From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Sat Feb 25 2006 - 14:32:02 EST
Rakesh, let me try to reformulate your argument in my own words, and concentrate on relations of production rather than distribution. I think you are saying: even if the labors of different individuals are not counted by society as equals, it is a physiological truth that each labor is the performance of human labor-power, and obviously the amount of human labor-power available to society is limited. Therefore it is justified to consider all labor to be a portion of this use of the limited pool of available human labor-power. My answer: of course you can make this calculation, but the question is whether this calculation matters for society. When I was working on the assembly line in Detroit in the 1970s, one of my proletarian friends on purpose disabled the dishwasher in his apartment because he thought is was good for wife and kids to wash and dry the dishes by hand. You can easily compute how much labor this family is wasting, but this labor-time calculation is a theoretical exercise irrelevant for the day-to-day workings of the family itself. Of course this example is limited. A single family cannot insulate itself from the capitalist need to economize human labor: perhaps the wife has to get a job, and suddenly the dish washer becomes a necessity. A whole society however can survive centuries despite wasting labor in similar ways; indeed it may depend on similar labor-wasting practices in order to maintain the inequalities without which it would collapse. In other words: labor-time is a constraint in every society, but it is not always a binding constraint, other constraints may take precedence. Market relations tend to remove those other constraints so that labor-time is the only constraint left. Hans.
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