[OPE-L:8244] Re: 'entrepreneurial ability' in late capitalism

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Mon Dec 30 2002 - 06:56:22 EST

Cologne 30-Dec-2002

Re: [OPE-L:8232]

gerald_a_levy schrieb  Mon, 23 Dec 2002 09:42:09 -0500:

> Re Michael E's [8227]:
> > I wouldn't call entrepreneurial ability a 'factor of production' because
> > the  specific _dynamis meta logou_, i.e. ability guided by insight,
> > which the entrepreneur exercises is the ability to see opportunities
> > for profit and to skilfully organize how these opportunities can be
> > exploited. This goes beyond  "production". It is a leadership role
> > which involves employing and controlling employees, and getting
> > hold of the necessary land, money-capital (investment  capital,
> > venture capital), means of production for the venture.
> I think this is an increasingly archaic view of entrepreneurship that was  a
> better description of 19th Century entrepreneurship than 21st Century
> entrepreneurship.

Sorry for the delay in replying, Jerry. I've been in Istanbul.

If entrepreneurship as a function is part of the essence of capitalism, it makes
no essential difference how it is personified. I agree that 19th century
capitalism looks very different from 20th century capitalism. The periodization
of capitalism into early, middle and late in Marxism is one of those alibis for
overlooking and not understanding what the essence of capitalism is. The
philosophical problem of understanding what capitalism is is passed over in
favour of the sociological-historiographical task of periodizing stages of
capitalism, which of course presupposes that one knows what capitalism is. For
the most part, the obvious is overlooked, including in Marxism.

> A consequence of the increasing concentration and centralization of capital
> is that many of the functions which were previously done by 'entrepreneurs'
> (capitalists) are increasingly delegated to a managerial layer which
> exercises control even where it doesn't have ownership.

Yes, I agree that it is the functions which characterize entrepreneurship, and
this has to be distinguished from ownership. This split or dichotomy is the
condition of possibility for ownership being separated off to investors and
shareholders who do not exercise any entrepreneurial role.

> Within this
> hierarchy,  'entrepreneurship' is increasingly limited to only ownership:
> thus all that is  required to become an 'entrepreneur' within the context of
> an existing corporation is money-capital with which to purchase stocks.
> This hardly requires "leadership" or what you go on to call "human
> ingenuity".  Of course, in _smaller_  firms there is often more direct
> involvement by the entrepreneur in other  functions including supervision
> (i.e. extracting work from workers), distribution, marketing,  accounting,
> etc.

Some workers enjoy their work, work willingly and well and do not need a
supervisor to "extract" work from them. After all, the workers agreed to work
when they entered the employment contract. The passive resistance of workers is
part of the antagonistic relationship between capital and labour. This
antagonism lies in each side seeking its own self-interests at the expense of
the other.

I agree that the creative role of entrepreneurship is to be seen more easily in
the nascent capitalist enterprise when an entrepreneurial idea is first put to
the test. That is the true entrepreneurial role -- seeing an opportunity for
gain and bringing it to market and seeing whether it proves itself on the
market. This role is essential to capitalism, which both provides the opening
for entrepreneurship and demands the self-interest be inventive and even
creative. Once a firm is running as a going concern, creative roles may be
professionalized and even routinized. Leadership, too, is professionalized in
the shape of top executives. You seem to want to deny the phenomenon of
leadership and creativity in a capitalist enterprise.

> >ME:  There is a phenomenon which can be called human ingenuity. All of us
> have
> > it to  some degree, say, when we improvise a do-it-yourself repair.
> > The phenomenon is  that things reveal themselves to human being in their
> > usefulness for something  or other. That is the being of practical things
> > (_pragmata_) in the broadest sense. A successful entrepreneur is often
> > someone who sees a usefulness and also has the skill to bring it to
> market,
> > i.e.  to get the value of this new,  ingenious use-value acknowledged
> > abstractly by others through the market.  Examples abound in capitalism,
> > no matter whether one regards the invention of,   say, Tupperware or
> > microwave ovens or standardized motel chains or the LP
> > record  as a happy invention for humankind or not. The test lies in the
> > marketplace,   where the value of an invention is either recognized or
> > fails to gain  value-recognition in money.
> Within the context of increasingly oligopolistic markets, firms tend to be
> risk-averters.  Indeed, the whole trend towards diversification could be
> seen in part as an attempt to 'spread-out', and thereby diminish, risk.
> Examples  abound in  late capitalism of risk-aversion.  (Indeed it even
> enters the political sphere: e.g. corporations who donate funds to the
> political campaigns of opposing candidates.)

Yes, risk-aversion is a possible strategy, which may either enhance or simply
average out profitability. But to try to avoid risk presupposes that there is a
phenomenon we call 'risk' which can be avoided, i.e. risk-_aversion_ is always
_risk_-aversion. The dimension within which something can be what it is must
always be brought into view. Mostly it is overlooked, taken for granted. In
other words: negation presupposes the more encompassing dimension. (E.g a stone
cannot be dead, because it cannot be alive -- it _is_ outside the dimension of
life altogether.)

Hegel would call this "bestimmte Negation" (determinate negation). There is
nothing that is without its negative, nothing that is not infected with
negation. Plato explores the dialectic of negation in his dialogue the Sophist
in which he shows that that which is not _is_ in some way. This was directed
against the sophists, who claimed that that which is not could not be said.

Thus, for instance, when a capitalist enterprise seeks to spread risk by
diversification, this is merely one strategy within the dimension of
entrepreneurial risk which is part of the essence of capitalism. Whether such a
strategy of risk-aversion or risk-spreading is successful or not remains
essentially uncertain. Why? Because the social relation of value is essentially
groundless (as opposed to production, which is based on grounded, precalculable
technological mastery of things).

> > (snip, JL) perhaps we disagree about wherein this "exploitation" consists.
> Do you agree that exploitation is part of the 'essence' of capitalism?  If
> so, where do you think we disagree?

I don't know yet where we disagree. I think that exploitation has to be first
understood in a broad sense as exploiting an opportunity, a situation. Such
exploitation, insofar as it involves social relations, can be done either fairly
or unfairly, i.e. where the parties involved are satisfied with their share of
the arrangement or not, and this satisfaction or dissatisfaction regarding
fairness and unfairness has a basis in customary norms. E.g. there are limits to
the extent to which a capitalist entrepreneur can fairly exploit his workforce.

To take another example, the vast majority of sellers, dealers, pedlars, etc. in
Istanbul, it seems, ranging from the shoe-shine boy through the ticket-seller
for public transportation to cafe and restaurant staff, the oriental carpet
dealers, etc. etc. all attempt to exploit tourists' ignorance of the prices and
the unfamiliar currency by shamelessly ripping them off, short-changing them,
lying about the quality of their goods, offering one price and demanding a
higher price on payment, etc. etc. The human tourist mass for exploitation is
delivered from Istanbul airport. The poor child even exploits the opportunity of
a poor old street hawker crossing a busy road in Istanbul with his barrow of
socks by stealing a pair as he passes by in the crowd. Who is to blame for this
moral degeneracy? The capitalist imperialists, of course. The poor themselves
are inculpable, even when they steal from each other. When they steal from
Western tourists, they are even performing an act of justice. Thus does any
understanding of justice become perverted, degenerate and depraved.

Some opportunities for exploiting a situation in a social context are fair and
honest -- others are unfair and dishonest. The so-called labour theory of value,
however, has been used principally in Marxism to found a theory of so-called
"objective" exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class,
completely independently of whether the wage-labour relations are fair and
honest or not. Within the metaphysics/ontology of the LTV and the associated
theory of surplus-value, the working class is cast as the "objective" victim of
capital. According to this ontology, there can _be_ no such thing as fair wages
or fair and just working conditions -- that is merely subjective illusion and
bourgeois ideology. A worker who cheats his employer by stealing materials from
the factory can do no wrong because he is "objectively" the exploited one, the
victim merely reclaiming what has been unjustly "objectively" exploited from
him. Justice is made into a merely "subjective" phenomenon as opposed to the
"objective" relations of class exploitation/victimization. Justice is consigned
to the superstructure as an ideology, whereas capitalist exploitation of the
working class is cast as essential to the economic basis.

Such a dichotomy between subjective and objective is one of the consequences of
Cartesian dualism, introduced into philosophy by Descartes and carried on and
modified up to Hegel ("subjective" and "objective spirit") and Marx and beyond
(e.g. Adorno). The way out of this dichotomy? A rereading and reappropriation of
the Greeks, destroying the traditional interpretations that have been laid over,
say, Plato and Aristotle through the centuries, especially by Christian
theology. A thinker like Aristotle makes no use whatsoever of the self-evident
(for we moderns) distinction between objective and subjective. The Greeks are in
the world and consider simple phenomena.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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