Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value? creativity

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Mon Apr 18 2005 - 01:35:15 EDT

Dear Rakesh,
Your comments raise more issues than I can cope with at present. I
will give your more far reaching comments on wage-labour some thought.
I now have only one small comment. I don't think your definition of
value will work. Why can't there be value without unpaid labour? Why
not value without wage labour? What you offer as the definition of
'value' I would take as (or as close to) the definition of the
capital - wage labour social relation of production. I don't regard
monopoly as a difficulty for my definition (nor do I regard rent as a
difficulty either). Most monopoly is only partial. Where it is total
( a perfect natural monopoly) you have an anomaly in capitalist
commodity production: which accords with how capitalists in general
view it but also accords with the thought that socially necessary
labour time has little content in such a case either,

>Dear Ian,
>You wrote
>>I take "value" to be a social relation of production: so it does
>>speak to the specific finished form of value. Value in the abstract
>>is defined by discipline of labour of production through market
>I don't see the grounds for that definition. Why not define value as
>the appropriation of unpaid labor time in the form of money through
>the production of commodities by means of wage labor? To be sure,
>market competition distributes surplus value but value and labor
>discipline can exist with low a low degree of competition, no?
>Predicating value on market competition threatens to make it
>inapplicable to monopolistic forms of capital. Just as with Sweezy
>and Baran.
>>  but it takes on more specific forms such as wage  labour for capital etc.
>If by value we mean 'self expanding value' then I would say that wage
>labor is not a more specific form, but constitutive-- though I would
>follow Banaji's conception of wage labor.
>>  The phenomena you mention are all more concrete, modified forms of
>>wage-labour for capital.
>>  On a straight empiricist methodology, we would all have throw our
>>hands up and accept that nothing general can be said (surplus value
>>isn't essential either, since plenty of firms operate at a loss for
>>a period).
>Following Banaji, I reject a simple empiricism which equates wage
>labor with its  general visible form, i.e. payment of money wages to
>apparently free wage laborers. Which is  how I think the self named
>social relations school here defines it. I have raised  a couple of
>objections to this school: the wage can take multiple forms, and the
>wage contract is not in fact free or only spectrally so.    I am
>pointing to an underlying relation of production. Which is not
>immediately visible as are the more common relata.
>>  I employ a methodology of Marxian-Galilean abstraction:  given
>>this, the points you make about varying empirically encountered
>>features (the way the wage is paid etc) doesn't really affect the
>>defining feature of wage-labour for capital,
>But here then is the debate--what is the defining feature of wage
>labor? Marxists should have clarity about that! I don't think they
>do. Which I was have pursued this argument for several years now on
>On Marx's Galileanism, two authors whom I have read have developed
>the theme--Leswak Nowak and Daniel Little.
>>although, of course, it is important to note that it can sometimes
>>take a form intermediate between its classic case and slavery, as in
>>tenant farming in the post Civil War US South.
>The opposition of classic versus other cases only privileges forms
>dominant for some workers for some time in some parts of the West.
>That is, it represents as  marginal many parts of the actual history
>of the capitalist system. But those other histories may prove more
>generally relevant in the years ahead.
>De fabula narratur!
>May I recommend this excellent review
>"Labour History as the History of Multitudes"
>Marcel van der Linden, Multitudes
>Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker,
>The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
>(Boston: Beacon Press 2000)
>Marx's thesis is based on two dubious assumptions, namely that labour
>needs to be offered for sale by the person who is the actual bearer
>and owner of such labour, and that the person who sells the labour
>sells nothing else.16 Why does this have to be the case? Why can
>labour not be sold by a party other than the bearer? What prevents
>the person who provides labour (his or her own or that of somebody
>else) from offering packages combining the labour with labour means?
>And why can a slave not perform wage labour for his master at the
>estate of some third party?
>Asking these questions brings us very close to the idea that slaves,
>wage-labourers, share-croppers, and others are in fact an internally
>differentiated proletariat. The target approach is therefore one that
>"eliminates as a defining characteristic of the proletarian the
>payment of wages to the producer."17 The main point appears to be
>that labour is commodified, although this commodification may take on
>many different forms.
>   It is definitely not a coincidence that the acknowledgements of The
>Many-Headed Hydra list Yann Moulier Boutang and his book De
>l'esclavage au salariat published in 1998.18 After all, in his
>extensive study (elaborating on the work of Robert Miles and others),
>Moulier Boutang supplies arguments supporting the position that
>bonded labour is essential for capitalism to function, both in the
>past and nowadays. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who have also
>been inspired by Moulier Boutang, summarize a substantial portion of
>his theory as follows:
>Slavery and servitude can be perfectly compatible with capitalist
>production, as mechanisms that limit the mobility of the labor force
>and block its movements. Slavery, servitude, and all the other guises
>of the coercive organization of labor - from coolieism in the Pacific
>and peonage in Latin America to apartheid in South Africa - are all
>essential elements internal to the process of capitalist
>   Marx called slavery "an anomaly opposite the bourgeois system
>itself," which is "possible at individual points within the bourgeois
>system of production," but "only because it does not exist at other
>If Moulier Boutang and others are right, then Marx is mistaken here.
>In this case, "free" wage labour would not be the favoured labour
>relationship under capitalism, but only one of several options.
>Capitalists would always have a certain choice how they wished to
>mobilize labour-power. And bonded labour would under many
>circumstances remain an alternative.
>  If this conclusion is justified, then labour historians will indeed
>be expected to expand their field of research considerably. Linebaugh
>and Rediker write: "The emphasis in modern labor history on the
>white, male, skilled, waged, nationalist, propertied artisan/citizen
>or industrial worker has hidden the history of the Atlantic
>proletariat of the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth
>centuries." (Linebaugh and Rediker, 332)
>Yours, Rakesh

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Head, Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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