[OPE-L:8416] various topics

From: rakeshb@stanford.edu
Date: Fri Jan 31 2003 - 13:30:46 EST

Working from a terrible webmail program, I am just going to make 
several replies in this one post. 

1. quantitative or qualitative unimportance of direct labor due to 
development of science and technology? 

Quoting Paul Adler <padler@usc.edu>:

> I have been following the thred on Electronic and value, and 
> like to submit to the list a cluster of thoughts -- if I have things
> right in my reading of Marx, I am hoping this might make for a 
> useful, empirical research agenda. So, with you forebearance, 
> goes:
> My starting point is the Grundrisse:
> "As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great 
> well-spring on wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be 
> measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the 
measure] of 
> use value." (705)
> That is: Science becomes increasingly central to productivity 
> improvement, but that makes the market system of coordination 
> increasing ineffectual.

Paul, I would read the passage this way:

Only once the appropriation of unpaid direct labor time [as 
objectified in commodities which have to be sold for money] has 
ceased  to be the aim of production will wealth be truly measured 
in the abundance of use values and free time.  That is, labor time 
or exchange value can never cease to be the measure of wealth 
under bourgeois production. To the extent that it does in 
exceptional conditions, e.g. software as a result of IPRs and lock 
in advantages, then we have only monopoly profits which 
represent a redistribution of value. 

I don't think Marx ever thought that bourgeois production could rest 
on anything other than the foundation of labor in its direct form.  Of 
course Marx thought this was proving to be or would prove to be a 
miserable foundation but one on which bourgeois production had 
to stand.  

The saving of labor can never be the foundational principle of 
capitalist production. Technology is adopted only to the extent that 
it reduces costs, and since capital pays for labor power, not labor 
time itself, its interest in labor saving is economically 

Total automation is  not only a technical impossibility but  an 
economic one. Labor in its direct form remains the basis of 
capitalist production.  Exactly because of this capitalist production 
now plugs well spring of wealth. 

Rosdolsky's discussion of Bauer's theory of rationalization is quite 
good on this. 

2. is new technology undertandable in terms of relative surplus 

I think Marx for the most part only considered the direct impact of 
labor-saving technology on the production of relative surplus value. 
But technology which improves communication or allows for 
inventory management makes an indirect contribution to relative 
surplus value, and the indirect process has to be analyzed. Except 
for a few additions by Engels to Capital 3, I don't think there is 
much in Marx's Capital to work with. Nathan Rosenberg made this 
criticism long ago. Moreover, to the extent that new technology 
allows for the elimination of unproductive labor, there is no real 
contribution to the production of surplus value. 

3. will unproductive workers betray the real productive proletariat?

I don't see why this has to be so. If the wages of the former are low 
and uncertain and hours long and the threat of permanent 
technological unemployment menacing, I don't see why the 
proletariat could not be united around the goal of the abolition of 
wage labor as such. Productive workers may reason that their 
chances of success are much improved if all workers see in 
socialism an immediate improvement of their condition and thus 
fashion a transitional agenda which guarantees the  security of 
those workers whose jobs will be eliminated in a socialist society.

4.   Jairus' latest book is actually critical of  Marx (and Weber), of 
what he takes to be their primitivist historiography. There is a 
fascinating comparison between his book and Perry Anderson's 
>From Antiquity to Feudalism.  Aside from his piece on Hegel's 
Logic, Jairus wrotes a series of papers in the 70s on the mode of 
production (a theory of a colonial mode of production, a general 
theory, a critique of dependency theory), and he has written on 
hidden forms of wage labor (which led to an important debate with 
Gail Omvedt on the nature of the Indian peasantry in the early 90s, 
his review of Daniel Thorner's Atlas, and a forthcoming piece in 
Historical Materialism)

5. As for too much philosophy...All I meant was that in 
understanding Marx's theory of the value form one should not delve 
into Hegel and Aristotle to the exclusion of Richard Jones. Of 
course understanding the value form in terms of the principle of 
historical specificity has nothing to do with the idea of Marx's 
Capital being organized in terms of systematic dialectics. 

Yours, Rakesh

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