[OPE-L] Albritton on Marx's value theory and subjectivity

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Tue Apr 18 2006 - 14:14:12 EDT

Hi Paulo,

If capital is interpreted as a general abstract relation, e.g. as an
enforcible claim or ownership entitlement to society's surplus
labour/-product/-value in general, expressible in money, then obviously *by
definition* capital is indifferent to particular use-values or particular
people - what matters then is only value-augmentation by any means, or from
any source; in the same way that a banknote is "indifferent" to the goods
for which it is exchanged, i.e. it could exchange for any number of
different kinds of goods (though, if the banknote functions as capital, it
aims to exchange for something that can in turn be exchanged for a higher
value, "trading up" as it were).

I'm just suggesting that "capital in general" is only an abstraction we use,
the reality is that of "many capitals", and those capitals and their owners
are not indifferent to particular use-values, or to particular people, even
precisely in function of the instrumental rationality that operates.

One contradiction for subjectivities is that if production is a means to an
end, pursued for instrumental reasons, the producers may be required not to
be indifferent to what they produce, although in reality, they are
indifferent to it. They may be indifferent, yet cannot show that
indifference. In a certain sense, you might say, they may have to believe in
what they are doing, or at least make a show that they do, although in
reality they don't believe in it.

There is a rich management literature on worker-motivation, never-ending in
the diversity of its themes, because of course what may motivate a human
being to perform a task could be all sorts of things depending on
personality, history, circumstances etc. It's a complex topic if you delve
into it. Indifference is often seen as the polar opposite of love or care,
and a frequent management preoccupation is "how do we get our people to care
more about their work". All sorts of incentives may be thrown into the
battle to reduce indifference. You might be a professional who does the work
that is in your nature to do, or you might be a worker who does a job in
which he is really estranged from himself (subjectively alienated).

In some professions, reducing indifference to the minimum is absolutely
critical in a practical sense - if e.g. a medical doctor becomes indifferent
to his patients, the patients may die, or if an air traffic controller
becomes indifferent about routing planes through airspace, horrific
accidents can happen. That means that in many occupations, especially those
involving major responsibility, you often really have to like what you are
doing, beyond competency, otherwise really bad things happen. In other
occupations, more subjective indifference is possible, because it has less
consequence. An author who has reflected on this type of thing is the
sociologist Richard Sennett, for example, he looks at what high job mobility
or employment uncertainty does to people's subjectivities.


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