Robinson Crusoe and the Secret of Primitive Accumulation

  • Stephen Hymer
Keywords: Marxism, Political Economy

Abstract

The word primitive is here used in the sense of "belonging to the first age, period, or stage," i.e., of being "original rather than derivative," and not in the sense of "simple, rude, or rough." Marx's original term was "urspriingliche akkumulation," and as Paul Sweezy suggests, it would have been better translated as "original" or "primary" accumulation. But it is too late to change current usage, and the word primitive should be interpreted in a technical sense, as in mathematics, where a primitive line or figure is a line or figure "from which some construction or reckoning begins." In economics primitive accumulation refers to the period from which capitalist accumulation springs. It was not simple, though it was rude and rough.
Published
1971-09-02
Section
Articles