[OPE-L:8347] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Education and Value

From: Paul Adler (padler@usc.edu)
Date: Wed Jan 15 2003 - 14:08:01 EST

Tony -- You're quite right that I have not even begun to make the 
empirical case, and that there are some important hurdles to any such 
effort. A task ahead for me.

As for political punch, I would say that we lose too much credbility 
when our analysis of capitalism's dynamics doesn't acknowledge its 
ongoing "bright side." Put aside the long-term historial conjecture 
to focus on the present: while good surveys are scarce, the ones we 
have do show that most workers who experience technical changes in 
their workplace assess the effects of these changes as positive 
rather than negative for the quality of their worklife. That's "most" 
-- not "all" -- which leaves us pretty of room/cause to agitate -- 
but...you see my point.

I'd add that this acknowledgement of the bright side used to be a 
standard feature of left-wing ideology before Lenin -- part of the 
Darwinian, evolutionary, history-is-on-our-side, 
socialism-is-inevitable story line. Since Lenin (and his desperate 
efforts to argue that revolution was overdue in Europe -- thus that 
capitalism had long accomplished any "civilizing mission", at least 
there), the only people to sustain this discourse have been s-d 
reformists -- almost all of whom abandoned any idea of radical 
transformation. In this polarization of views, revolutionaries have 
not only lost credibility for our overall analysis in the eyes of 
many workers, but we have also, it seems to me, lost the salutary 
effects of the inevitability/history-is-on-our-side ideology.

At 12:02 PM -0500 1/15/03, Tony Tinker wrote:
>Dear Paul: At risk of evoking a massive yawn among listserv members, 
>I'll have one last go: 
>It isn't that I vehemently resist your "Paleo-Marxist" thesis; it 
>is rather that it bears a whiff of optimism that doesn't seem to be 
>sustained by your argument.   I just don't see a need to make such 
>a leap of faith -- towards 'progress' (the corrollary being we keep 
>slugging away -- politically -- and keep our options/ analysis 
>open).  Here are my reasons:
>1. the 'dominant' force of capitalism is not the enlightenment of 
>the masses, but the valorization of capital.  This doesn't preclude 
>education being productive (in a surplus value producing sense) but 
>that is incidental and isn't the rason d'etre of the system (by 
>definition).  True, we can land a sucker punch once in a while, but 
>this hardly adds up to an optimistic scenario.
>2. your thesis weights heavily on selective empirics. First, 
>your cites from Marx seem to underestimate his constant 
>qualifier that 'this cannot work under capitalism'.  Second, he 
>wrote when the formal subsumption was more prevalent than the real 
>subsumption of labor, and thus the residues of craft intelligence 
>and resistence were strong.  Third,  your contemporary examples seem 
>extravagently Euro/American (Californian?) centric.  I am 
>not convinced that a 10 Century Muslim cleric, a student of 
>Aristotle, 13Century ploughman, 17 Century horseman, or 18th Century 
>coachmaker was dummer (socially speaking) than a Los Angeles 
>teamster.  How should we measure that?  Dated labor?  As Braverman 
>argues, the teamster would lose on that score.  Training for the 
>craft of the teamster's predecessors -- the horsemen -- was much, 
>much, more arduous than that needed to drive a truck.  Finally, when 
>we try to divine 'truth' empirical instances in Capital, we must 
>surely be alert to its historical specificity: not just "Little 
>England" (mainly), or only incipient "real submsumption", but that 
>today, we have to figure into our anecdotes those brutal police 
>states ("enterprize zones), in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico, 
>where "capitalism" (if measured by migration of labor from country 
>to town) is present on a scale far surpassing the experience in 
>Europe and the U.S.  (China alone has over 50 million 'freed' labor, 
>that has gravitated to the cities).  I hasten to add that we cannot 
>dismiss these countries as 'underdeveloped' instances of capitalism; 
>they are integral to the sh...t on our shelves in the West).   If 
>you are going to 'do empirics', shouldn't the 'education' of the 
>poor sods in those vast climes be in your equation?  
>Paul: I only want to reiterate that, in the light of the above, I 
>don't see that you've made the case (or indeed, that we need the 
>case to be made) for a paleo-Marxist thesis. It just doesn't give 
>us any political purchase.
>Tony Tinker'
>Professor and Editor
>Critical Perspectives on Accounting
>The Accounting Forum
>Baruch College: CUNY Box B12-225
>17 Lexington Avenue
>New York, NY 10010
>Email: <mailto:TonyTinker@msn.com>TonyTinker@msn.com
>Tel: 646 312 3175
>Fax: 646 312 3161
>Critical Conference Site: 
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:padler@usc.edu>Paul Adler
>To: <mailto:ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
>Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 10:40 AM
>Subject: [OPE-L:8344] Re: Re: Re: Education and Value
>Tony -- your questions take us back to what is, at least for me, at 
>the heart of this issue. The reading of Marx that I find most 
>fruitful is one that indeed sees capitalism's development (in 
>particular, of the forces of production) increasing the capacity of 
>workers as full people, as social beings.
>At the same time this tendency coexists with two other features of 
>the evolutionary path that are the effect of the persistence of 
>capitalist relations of production:
>* a minority of cases where quite the opposite happens (workers and 
>even their productive capacity treated with utter disdain)
>* a tendency to polarization -- the gap grows between the 
>capabilities (and living conditions) of the many at the bottom and 
>the few at the top of the distribution (note: polarization does not 
>exclude those at the bottom improving their lot: it just means 
>improvement is even faster at the top)
>Let me cite the chapters and verses I find most compelling for this 
>In Marx's famous passage in Capital I, we read:
>This possibility of varying labour must become a general law of 
>social production, and the existing relations must be adapted to 
>permit its realization in practice.  That monstrosity, the 
>disposable working population held in reserve, in misery, for the 
>changing requirements of capitalist exploitation, must be replaced 
>by the individual man who is absolutely available for the different 
>kinds of labour required of him; the partially developed individual, 
>who is merely the bearer of one specialized social function, must be 
>replaced by the totally developed individual, for whom the different 
>social functions are different modes of activity
>What we must address is whether this general law only becomes such 
>after capitalism is replaced by socialism. Braverman argues that it 
>does. He writes, referring to this paragraph of Marx:
>This, extracted from its context, has been understood to mean that 
>Marx was predicting that with the further development of capitalism 
>an "educated" and "technical" working class would be created by 
>modern industry.  In fact, that was not his thought at all, as a 
>reading of the section in question makes clear.  He saw capitalism 
>as being in direct contradiction to the tendency of modern industry 
>to call into being a new type of worker, a "fully developed 
>individual," and what he is saying here is that society itself is 
>threatened with extinction unless it rids itself of the capitalist 
>system which, the more modern scientific industry makes it obsolete, 
>the more tenaciously it holds on to and even deepens an outmoded 
>division of labour. ... Every line Marx wrote on this subject makes 
>it clear that he did not expect from capitalism or from science and 
>machinery as used by capitalism, no matter how complex they become, 
>any general increase in the technical scope, scientific knowledge, 
>or broadening of the competence of the worker, and that in fact he 
>expected the opposite.
>But Marx in the following paragraph, makes a very different case:
>One aspect of this process of transformation, which has developed 
>spontaneously from the foundation provided by large-scale industry, 
>is the establishment of technical and agricultural schools.  Another 
>is the foundation of 'écoles d'enseignement professionel,' in which 
>the children of the workers receive a certain amount of instruction 
>in technology and in the practical handling of the various 
>implements of labour.  Though the Factory Act, that first and meagre 
>concession wrung from capital, is limited to combining elementary 
>education with work in the factory, there can be no doubt that, with 
>the inevitable conquest of political power by the working class, 
>technological education, both theoretical and practical, will take 
>its proper place in the schools of the workers.  There is also no 
>doubt that those revolutionary ferments whose goal is the abolition 
>of the old division of labour stand in diametrical contradiction 
>with the capitalist form of production, and the economic situation 
>of the workers which corresponds to that form.  However, the 
>development of the contradictions of a given historical form of 
>production is the only historical way in which it can be dissolved 
>and then reconstructed on a new basis.
>It's the last sentence that's key to our debate. As I understand 
>this last sentence, the "development of the contradiction" means not 
>a growing tension between what should be (upgrading) and what is 
>(deskilling), but (more materialistically) a growing tension between 
>the real development of workers capabilities (and of the forces of 
>production in general) and the equally real fetters on this further 
>development created by capitalist relations of production. Under 
>these relations, the growth trajectory of capabilities unfolds only 
>unevenly, jerkily, subject to arbitrary limitations and distorting 
>polarizations. But it does unfold, thus creating "the development of 
>the contradictions" instead of their static reproduction.
>Note that we are only talking about workers capabilities -- not 
>their motivation. The class in itself, not the class for itself. To 
>Tony's point: capitalism doesn't sponteneously generate the 
>revolutionary consciousness necessary for its overthrow (or at 
>least, it doesnt create it reliably enough for communists to sit 
>back and just wait). Whether these cognitive capabilities are 
>mobilized for revolutionary action is matter of ideology, politics, 
>organization, etc. But capitalism, as I see it, creates its 
>gravediggers by creating a class increasingly capable of taking the 
>leading role.
>I see two big obstacles to acceptance of this paleo-marxist story:
>1. it is difficult to hold the two thoughts at the same time, that 
>capitalism continues to deliver on its civilizing mission but that 
>this is no justificiation for its persistence: it's much easier to 
>adopt a purely negative, critical posture: the message is less 
>complex. (But if it doesn't jive with workers experience of changes 
>in the workplace, we lose credibility for our general account. We 
>are seen as wonderfully sensitive to the plight of the minority of 
>workers deskilled by capitalist progress, but insensitive to the 
>advantages experienced by the bulk of them. This was precisely the 
>situation created when the CFDT union confederation adopted a 
>version of deskilling in the 1970s (with Braverman dutifully cited 
>in the footnotes), and on that basis began organizing against the 
>deskilling effects they expected from the computerization of 
>insurance companies. The CFDT was very strong among the clerical 
>workers in this industry. But with this position, it quickly lost 
>credibilty with the workers, since it became apparent within a few 
>years that computerization was having substantial and widespread 
>upgrading effects, effects that workers in this industry welcomed.)
>2. it has an implication we are reluctant to endorse: that workers 
>today are better qualified to transform and to lead society than 
>workers a hundred years ago. We've all read EP Thompson and so many 
>others  who are so eloquent about the revolutionary capacities of 
>the working classes in the 19th century and even earlier. It seems 
>arrogant to disparage these capacities. But I would ask: isn't there 
>a bit too much romanticism in these stories? To take an extreme 
>case, we would probably agree that the backward state of the mass of 
>working people in Russia was a huge handicap for soviet revolution. 
>So what about the UK or the US? I am not arguing that workers in the 
>US circa 1900 were incapable of leading society -- just that they 
>have become much more capable in the intervening century, and that 
>this growth in capability is a function of the changing requirements 
>of the (capitalist) labor process.
>On the role of formal education in this process: I assume (a) that 
>increases in formal education are driven to some extent by these 
>changes in industry's skill requirements. I'd agree (b) that they 
>are also driven by more or less autonomous working class pressure on 
>the State, perhaps in (partial) contradiction to the needs of 
>industry and the desires of capitalists. I would also allow (c) that 
>the level, form, and content of education have something to do with 
>capitalists desire for docile, disciplined workers. But I find it 
>hard to take seriously the idea that (b) or (c) dominate (a).
>Hoping this helps move the discussion forward,
>At 12:29 PM -0500 1/14/03, Tony Tinker wrote:
>>Paul (Adler):  The are a number of parts to your thesis that I wonder about.
>>First, a minor item,  Braverman does not argue that deskilling is the
>>dominant tendency. Rather, his thesis is that there is a 'polarization' (his
>>last chapter for instance).  Given this, any empirical studies (that we
>>cite) must be careful not to focus on just one end of the continuum (e.g,
>>the skill level of worker in  West/ North" and ignoring those in the
>>Second, contrary to vulgar popularizations (i.e, the morbid deskillers)
>>Braverman states in his, 'Reply to my Critics' in the Monthly review, that
>>"obviously" the average skill level has gone up!  But he makes the
>>distinction (that I haven't noticed in the listserv discussion so far)
>>between "skill" of the kind that is productive of surplus value, and skill
>>that enhances the consciousness and capacities of the full person as social
>>being (see my "Fourth" point below) .
>>Third, you seem to step a bit too quickly from aggregating dated labor time,
>>to 'valuing' dated labor time.  The latter is a valuation, involving a
>>discount rate, or more problematically, multiple discount rates/ solutions.
>>It takes us into a Sraffian world of switching of techniques and the absence
>>of no unique equilibrium (or better, no counter-intuitive equilibrium).  All
>>such problems apply to 'valuing' labor expended over time in developing
>>skill (or any 'asset').
>>Fourth, the notion of 'education levels' has to be viewed in a critical.
>>'Education' under capitalism acclimates workers for producing surplus value
>>product (look at the pap served-up in most business schools for evidence).
>>How is this kind of education 'productive' in producing a consciousness that
>>ripens the possibilities of social change?  Surely, we might argue that an
>>increase in these 'education levels' diminishes the chances of social
>>change?  (I assume that we agree that MBA's are now wage labor and therefore
>>productive of surplus value).
>>Finally, 'educational levels' cannot be viewed in a monolithic manner.
>>Insofar as consciousness is productive of social change (and that needs to
>>be researched, not taken for granted) it surely must be a consciousness that
>>is aligned with specific historical dis-junctures in time and place.  If
>>this is so, does it still make sense to talk about 'levels' of education?
>>As Chris Arthur has so lucidly pointed out previously, the order of
>>measurement is important (here, we would seem to have a classificatory
>>variable, not a cardinal or ratio measure).
>>Fraternally,  TT
>>Tony Tinker
>>Professor and Editor
>>Critical Perspectives on Accounting
>>The Accounting Forum
>>Baruch College: CUNY Box B12-225
>>17 Lexington Avenue
>>New York, NY 10010
>>Email: TonyTinker@msn.com
>>Tel: 646 312 3175
>>Fax: 646 312 3161
>>Critical Conference Site: http://zicklin.baruch.cuny.edu/critical/
>>----- Original Message -----
>>From: "Paul Adler" <padler@usc.edu>
>>To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
>>Cc: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
>>Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 8:06 AM
>>Subject: [OPE-L:8333] Re: Education and Value
>>>  Jerry -- I'm not sure where the line of questioning you open up will
>>>  lead, nor how it impinges on the questions we've been addressing so
>>>  far. So perhaps I'm missing your point. But a couple of thoughts:
>>>  * There are two quite distinct issues under the "reduction" from
>>>  complex to simple labor: a question of how to measure the value of
>>>  complex labor power relative to simple (expressed as relative wages),
>>>  and a question of whether capitalist development actually simplifies
>>>  complex labor by deskilling. On the former, presumably we can rely on
>>>  the relative amounts of "socially necessary labor time involved in
>>>  producing" the relevant capabilities. On the latter, my view is,
>>>  obviously, not. (Just so I know where we're up to in this discussion:
>>>  do you really think deskilling is the dominant tendency?)
>>>  * Globally, I think we might agree that international competition
>>>  tends over the longer term to bring wages into closer alignment. As
>>>  imperialism reaches into less-developed regions to exploit low wages,
>  > wages do tend to rise relative to advanced countries -- as we saw
>>  with the "Asian tigers". The demands of capitalist industrialization
>>  lead these countries to build their education system, upgrading the
>>  country-specific standards of simple labor and the supply of complex
>>  labor. (As you can see, my paleo- proclivities have led me close to
>>  Bill Warren's position!) The state and workers' movements can help or
>>  hinder in this upgrading, and give it the skill-formation
>>  institutions their specific shape.
>>  Are we moving forward in this?
>>  P
>>    At 4:22 PM -0500 1/13/03, gerald_a_levy wrote:
>>  >Re Paul A's [8327]:
>>  >
>>  >>  To focus on overall skill levels -- I'm curious if you and others on
>>  >>  the list would agree with me: while the data are very difficult to
>>  >>  synthesize, have not the cognitive resources of US workers -- the
>>  >>  combined result of childhood socialization, education, training,
>>  >>  on-the-job learning -- increased on average over the last 100 years?
>>  >
>>  >Yes.
>>  >
>>  >>  If you grant that these cognitive resources have increased, then as
>>  >>  marxists, we have to ask ourselves whether and where this fits with
>>  >>  our basic story. (Of course, out story also has to accomodate the
>>  >>  many cases of real deskilling we observe --such as the supermarket
>>  >>  cashiers.) It seems to me that it fits nicely with the paleo-marxist
>>  >>  story I summarized.
>>  >
>>  >How does this fit in with 'our basic story', you ask.  Presumably you
>>  >and others will also grant that the standard for what has become
>>  >simple average labour varies internationally and temporally.  Indeed,
>>  >if one focuses on the effect of education on workers 'cognitive
>>  >resources', one can easily determine that there are different standards
>>  >internationally as a result of differing educational/social/cultural
>>  >practices.
>>  >
>>  >In describing 'simple average labour',  Marx notes that it "varies in
>>  >character in different countries and at different cultural epochs, but in
>>  >particular society it is given"  (_Capital_, Volume 1, Penguin ed., p.
>>  >When we look at different social formations and expand our time horizon
>>  >so that a society and culture can itself change, we see that the 'basic
>>  >story' becomes more complex.
>>  >
>>  >* How would you and others explain more concretely this complexity
>>  >vis-a-vis the 'reduction' from complex to 'simple labour' in world
>>  >
>>  >* Is there any kind of  social mechanism that leads over time to  less
>>  >international disparity for simple average labour standards in different
>>  >social formations?
>>  >
>>  >* What has been the role of the state -- and  workers' struggles -- in
>>  >changing social standards for simple average labour?
>>  >
>>  >In solidarity, Jerry
>>  --
>>  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
>>  Prof. Paul S. Adler,
>>  Management and Organization Dept,
>>  Marshall School of Business,
>>  University of Southern California,
>>  Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808
>>  USC office tel: (213) 740-0748
>>  Home office tel: (818) 981-0115
>>  Home office fax: (818) 981-0116
>>  Email: padler@usc.edu
>>  List of publications and course outlines at:
>>  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
>* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
>Prof. Paul S. Adler,
>Management and Organization Dept,
>Marshall School of Business, 
>University of Southern California,
>Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808
>USC office tel: (213) 740-0748 
>Home office tel: (818) 981-0115
>Home office fax: (818) 981-0116
>Email: padler@usc.edu
>List of publications and course outlines at: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~padler/ 
>* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Prof. Paul S. Adler,
Management and Organization Dept,
Marshall School of Business, 
University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808
USC office tel: (213) 740-0748 
Home office tel: (818) 981-0115
Home office fax: (818) 981-0116
Email: padler@usc.edu
List of publications and course outlines at: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~padler/ 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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