From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Thu Apr 07 2005 - 18:23:12 EDT
Hi Nicky, Jerry (and Rakesh, Andy, Phil etc.) Nicky I cannot agree with you if the following > Marx's key insight into the social relations of capital is that workers trade their > labour-power freely. i.e. the crucial distinction is not between humans, land, > donkeys etc but between living *labour* and the *labour power* purchased for wages. is intended to explain why workers are uniquely the cause of surplus-value. Because if this is the crucial distinction then it appears to follow that human workers in a dictatorial economy of state-owned firms that commands and directs what jobs they perform and pays them not in cash but in real goods are not the cause of surplus-value; hence are not exploited and have no grounds for complaint; after all the wage-capital relation, which on this definition is constituitive of the production of surplus-value, has been abolished, therefore surplus-value is not pumped out of the producers. Marx said that capitalist profits are a historical form of surplus-value, therefore the cause of surplus-value cannot be the wage-capital relation, otherwise capitalist relations become synonymous with the presence of surplus-value and exploitation, and suddenly we have lost the historical materialist approach to history. Isn't the supposed abolition of exploitation on the grounds of the abolition of the wage-capital relation alone close to some of the ideological justifications that have been employed in real command economies? Also, if this is the crucial distinction then it seems we are similarly forced to accept that slaves, who do not enter the wage-capital relation, cannot be the cause of surplus-value and are therefore not exploited, even though they are human and are clearly exploited in both in the visceral and the technical, input-output sense. The logical possibility of machines that get paid a wage is the obverse of the real actuality of slaves that do not get paid a wage. Slave labour has been a thorny issue for some labour theories of value; similarly, wage-machines are also problematic. > i.e. the crucial distinction is not between humans, land, donkeys etc but > between living *labour* and the *labour power* purchased for wages. Hence it appears to follow that future technical progress which transforms some fixed-capital maintenance costs into wage payments to self-owning machines will necessitate a revision of Marx's theory of value to include the possibility that non-human labour is the cause of surplus-value and therefore exploited when employed in capitalist firms ... would you accept this conclusion? I think social relations of production alone cannot answer this. I think we need to look at the level of the forces of production too: that is, look at the causal powers of humans in distinction to machines (and animals), and not just the economic relations they enter into. I think Andy has introduced something tremendously important when he emphasises creativity, and it seems to me that this property is precisely a forces of production property. Creativity implies processes of induction and dynamic change, i.e. innovation, something that static approaches do not deal with. Andy, I will try to respond to your post when I get the opportunity. -Ian.
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