Re: [OPE] Marx on social recognition of private labour

From: Alejandro Agafonow (
Date: Fri Aug 29 2008 - 08:46:08 EDT

Dear Anders:
Even though I can not recommend orthodox Marxist literature on these issues, there is a useful piece for preventing some Marxist commonplaces.
I am talking about the sections: “The Ex Ante Illusion” and “Quality and Quantity”, within the Part 1: The Legacy of Marx, in The Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited, by Alec Nove.
Leon Trotsky is another heterodox that unfortunately has been overcome during too many years by Marxist-Leninists. I transcribe bellow some useful quotation relevant for your interest.
Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed. What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going?, 1937. []
«A unique law of Soviet industry may be formulated thus: commodities are as a general rule worse the nearer they stand to the mass consumer. […] To characterize industrial progress by quantitative indices alone, without considering quality, is almost like describing a man’s physique by his height and disregarding his chest measurements. Moreover, to judge correctly the dynamic of Soviet industry, it is necessary, along with qualitative corrections, to have always in mind the fact that swift progress in some branches is accompanied by backwardness in others. The creation of gigantic automobile factories is paid for in the scarcity and bad maintenance of the highways. “The dilapidation of our roads is extraordinary. On our most important highway – Moscow to Yaroslavl – automobiles can make only 10 kilometers an hour.” (Izvestia) […] From the standpoint of an ideal planning directive, which would guarantee not the maximum tempo in separate
 branches, but the optimum result in economy as a whole, the statistical coefficient of growth would be lower in the first period, but economy as a whole, and particularly the consumer, would be the gainer. In the long run the general industrial dynamic would also gain.»(Ch. 1)
«On the other hand, a successful socialist construction is unthinkable without including in the planned system the direct personal interests of the producer and consumer, their egoism, – which in its turn may reveal itself fruitfully only if it has in its service the customary reliable and flexible instrument, money. The raising of the productivity of labor and bettering of the quality of its products is quite unattainable without an accurate measure freely penetrating into all the cells of industry – that is, without a stable unit of currency.»(Ch. 4)
«Under a nationalized economy, quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative –conditions incompatible with a totalitarian regime of fear, lies and flattery.»(Ch. 11)
Leon Trotsky, The Soviet Economy in Danger, (October 1932) []
«The innumerable living participants in the economy, state and private, collective and individual, must serve notice of their needs and of their relative strength not only through the statistical determinations of plan commissions but by the direct pressure of supply and demand. The plan is checked and, to a considerable degree, realized through the market. The regulation of the market itself must depend upon the tendencies that are brought out through its mechanism. The blueprints produced by the departments must demonstrate their economic efficacy through commercial calculation.»
«Targets which are set by plan include in themselves inevitable mistakes and miscalculations. The nonfulfillment of the plan does not occur proportionately, due to the particular causes in each individual instance. The average growth of 50 percent in the economy may mean that in sphere A the plan is filled 90 percent, whereas in sphere B, only 10 percent; if A depends on B, then in the subsequent cycle of production, branch A may be reduced below 10 percent.»
Sincerely yours,
Alejandro Agafonow

----- Mensaje original ----
De: Anders Ekeland <>
Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
Enviado: viernes, 29 de agosto, 2008 9:20:08
Asunto: [OPE] Marx on social recognition of private labour

Hi all,

I am about to write a small article related to "user-driven 
innovation" and "open innovation" - two of the latest fashions in 
innovation studies.

For a Marxist this is the problem of social recognition of private 
labour - and user-driven/open innovation is the concepts that are 
used by mainstream economists and policy makers to discuss this problem.

There is two - connected - ascpects of the social recognition problem 
- quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative is overproduction 
(like in Spain now - with an massive overproduction of houses, 
ordinary and leasure - one million buildings "too" many).

But in this context the qualitative side is more in focus, i.e. do 
capitalism give us the kind of products we want - or do the 
profitmaximasation drive and its consequences for product design and 
development - in different ways pervert the satisfaction of user 
needs. What I am looking for is early Ralph Nader like literature.

My starting point is Eric von Hippels book from 2005 - Democratizing 
Innovation. This is an interesting book for the study of how products 
can be developed when capitalist competition is no longer a driver 
for innovation.

Any hints on litereature are very welcome.

When it comes to Marx treatment of this I have started from 
Rosdolsky's "Karl Marx and the problem of use-value in political 
economy" Originally from in Kyklos in 1959, who mentiones Rubin and 
Grossman - are there any newer treatment of this topic?

Regards and thanks in advance
Anders Ekeland  

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