[OPE-L] Lifetime earnings and unpaid work in Japan, plus a bit on co-operation theory

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Dec 12 2007 - 12:52:24 EST

As illustration, BLS has a pdf on the lifetime earnings of Japanese workers here: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1984/04/art4full.pdf

Data on the monetary valuation of unpaid labour in Japan here:  http://www5.cao.go.jp/98/g/19981105g-unpaid-e.html

The basic problem of economics is its market fetish, the idea that the economy is just about the market, revealed by accounts. Once we drop that fetish, we can understand that economic life depends on a lot of voluntary and non-voluntary co-operation, and that markets could not exist at all without it. Neo-liberalism is a theory of "each man for himself and God for us all" but the problem of that theory is, that in order to get anything done takes co-operation, and "the market" does not automatically ensure that co-operation, coerced or voluntary. Therefore, neo-liberalism mystifies the central problem, or simply gets rid of the problem, by referring to personal styles.

If we had much better theories of co-operation, economics would greatly benefit from that. Of course, it would mean that economics isn't simply a technical science to do with prices, but a social science concerned with people, with political economy, with organisation.

However, in bourgeois society the "science" of co-operation consists mainly of four fields: 

- business management and public administration theory (with all sorts of ideosyncratic ideas being put forward), 
- game-theoretical analysis (often focusing on unrealistic scenarios) and 
- military theory
- organisation consultants and guru's

Pontificating about co-operation is formally speaking the prerogative of the chief officer, a question of who has power, although informally workers also discuss it of course, because they have to co-operate. 

Try, if you like, to find 100 comprehensive, foundational scientific studies on the theory of human co-operation - I doubt if you can find them at all. It is an astonishing gap in scientific understanding, a whole field waiting to be discovered.

Here and there, you might also find anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists and psychologists etc. talking a bit about co-operation. Biologists also talk about animal co-operation, and socio-biologists ramble about the animal nature of co-operation and so on. All the rest however is just "street science", i.e. being streetwise in some sense.

The truth of the matter I think is that, scientifically speaking, there are some foundational principles of human co-operation, and beyond that there is an whole lot you can say about co-operation styles and the logics of co-operation. There is an enormous amount of experience and evidence that you can draw on. This is also Sam Bowles's intuition, and in that sense he's a good socialist.

The significance of all this for socialist theory can be sketched quickly as follows: 

Stalin had a theory of "productive force determinism": to build socialism, you needed to produce a lot of material wealth, and then you force the peasants and workers to produce it, at the point of a gun. 

Co-operation problem solved, or was it? At what cost?

Mao also tried some of that, but he also said, hold on a minute, theoretically "social relations" are also important, modifying the Stalinist theory. At what cost?

You just had these crude theories and directives from the Marxist bureaucracy, which were imposed on the workers, who had to concretise those crude theories. These were very crude, anti-ethical and in some respects inhuman theories of socialism, but the point is really that not one Marxist in those days thought of theorising human co-operation comprehensively, at least I never found one. 

A lot of disputation about the relative merits of plan and market are not going to help here, you have to understand what it is really about, and understand it also in historical perspective. We are talking about the basis of human co-operation and the basis of organisation.

 The Western liberals and leftists then scream about "totalitarianism", but they miss altogether the theoretical point, which is that you cannot build any kind of socialism worthy of the name without a comprehensive theory and understanding of co-operation, and forms of association. It is not just that you are a cultural *******  if you don't understand anything about this, but also that such insight is absolutely essential for socialist construction. 


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