Re: [OPE-L] the virology and political economy of two self-reproducing non-basic products

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Mon Oct 10 2005 - 20:14:10 EDT

Dear Jerry,
Sraffa's book is 'production of commodities by means of commodities'.
So I doubt a self-replicating non-commodity could count as a good
example of a self-replicating commodity to replace the (defective)
'beans' example. The virus is not exchanged as a use-value with those
who receive it, and so it is a not a commodity - nor is it a
'use-value' to those who receive it - in the phase of its existence
(its use or 'consumption') when it is self-replicating. You are right
that it is a 'use-value' to those who create it and that viruses
could in principle be marketed as commodities, as guns are
(recognition files are marketed by anti-virus software merchants and
these no doubt have a copy of the code string of the virus within
them). But even it it were a commodity it would still not be
self-replicating in its production phase but only in its phase of use
or 'consumption' as a weapon, nuisance, or expression of malice,
depending on what sort of damage it does. In its production phase it
would be replicated with minimal time and resources - this ease of
replication is the problem music companies now have with songs,
replicated with minimal resources as MP3 files - but the time
involved in its gestation would be amortised over the copies, so
there would be more resources than the virus itself involved its
replication as a product. Computer viruses should be seen as black
part of a 'gift' economy, where something bad rather than good is
transferred, for which it would be inconceivable - outside Christian
forgiveness ("if thy enemy smite thee, kiss him on the cheek") - for
a good like money to be given in return by the recipient,

>  >  Of course, tongue in cheek aside, your examples clearly
>>  fail as examples of commodities in Sraffa's system, since they are
>>  not use-values and have no price
>Hi Ian H:
>Neither virus has exchange value (although, one can easily posit a
>situation in which viruses as weapons are produced in order to be
>sold on the market and in which they are fully commodities and hence
>have exchange-value): that's why I referred to them as products.
>You don't think they have use-value.  Why not?
>See below for my previous description of the usefulness of
>computer viruses.  The usefulness of viruses as biological
>weapons is similar to the use-value of commodities produced
>as weapons: their capacity to be used to kill other living beings
>-- in this case, human beings.  Without such a 'use-value'
>governments and others would not expend living labour and
>means of production on their creation.
>In solidarity, Jerry
>>  >The 'usefulness' of the computer virus is its ability to diminish
>>  >or destroy the use-value (and hence also the value and
>>  >exchange-value) of computers.

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
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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