RE: [OPE] Studs Terkel died, and lives on

Date: Sat Nov 01 2008 - 06:43:24 EDT

> Yet, as Sarah Palin noted, the "resilience of the American economy" which continues
> to attract large quantities of foreign capital, is based principally on the productive power
> of its workforce.
> This workforce is the main productive force of the economy, in Marxist terms. Yet,
> despite their central role, workers are almost totally absent from modern economics -
> they only exist as an abstract "factor of production", or an abstract "consumer", a
> "labour input", an "economic agent" or a "game-theoretical rational actor", i.e. as
> objects rather than subjects.
Hi Jurriaan:
As subjects, though, what is the effect of workers under capitalism
on productivity? For the most part, it has been to *resist* increases in
productivity. There are exceptions, of course. Some that come to mind
o during wartime or times of social crisis, workers often volunteer to work
o skilled workers may have more control over the labor process and
therefore more in a position to act as subjects who can by their own
decision-making affect productivity (NB: to the extent the there is 'deskilling'
caused by the diffusion of new technologies, this discretion on the part of
skilled workers is eroded);
o college professors - to the extent that they have bought into the
administration line that they are all part of the 'college family' and that
they are 'professionals' rather than workers - might take actions as
subjects to increase productivity (especially in an individualized attempt
to gain relative job security).
The rhetoric, though, of Palin and other right-wingers about how US
workers are allegedly the "greatest" and most productive workers in the world
makes me want to puke. It seems to me to eerily reminiscent of that used
by fascists such as Mussolini: it echoes left rhetoric and appeals to
nationalism and patriotism. The co-opting of the expression "socialism" in
Italy and Germany by the fascists also comes to mind. Reactionary
nationalists can tip their hat to workers' subjectivity even as they brutalize
them and send them to their deaths.
A lesson from many of the stories told by Terkel is how *little* control
workers in capitalist society have over their own work and how frequently
they are denied the ability to be creative and to act as genuine subjects.
For most workers, they can act as subjects only outside of where they
work (in the families, communities, etc.).
In solidarity, Jerry

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Received on Sat Nov 1 06:48:47 2008

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