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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Apr 18 2005 - 10:58:13 EDT

At 4:05 PM +1030 4/18/05, Ian Hunt wrote:
>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
>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?

Your objection is of course valid. By value I meant self expanding
value, systematic increase of value in circulation.  This could
indeed obtain through self exploitation, through no alien
appropriation of labor time, though no wage labor.

But I doubt it. Small proprietors, peasants have no compulsion to
alienate at value; they may market only surplus products to diversify
consumption. Value need not regulate the C-M-C circuit. However a
capitalist has to sell approximately at least at value as a condition
of viability. Otherwise he will not have the means or incentive to
maintain the production on which society depends. Value becomes the
aim of production when it is unpaid labor time that the capitalist
aims to appropriate in the form of money from the sale of commodities
produced by means of wage labor.

I grant that there is at least one problem with my definition. The
Skillman problem. We do have value without unpaid labor in the case
where merchants buy at value in one place and sell at value in
another place. The pure mercantile circuit of capital.  Value  can
live an interstitial life  without wage and unpaid labor. In  this
case there would also be no systematic increase of the value in

>  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,

Yes,  my objection is not compelling. I like this last point, too.
Why is it that we have to make and do in fact make socially valid
judgements such as price of a thing does not accord with its value
(as if value is in fact a property of a thing). In the thought
experiment of a fully automated economy, it does not seem that people
would continue to speak of the value of things being or not being in
accord with their respective prices, though there could be
"equilibrium" exchange values or even prices, solutions for a set of
simultaneous equations. But it would not be important for anyone to
make socially valid judgements about whether market prices were in
accord with the respective values of things. Things would no longer
be understood to possess value.  The practical discourse of value
would disappear, I think. But I am not sure.  This suggests to me
that value is a practical discourse, a set of necessary illusions for
the organization of social labor when people  relate primarily
through commodities.

Yours, Rakesh

>>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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