Re: [OPE-L] Albritton on Marx's value theory and subjectivity

From: Francisco Paulo Cipolla (cipolla@UFPR.BR)
Date: Wed Apr 19 2006 - 10:01:50 EDT

It seems tome that we could capture the contradiction you are raising by means
of the double character of labor under capital. The main purpose of capital is
the process of valorization but capital cannot be indifferent to the labor
process (the process of producing use values) because it is concrete labor alone
that keeps past labor alive in the value of the new product. That is, once any
one use value is chosen as object of capitalist production the actual process of
its production - the labor process - is crucial for the objective of
In your response it seems that you oscillate between indifference for the worker
and indifference for capital. Those are two very different things I think. For
the worker the border-line of indifference towards labor is not to threaten his
or her own livelihood. Since livelihood is the wage indifference may grow with
the easiness of getting a new job. For capitalists there is no such a thing as
indifferennce towards the lobor procees. In fact, to the double character of
labor there corresponds a double character of capitalist control over labor. And
this for the simple reason that valorization of capital depends both on the
process of creation of value as well as on the process of creation of use

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> Hi Paulo,
> If capital is interpreted as a general abstract relation, e.g. as an
> enforcible claim or ownership entitlement to society's surplus
> labour/-product/-value in general, expressible in money, then obviously *by
> definition* capital is indifferent to particular use-values or particular
> people - what matters then is only value-augmentation by any means, or from
> any source; in the same way that a banknote is "indifferent" to the goods
> for which it is exchanged, i.e. it could exchange for any number of
> different kinds of goods (though, if the banknote functions as capital, it
> aims to exchange for something that can in turn be exchanged for a higher
> value, "trading up" as it were).
> I'm just suggesting that "capital in general" is only an abstraction we use,
> the reality is that of "many capitals", and those capitals and their owners
> are not indifferent to particular use-values, or to particular people, even
> precisely in function of the instrumental rationality that operates.
> One contradiction for subjectivities is that if production is a means to an
> end, pursued for instrumental reasons, the producers may be required not to
> be indifferent to what they produce, although in reality, they are
> indifferent to it. They may be indifferent, yet cannot show that
> indifference. In a certain sense, you might say, they may have to believe in
> what they are doing, or at least make a show that they do, although in
> reality they don't believe in it.
> There is a rich management literature on worker-motivation, never-ending in
> the diversity of its themes, because of course what may motivate a human
> being to perform a task could be all sorts of things depending on
> personality, history, circumstances etc. It's a complex topic if you delve
> into it. Indifference is often seen as the polar opposite of love or care,
> and a frequent management preoccupation is "how do we get our people to care
> more about their work". All sorts of incentives may be thrown into the
> battle to reduce indifference. You might be a professional who does the work
> that is in your nature to do, or you might be a worker who does a job in
> which he is really estranged from himself (subjectively alienated).
> In some professions, reducing indifference to the minimum is absolutely
> critical in a practical sense - if e.g. a medical doctor becomes indifferent
> to his patients, the patients may die, or if an air traffic controller
> becomes indifferent about routing planes through airspace, horrific
> accidents can happen. That means that in many occupations, especially those
> involving major responsibility, you often really have to like what you are
> doing, beyond competency, otherwise really bad things happen. In other
> occupations, more subjective indifference is possible, because it has less
> consequence. An author who has reflected on this type of thing is the
> sociologist Richard Sennett, for example, he looks at what high job mobility
> or employment uncertainty does to people's subjectivities.
> Jurriaan

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