Re: [OPE] Valuation of knowledge

From: Adler Paul <>
Date: Thu Nov 05 2009 - 11:01:30 EST

As I see it, it is for only very limited forms of knowledge and in
only very limited ways that a capitalist economy can define the value
of knowledge. Knowledge is where the value-form reaches a fundamental

Consider the creation of a new idea for a new therapeutic molecule in
pharmaceuticals: the idea is just as likely to occur to me while I'm
under the shower in the morning as sitting at my lab bench at work
during the day: what meaning can we give the idea of SNLT under those

Moreover, my creativity -- the generation of this new knowledge --
leverages a whole universe of scientific knowledge, and only tiny
parts of that universe have been commodified (in the form of patents).
It is my status as a "social individual" (the breadth and depth of my
ties to the whole "noosphere" of science and technology) that
determines my productivity as a knowledge-worker.

It seems to me that this is exactly what Marx was referring to in the
Grundrisse passage we all know: the labor directly involved in
producing knowledge become a tiny part of the labor actually required
for this production: so SNLT as a determinant of exchange-value
becomes progressively more difficult to define in practice, and
progressively less adequate as a mechanism for stabilizing and
orienting productive activity. Pricing knowledge-intensive products
and assets becomes increasingly "conventional": the market loses its
traction as a governing mechanism.

It's true that capitalist firms attempt to "manage" this knowledge-
generation process and to bring innovation under their control. And
some of these efforts are most impressive -- formally organizing the
innovation process, developing metrics for assessing its progress,
establishing productivity norms for innovation. (I teach this stuff.)
But these efforts always bring to the fore the essential paradox that
they are trying to "manage the unmanageable". In the literature on the
management of innovation, this paradox has always occupied a central
place: in this arena, capitalist self-consciousness is rather lucid.
And with the growth of the internet, it has been considerably sharpened.

On Nov 4, 2009, at 11:17 PM, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> I think we are still in the early stages of the valuation of
> knowledge as a commodity. It is not yet certain for many kinds of
> knowledge what its market value is, and for some kinds of knowledge
> it may never be quite certain. As I pointed out, there are different
> possibilities for valuation, similar to fixed capital: acquisition
> cost, sale value, replacement value, income-earning potential,
> labour content. Moreover knowledges may be revalued or devalued by
> other knowledges.
> As I noted in wikipedia
> the transformation of a labor-product into a commodity (its
> "marketing") is in reality not a simple process, but has many
> technical and social preconditions. These often include:
> *the existence of a reliable ''supply'' of a product, or at least a
> surplus or surplus product
> *the existence of a social need for it (a market demand) that must
> be met through trade, or at any event cannot be met otherwise.
> *the legally sanctioned assertion of private ownership rights to the
> commodity.
> *the enforcement of these rights, so that ownership is secure.
> *the transferability of these private rights from one owner to
> another.
> *the right to buy and sell the commodity, and/or obtain it
> (privately) and keep income from such trade
> *the (physical) transferability of the commodity itself, i.e. the
> ability to store, package, preserve and transport it from one owner
> to another.
> *the imposition of exclusivity of access to the commodity.
> *the possibility of the owner to use or consume the commodity
> privately.
> *guarantees about the quality and safety of the commodity, and
> possibly a guarantee of replacement or service, should it fail to
> function as intended.
> For many kinds of knowledge these kinds of criteria cannot, or
> cannot fully be met - they assume ownership or access barriers which
> do not exist yet.
> To understand the cost structure of products, Marxist theoretical
> dogma will not do. We have to look at the data. For example, in
> December 2008, Kline revealed that the top marketers in the personal
> care industry collectively spend about 29% of sales on cost of
> goods, 53% on marketing, and 7% on other expenses including R&D and
> administration, leaving an operating margin of about 11%.
> In reality the commodification of knowledge weakens capitalism,
> since the ability to produce, and produce at a competitive cost, has
> to scale the additional hurdle of the economic rents extracted from
> the monopolisation of knowledge by individuals and organisations.
> Jurriaan
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Received on Thu Nov 5 11:08:17 2009

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