[OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Aug 16 2007 - 16:52:34 EDT

Hi all,

It's just that I think that in the Marx/Engels theory, the products of human
labour have a "value", irrespective of whether they are sold or not sold,
and it has evidently been like that, ever since human beings produced
anything with their work. They have that value, simply because it takes a
quantity of labour-time to make them or replace them. Otherwise, Engels's
statement that commodities can be "depreciated below their value" in the
trading process doesn't make sense. I obviously distinguish here between
value and exchange-value. Morover, a product has that value, irrespective of
its perceived utility.

To replace money with labour-tokens (a form of rationing) is to regress to a
more primitive, and less efficient allocation method in most cases. Much
more advanced techniques of giving and receiving credit are possible
nowadays. In Cap. Vol. 2, Marx distinguished between three great forms of
economic allocation: natural economy, money economy and credit economy.
Globally, we are increasingly moving towards credit economy now, as far as
economic exchange is concerned. Credit economy is concerned with estimated
future potential, specifically future earning power.

The point of a socialist or communist allocation system is not "equal
exchange", but to ensure normal human needs are met efficiently for
everybody, in a way that maximises liberty, justice and equality for
everybody. For this purpose, a wide range of allocation principles can be
used, most of which are already present in capitalist society, though
possibly with more restricted applications, given the ruling property forms.

If the most human beings can imagine, is that they make the allocation of
resources more "efficient" by privatising their ownership, then that's a
serious impoverishment of economic thought.

It is true only in some cases, but not all cases. It overlooks the main
modern problem of capitalist regulation: the growing intermediation between
the private ownership of an asset and its actual use, i.e. that private
ownership in practice doesn't resolve much anymore, as regards the actual
management of resource use. When I lived in New Zealand, the real estate
millionaire Bob Jones frankly admitted this - he said (paraphrase) whether
an asset is state-owned or privately owned does not necessarily imply
anything about the efficiency or wisdom of its management. He supported
privatisation only because then he could do more business, and make more
money. He wanted a better society for capitalists, believing that this is
better for everybody.

We live in the "age of the manager", and the social ideal is, a manager who
takes it upon himself to exercise "creative responsibility and stewardship"
over a bunch of people and resources with due integrity. To be emancipated
these days, is thus to be a manager. But point is, this manager may not
privately own most, or even any, of the resources he takes responsibility
for. His strength is only his personal capacity to relate, in a way that
provides power. Consequently, the employee gets graded according to how well
he is able to relate, vis-a-vis the goals of the manager, who tries to
reshape the world and his employees after his own image.

Part of the sickness of modern capitalist society, is precisely that the
traditional close connection between private ownership of resources, and the
responsibility for the use of those resources, has been broken.

That is why you get woolly concepts such as "governance" - this means
neither real government, nor real ownership, but an enforcable or voluntary
contract pertaining to the use of resources by "stakeholders". But the very
concept of a "stakeholding" refers to "any party which can affect, or is
affected by, the activities of a company or institution" or who has a
"legitimate interest" in it. A legitimate interest is primarily political,
not necessarily legal. In law, a stakeholder is a third party who
temporarily holds an asset "while its owner is still being determined".
There you can already see, the ambiguities of modern private property. It
is, as Marx suggested, "the socialization of property within capitalism".


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