(OPE-L) Marx on The Clock

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 13:39:35 EDT

Hi Howard.

>  I'm more concerned with knowing what a clock
> is.  We seem to use this result or that result to refer to the passage of
> time, some of which we call clocks, or primitive clocks.   Clocks seem to
> be  a time embodying mechanism, don't they -- the release of the
> spring tells us a quantity of time has passed.  What about grains of gold?
> Not passing > through an hourglass, but just their weight?  Why can't I
> use them to tell > time?

You might be interested in the following passage:

"The  *clock* is based on the craftsmanship of artinsal production together
with the erudition which characterises the dawn of bourgeois society.
It gives the idea of the automatic mechanism and of automatic motion
applied to production.  The history of the clock goes hand in hand with
the history of the theory of uniform motion.  What, without the clock,
would be a period in which the value of the commodity, and therefore
the labour time necessary for its production, are the decisive factor?"
(Marx/Engels, _Collected Works_, Volume 33, p. 403, emphasis in


1) Marx does not follow the question above with an answer.  That's
because -- I believe -- he understood it to be a rhetorical question
where the answer was self-evident.  Of course, the answer may not be
as self-evident to _us_ as it was to Marx.

2) I think it is clear that from a *historical* standpoint that Marx
thought that the clock was the instrument with which the "labour
time necessary" for the production of commodities  and value
could be measured.   From the standpoint of theory, I think this is
problematic since the clock measures "real time" not "socially
necessary labor time."

3) as a historical statement, I think it is true that bourgeois society
and the clock developed side-by-side.  Marx wrote on the same page
that (along with the water[wind] mill) the clock is "inherited from the
past"  and its development "prepares the way for the period
of machinery, even during the period of manufacture." Moreover, I
believe that this is a technology which is vital in many ways to the
functioning of bourgeois society.  One could indeed go further and
explain how the clock is a good example of commodity fetishism since
it appears that the lives of workers in bourgeois society are ruled in
large part by ... The Clock.  Hence, two of the commodities most
hated by workers are the alarm clock, which wakes her up in the
morning,  and the time clock at work, which tells her when working
time begins and ends and hence when leisure and 'free' time ends
and begins.

In solidarity, Jerry

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