[OPE] Marx 101

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Wed Oct 07 2009 - 14:54:02 EDT


The description I present does not argue that Smith did not recognize any
difference between the technical division of labour in an enterprise and the
social division of labour between social classes and strata. That would
obviously be false, and Smith is also quite clear, that economic growth
depends on the reinvestment of profits in production. Rather, the argument
is that from Marx's viewpoint, Smith confused and conflated the two aspects
of the division of labour, such that it is no longer really clear what
aspects are really attributable to technical factors, social factors or to
market trade.

Quite simply, Smith generalizes from the production on pins in a factory, to
society as a whole. According to Smith, the division of labour is explained
by human nature: the human propensity to "truck, barter and exchange" and he
says the division of labour is limited only by the extent of the market. In
the same way, Smith explained slavery in terms of a domineering
characteristic in human nature. Thus, and this is the point in the wiki
article, the division of labour is viewed simply as an effect of the growth
of market trade. This story culminates in the famous Smithian principle of
the "hidden hand" of the market, according to which the pursuit of
self-interest by market actors balances out human requirements in society as
a whole.

In contrast Marx argues that the division of labour is historically not
originated by the market, and does not necessarily depend on it, and that
market expansion is the main means by which more surplus labour of others
can be captured as surplus value, and that, in fact, this capture is what
mainly drives the development of the division of labour in capitalism. His
critique of Smith is essentially that Smith runs together characteristics of
the division of labour generally, with characteristics specific to the
capitalist mode of production. Marx's argument is carefully laid out in Cap.
Vol. 1 ch. 14.

Actually, Marx is very explicit on this issue at the beginning of Cap. Vol.

"This division of labour is a necessary condition for the production of
commodities, but it does not follow, conversely, that the production of
commodities is a necessary condition for the division of labour. In the
primitive Indian community there is social division of labour, without
production of commodities. Or, to take an example nearer home, in every
factory the labour is divided according to a system, but this division is
not brought about by the operatives mutually exchanging their individual
products. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S2
(cf. Pelican edition, p. 132).

Some Marxists dream of a socialist price system controlled by a centralized
bureaucracy, but the real issue, as highlighted by Andre Gorz for example,
concerns the forms of organization of work itself. After all, a packet of
work tasks can be divided up in innumerable ways. How it is done, typically
reflects not just matters of technical expediency or efficiency
considerations, but also social control factors, power and status relations,
human interests, moralities etc.


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Received on Wed Oct 7 15:07:09 2009

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