[OPE-L:7476] Re: Stages of subsumption

From: Francisco Paulo Cipolla (cipolla@sociais.ufpr.br)
Date: Mon Jul 29 2002 - 11:07:42 EDT

Hi Gil, thanks for your response.
Fordism or machinism were forms of organization of the labor process which
albeit  able to subsume labor were unable to make labor emanate from the
worker. On the contrary, what emanates from the worker is strangement,
allienation. Nowadays, the forces against labor are so strong, labor has been
reduced in numbers to such a degree that capital seems to be able to impose
upon workers an ordering of the labor process such that the worker cannot just
pretend he is content and participative but rather s/he has to incorporate
those requirements (true involvement) in his or her very daily performance. I
have in mind mechanism such as team-work, quality circles, etc. all of them
forms of control of capital over labor which are ennacted as controls of labor
upon their own selves.
I concede that this may not grant a characterization of these forms of
organization of the labor process as yet another form of subsumption for it
tends to be disolved by the reemergence of socialist conscoussness and class
struggle. But while consciousness and struggle are weak the  greater must be
the subsumption to the understanding that capitalism is the only form of
existence and that therefore it is best to adapt to its logic.

Whether this creates new industrial psycho-pathologies (industrial

Gil Skillman wrote:

> [Was:  re "definitely not Chapter 5"]
> Pauolo writes:
> >I was wondering whether or not we have entered a new subsumption phase.
> >Following Gilīs scheme we had: no subsumption; formal subsumption; real
> >subsumption. Real subsumption, however, is unable to mobilize workersī
> >spirits in favor of capitalīs expansion of value. There have sprung,
> >nowadays, new ways of harnessing workersī will in accordance to capitalīs
> >purpose: a variety of fancy names whose sole purpose is to improve the
> >conditions under which labor power can be more advantageously transformed
> >into labor (to use R. Edwards formulation in Contested Terrain). Could we
> >be entering a phase of Subjective Subsumption of labor, the subsumption
> >of laborersī spirit, an acomplishment capital had not achieved either
> >under formal nor under real subsumption?
> >Paulo
> This is an intriguing suggestion for developing the basic schema linking
> forms of subsumption to stages of capitalist development.  For what it's
> worth, Marx appears to regard "mobiliz[ation of] workers' spirits in favor
> of capital's expansion of value" as a corollary effect of real subsumption,
> per this passage from K.I that Mike L first brought to my attention:
> "The advance of capitalist production develops a working class which by
> education, tradition and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of
> production as self-evident natural laws.  The organization of the
> capitalist process of production, once it is fully developed, breaks down
> all resistance.  The constant generation of a relative surplus population
> [which Marx associates with the process of generating relative surplus
> value, and thus with the effects of real subsumption--GS] keeps the law of
> the supply and demand of labour, and therefore wages, within narrow limits
> which correspond to capital's valorization requirements.  The silent
> compulsion of economic relations sets the seal on the domination of the
> capitalist over the worker." [I, p. 899, Penguin or Pelican]
> For what it's worth, were I to try to reconcile the set of phenomena
> addressed by Edwards in Contested Terrain with Marx, I would say they all
> involved instances of real subsumption, but addressed an aspect of worker
> productivity, i.e. labor intensity, that Marx routinely acknowledged but
> tended to give less emphasis relative to the role of technical changes.  As
> you've suggested, the organizational changes Edwards speaks of are
> addressed to the problem of getting workers to work harder in
> profit-creating ways. But since this would imply greater output per labor
> hour, the result if successful would be again an increase in relative
> surplus value, which Marx links to the condition of real subsumption.
> Having said all this, I'll repeat that my primary effort in this discussion
> has been to clarify what Marx actually said concerning both the theoretical
> and historical connections between forms of subsumption and forms and
> degrees of capitalist exploitation, rather than to argue for a particular
> emendation of this account.  An effort along the former lines appears
> necessary, or at least fruitful, in light of the evolution of Marx's
> analysis of these matters from the writing of the Grundrisse notebooks to
> his publication of K.I, the general unfamiliarity of Marxist economists
> with the material in the Economic Mss. of 1861-63, and the complication
> introduced by his seemingly 11th-hour decision to leave the material now
> embodied in the _Resultate_ out of the final version of K.I.
> It seems to me that attempts to emend Marx's account must begin with an
> explicit understanding of what analytical end one is trying to achieve via
> the revision.  For example, I have some presumptive affinity for Mike's
> suggested *property-relations* approach to developments in the circuit of
> capital, which I would contrast with Marx's *production-relations*
> approach. [For example, as I understand Marx, he distinguishes formal
> subsumption from what came before on the basis of a particular shift in the
> "relations of domination and subordination" in production, specifically
> involving direct capitalist oversight of the production process; in
> contrast, as I understand Mike, he contrasts formal subsumption with what
> came before based on a historical shift in the class distribution of means
> of production.  By this reading (if I understand it), once the
> preponderance of means of production were owned by capitalists, they
> enjoyed the right to exercise direct control over the production process,
> and having this right is what really matters, whether or not they exercise
> it.]
> Again for what it's worth, this position is complementary to one I've
> argued now in a couple of articles and a current working paper.   I've
> argued that the advent of formal subsumption (in Marx's sense of the term)
> was tied historically to the expropriation of means of production from
> workers, for this reason:  once workers were expropriated, capitalists lost
> a key lever for inducing higher levels of work intensity:  the threat of
> loss of collateral if production loans were not repaid.  In turn, the
> forfeiture of collateral in cases where the interest on production loans
> (or the required mix of final products and raw material advanced, in the
> putting-out relationship) was not paid helped accelerate the process of
> expropriation.
> Note that the latter consideration addresses a puzzle raised in the passage
> from the Grundrisse cited by Mike L. in his post 7445.
> Near the end of page 510 [Penguin or Vintage ed.], in a passage purporting
> to explain the progression from putting-out to capitalist production,  Marx
> says "....[the putting-out capitalist] buys their labour and takes their
> property first in the form of the product, and soon after that the
> instrument as well, or he leaves it to them as sham property, in order to
> reduce his own production costs."
> But wait a second--how does an exchange relationship based on the advance
> of raw materials and payment by the piece for finished products
> incorporating these materials allow capitalists to appropriate the *means
> of production* of the putters-out? *Unless* as a form of collateral, direct
> or indirect, for unmet interest charges or unreturned raw
> materials....?  To assert otherwise is to suggest that the workers paid the
> capitalists for the opportunity to convert their raw materials into final
> products!  --A neat trick, even for monopsonistic capitalists.
> Gil

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