Re: [OPE-L] Inter-species slavery

From: clyder@GN.APC.ORG
Date: Thu Nov 23 2006 - 16:52:09 EST

Quoting Rakesh Bhandari <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>:

> >We can do empirical measurements of abstract labouring capacity, this
> >is what the capitalist discipline of work-study does. It quantifies
> >the average amount of time to perform a task with the average worker.
> >We know that workers can be transferd between tasks, this is the
> >key to the abstraction. Just as energy can transfer between forms,
> >so can abstract labour in two ways:
> >
> >1. In any society by a reallocation of individuals between tasks
> >2. IN commodity producing society by the exchange of embodied labours.
> The capacity for what kind of work and labor do humans have?

Well, that is a very good question. To us it appears that they
have a universal capacity, but that may only be because we only
measure human labouring capacity against the tasks that we
have proposed as a society.

However, it is at least strongly argueable, that with respect to
information processing tasks, human mental labour truely is universal.

This is the import of the Church-Turing thesis with respect to computability.
Church and Turing jointly discovered limits to what is in principle
effectively computable by a person or a mechanism. Some 60 years of
subsequent research have failed to produce any convincing arguments
that there exist other mechanisms that are in principle capable of
computing anything beyond the Church-Turing limit.

The import of this is that humans, when assisted with aide memoires,
in the form of written records do have a universal decision making
capability. Anything which is in principle decidable can be
decided by a human mathematician with a sufficient supply of
paper and pencils

In such questions one has to distinguish between what humans can
in principle do, and what they can feasibly do at an effective level
of labour productivity. For instance Richardson proposed the use
of numerical methods in weather forecasting in 1922, but although
the idea was in principle workable, and he gave post hoc demonstrations
of the method, it was not until computers came to the aid of the
numerical analyst that productivty rose to a level that made
the task feasible.

However, humans plus written records have a universal capacity that
no organism unable to manipulate such records can have.

> >>  At any rate,there is indeed an important difference in the dynamics
> >>  of human and
> >>  ant slavery because in the former slaves are either individually or
> >>  collectively
> >>  resisting in hidden ways or struggling to buy manumission or
> >>  ingratiating themselves to win favor or risking death in the attempt to
> >>  escape.
> >
> >I think this is an unsafe generalisation. Slaves certainly have struggled
> >for freedom, but whether this is universal is quite another issue.
> >Ingratiation
> >is also another strategy that will have been common.
> So you see no difference in the kind of ingratation a slave is
> capable of as compared to a dog? And you don't think that affects the
> dynamics of slavery differently than your pet relationship?

There are clearly differences in the level of complexity and
sophistication, but I was merely pointing out that resistance
and ingratiation can not of themselves be the distinguishing

> >  But it is not
> >clear that either of these are uniquely human. I have a dog that is
> >the very image of servile ingratiation, and bulls for example, have
> >at times to be subject to considerable constraint.
> Which is under genetic control. The responses by slaves are not that;
> there are degrees of freedom here and choices in a meaningful way.
> That makes slavery the institution it is with the dynamics it has.
> It's just a bad metaphor to read that back into the animal world or
> the world of animal husbandry.

I am not saying that human slavery and ant slavery will have the
same dynamics, our nervous systems are obviously much more
sophisticated than those of ants. However both involve the
exploitation of labour.

> >
> >
> >>
> >>  This is one reason why the human mode of slave production has an
> >>  essentially different dynamic
> >>  than the ant mode of slavery.
> >
> >This may be true, but one should not assume that insect societies
> >are free from class conflict, recently the struggles of worker bees
> have begun to be documented and understood.
> The class struggle of worker bees? No citation. Is this a joke?

Not at all see:  Ratnieks, F.L.W., Wenseleers, T. 2005. Policing Insect
Societies. Science, 307: 54-56.

That was where I read of it originally, but look on the website
which has a number of related publications

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