
    3) The relatively low level of industrialisation is not a
    cause but an effect of the Latin American social structure.  
    4) The non-democratic forms of government in the region are
    not a cause but an effect of the prevailing Latin American
    social structure.
    5) Imperialist domination, underdevelopment,
    underindustrialisation, and dictatorships are not syndromes
    of a "sickness" in the region, but instances of the
    reproduction of the Latin American social structure, as
    reflections of the articulation between capitalist relations
    of production and a pre-capitalist social structure.
    6) Therefore, the main restriction on development in Latin
    America ( here development means social and economic
    improvement as shared equally between all members of the
    society ) is not economic, or technological, but social. It
    is the Latin American social structure which is the cause of
    underdevelopment, and the barrier to development.
    7) Consequently, all the specific features that characterise
    Latin American society ( at different levels of development
    in each nation-state of the region ) are not the effects of
    external causes, neither of underdevelopment caused by the
    development of capitalism in the global centre, nor a
    parallel existence of two different modes of production -the
    "dualistic" approach-, nor the effect of dependence on
    imperialist centres. These specific features are necessary
    for the functioning of this specific system of production,
    even when imperialism and capitalism in general accentuated
    its characteristics, fostering a relation of dependence and
    8) Thus, this particular mode of development has as its
    effects a restricted share of the product of growth among
    the majority of its members, an increasing dependence of its
    ruling class on imperialism, and a dislocation between urban
    and rural labourers, white-collar and blue-collar workers,
    workers belonging to the modern, primitive, and intermediate
    sectors of the economy.
    This fracture at the level of the working class appears as
    the most important barrier to social revolution in the
    region, while, conversely, the middle class appears as the
    most important "buffer zone" to protect the existing social
    structure in the region.
                   Robinson Rojas, September 1984, London.

1) Marx, K., CAPITAL, Vol. Three, Lawrence and Wishart, London,
                          1977, pp. 327-325-326
2) Marx, K., WAGE, LABOUR AND CAPITAL, Progress Publishers, Moscow,
                          1978, pp. 28-29
( Róbinson Rojas, "Latin America: Blockages to Development,
PhD Dissertation, 1984). Pages 252-260 and 295