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

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Tue Oct 11 2005 - 20:01:25 EDT

Dear Jerry,
To replace the 'beans' example, the virus must be self-replicating in
the phase of production. In Marx's schema we have M - MP+Lp -C -M':
the virus is not self-replicating in the phase Mp+Lp - C but only
when it is consumed by its 'purchaser', the person who has bought the
virus and then spreads it. The benefit for the purchaser grows
through self-replication of the virus (the benefits may or may not
include money, as you say: obviously it will, if the purpose of
spreading the virus is blackmail) but this process of consumption of
the use-value for the purchaser of the virus (the blackmailer,
terrorist, or whatever) falls outside what Sraffa was concerned with,
which is the production of commodities by means of commodities.

On the 'gift' economy: yes, there is a tendency for it to be
displaced but it also persists and takes on new forms.

>Hi again Ian H:
>It's easy enough to envision a scenario in why a 'spyware' type of
>computer virus fully takes the commodity form.  It can be
>produced with the intention of sale, have a use-value to potential
>buyers, an exchange-value, and  value.  Of course, it's illegal to
>sell or distribute spyware but that fact alone does not determine
>whether it is or is not a commodity.
>>  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.
>The use-value of a greeting card is realized by the person _buying_ the
>card.  In the same way, the spyware has use-value to the person buying
>the software (if it was sold).  The 'gift' does not also have to have
>use-value to the recipient.  For the buyer, it is a 'gift' which keeps
>getting better: i.e. the virus spreads without further expenditures of
>labor or means of  production yet the 'return', often taking the form of
>money, keeps growing.
>>  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.
>The virus, having been so programmed, reproduces itself.  Why
>isn't that sdelf-replicating?
>>  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,
>Yes, but gifts typically take the commodity form under capitalism:
>as Milton Friedman once said -- "there's no such thing as a free
>In solidarity, Jerry

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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