Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value? creativity

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Sun Apr 17 2005 - 00:10:09 EDT

Dear Rakesh,
I take "value" to be a social relation of 
production: so it does speak to the specific 
finished form of value. Value in the abstract is 
defined by discipline of labour of production 
through market competition but it takes on more 
specific forms such as wage  labour for capital 
etc. The phenomena you mention are all more 
concrete, modified forms of wage-labour for 
capital. On a straight empiricist methodology, we 
would all have throw our hands up and accept that 
nothing general can be said (surplus value isn't 
essential either, since plenty of firms operate 
at a loss for a period). I employ a methodology 
of Marxian-Galilean abstraction:  given this, the 
points you make about varying empirically 
encountered features (the way the wage is paid 
etc) doesn't really affect the defining feature 
of wage-labour for capital, although, of course, 
it is important to note that it can sometimes 
take a form intermediate between its classic case 
and slavery, as in tenant farming in the post 
Civil War US South.

>At 8:10 AM +0930 4/15/05, Ian Hunt wrote:
>>Dear Rakesh,
>>You introduce  a number of other reasons why 
>>slaves and machines might not get on: my 
>>primary point though is that a master can 
>>dictate what slaves consume, whereas under wage 
>>labour for capital, capitalists can limit 
>>workers' consumption only though  a surplus 
>>labouring population that maintains competition 
>>between labourers in the free market for 
>>labour, as accumulation continues.
>Dear Ian,
>I don't know if the only works here. What then 
>of wage and price controls? What of the history 
>of maximum wage laws? And I am not clear about 
>how this difference between slave and wage labor 
>(note that Banaji defines wage labor in such a 
>way that it includes some forms of slavery; the 
>wage can be paid in provision lots, in use 
>values, scrips, etc., though not everyone paid 
>in such a form is ipso facto a wage laborer) 
>speaks to the question of value.
>Yours, Rakesh
>>This requires persistent "downsizing" of the workforce,
>>>At 2:21 PM +1030 4/14/05, Ian Hunt wrote:
>>>>Dear Rakesh,
>>>>I think you have not understood my point- sorry for not expressing it
>>>>clearly. I agree there is conflict between slaves/serfs and their
>>>>masters. I agree that in slave commodity production, surplus value is
>>>>produced. Labour time also plays a role. However, the drive for
>>>>relative surplus value present in capitalism, with a salient role for
>>>>labour displacing technical change, would not be part of the dynamic
>>>>of slave commodity production. Capital in this form can afford to be
>>>>technically lazy, since necessary labour time is set at the master's
>>>>command, not through competition between labourers in the market
>>>Dear Ian,
>>>Yes, yes, you had not mentioned the concept of 
>>>relative surplus value, and I certainly see 
>>>the logic of this argument that the transition 
>>>from absolute to relative surplus value 
>>>depends on the attainment of the civic 
>>>equality of labor; however, we should check 
>>>this argument against the history of technical 
>>>change on the plantations. For their time, 
>>>they may not have been technological laggards. 
>>>Why would  a plantation owner  have been more 
>>>reluctant to carry out mechanization where 
>>>this was possible and could be profitable. If 
>>>mechanization rendered redundant slaves that 
>>>had already been paid for or were inherited 
>>>gratis as progeny, those slaves could be sold 
>>>or forced to purchase their freedom through 
>>>commodity production as independent peasants. 
>>>Were slaves more likely to mishandle machines 
>>>than free wage laborers (as Cairnes and 
>>>Olmstead suggested)? Charles Post convincingly 
>>>argues that there is no reason why with the 
>>>right mixture of coercion and incentives 
>>>slaves could not work machinery as effectively 
>>>as free wage laborers. Slavery may not have 
>>>fettered mechanization.
>>>Whether indentured, slave or free wage labor 
>>>had been used, there may have simply been 
>>>limited possibilities of mechanization in the 
>>>cleaning of tobacco leaves, the picking of 
>>>cotton seeds and the harvesting of sugar. In 
>>>other words, slavery was resorted to exactly 
>>>because mechanization was difficult, the 
>>>demands for labor were high and the treatment 
>>>of labor terrible in these agricultural 
>>>activities (so free labor would not do it).
>>>Moreover,  the eventual lag  in the 
>>>industrialization of the American South 
>>>vis--vis the Northeast was probably in part 
>>>the result of the plantations using the child 
>>>and female labor on which early 
>>>industrialization depended. Children and women 
>>>were not as extensively used in the kind of 
>>>farming practiced in Northeast and Midwest.
>>>Thanks for the clarification.
>>>Yours, Rakesh
>>>>  Obviously, I did not mean for you to extrapolate from my words
>>>>that there is a more fundamental difference between industrial
>>>>capitalism and others forms of capitalism based on slavery, merchant
>>>>or financial capital than the above.
>>>>>At 11:47 AM +1030 4/14/05, Ian Hunt wrote:
>>>>>>If  can chip in here too. It is not clear that in total
>>>>>>mechanization, labour time would retain its significance: as Chris
>>>>>>suggests, the issue is that of a conflict of interest between
>>>>>>labourer and capitalist, when both have a formally equal social
>>>>>>standing. Machines, no matter how ingenious or creative, would have
>>>>>>no interests in potential conflict with capital unless they had lives
>>>>>>of their own and consciously pursued their own interest in those
>>>>>>lives. If they did and had formally equal social standing, then the
>>>>>>social relations of capital would have a place. On the other hand, if
>>>>>>they were persons but lacked equal social standing, we would have
>>>>>>slave or feudal commodity production: labour time no doubt would play
>>>>>>a role here but not the same as under capitalism.
>>>>>I don't understand this--there is no conflict between slaves/serfs
>>>>>and masters? Why is equal standing necessary for there to be a
>>>>>conflict of interest? Why must there be a conflict of interest among
>>>>>people of equal (juridical?) standing for surplus value to be
>>>>>produced, and to be the aim of production. Certainly surplus value
>>>>>can be produced even if people do have equal juridical standing, but
>>>>>this does not prove that they must for it to be produced.
>>>>Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
>>>>Head, Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
>>>>Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
>>>>Flinders University of SA,
>>>>Humanities Building,
>>>>Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
>>>>Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784
>>Dr Ian Hunt
>>Associate Professor in Philosophy,
>>Dept of Philosophy ,
>>Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
>>School of Humanities,
>>Flinders University of SA,
>>Humanities Building,
>>Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
>>Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

Dr Ian Hunt
Associate Professor in Philosophy,
Dept of Philosophy ,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
School of Humanities,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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