[OPE] Reply to Paul Zarembka on the law of capitalist competition

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 18:28:14 EST


That's a valid criticism. However, I think you cannot really understand technological change in Marx's sense without analysing competition. Of course, if you don't want to have anything to do with competition, best not to do observables about competition.

I suppose you could also say that, for Marx, there exists a motive for increasing labour-productivity quite independently from competition.

You could also say that there's economic competition at the level of value relations (in the Marxian sense), and competition at the level of market prices.

I suppose I skipped through one thousand pages, partly because of five reasons

- I didn't want to restate everything,
- I wanted to emphasize that from Marx net new product value does not result from trading activity as such (though of course there are plenty "fiduciary" capital gains possible, generating financial claims on already existing products, or future production)
- I lack the time to study and discourse on this complicated issue at length at present, and can only indicate some relevant aspects
- I am a bit iffy about my own analysis of it so far, i.e. making the step to implications which Marx himself does not draw in his unpublished manuscripts. You have to be sure that you get it correct, and I will read Goldstein's piece when I can.
- I regard Marx as a bad example for the organisation and execution of research, and he just wasn't very succinct, endlessly rewrote the same thing over and over so that you don't get 100 pages but 1,000 pages. As against that, a novel can be a more meaningful representation than a plot summary, for example.

In my interpretation, value relations can exist quite independently of price relations (since value relations refer to relations between quantities of abstract labor - the German word "Verhaltnis" refers to both a relationship and/or a proportion or ratio/rate), and thus, Marx is also able to analyse economic value relations quite independently from price relations, though obviously there is a reciprocal interaction between the two all the time. M-C...P...C'-M' where the dots describe the valorisation process, the value relations. That is why, for Marx, price can and does deviate from value. The existence of economic value I think does not assume the existence of price, thus, for example, in a socialist society, value also exists, but it doesn't have the same social consequences (this is different from the Marxist theory where "value", viewed as an oppressive force, is supposed to be abolished by socialism). In Marx's own theory, what has economic "value", are the products of social labour, but I admit this idea is conceptually not entirely unproblematic, in particular because variability in value may not be due at all to variations in social labour, in specific sorts of ways, and because labor-services may not result in a recognizable product. I can prove quite easily, as accountants well know, that price theory is logically impossible without resorting to a theory of value (value assumptions) and in this sense neo-Ricardianism is just an irrelevant distraction from the real problem, but I cannot prove that Marx's theory covers all cases. My opinion generally is that Marx gives one half of the story, but not the other half.

As regards Porter, well he's important to understand the modalities of competition. I wouldn't deny he has important insights to offer. But my intended work on this is still "on the shelf" so to speak.

How I can write long messages? I don't like to publish too much about personal matters but I can make a few comments.

Practical experience and application in the first instance. I lived next door to a writer once in New Zealand, must have been 1982, and I stated my wish to become a writer. She said to me, paraphrase, just start doing it, and practice, don't be afraid to publish, but try to avoid bullshit, try to get the experience so you really have a story to tell, as you cannot kiss words etc. (there's different opinions about that). I started typing at a young age, when there were no PCs yet, I thought it was the future, and I have never really stopped keyboarding, though I have had plenty "writers block" also.

I studied models of people who write fast, and tried to learn from them. Also, when you are a low-status documentalist or archivist, you can for instance find yourself processing forty, fifty, sixty documents per day in addition to mails that are just transferred (I mean here document selection, classification, registration, routing, destination, storing and so on), i.e. a norm of 7-10 minutes per document. That's what I was doing when 9/11 struck. Then if you've had a heavy week, you have clocked up looking at, like, 200, 250 or maybe 300 documents in more detail, in addition to just routers. If you are high-status documentalist, you can even find yourself looking at one doc all day long. That's how I lost my previous function, because the managers decided that with advancing digitalisation, fewer hours were necessary to do the document processing, and that more hours were necessary to employ more advisors.

If my purpose is clear - for example, I have to answer a specific question - I can usually write a response quite quickly, but if it is a large story, I can spend a lot of time thinking about it, I have to be mindful of the plot as a whole and it can be difficult to hold the whole story in your head, and not wander off into digressions, I get criticized a lot for digressions, it has to be brief and succinct. Getting the whole story is a bit analogous to forming a dossier correctly, it is not entirely a routine task because you have to keep thinking about the whole of what you are doing. In a sense, I suppose I could leave my paid job when I have done my eight hours, but this is frowned upon sometimes also.

I know what you mean when you say academics don't have time to write. Here in Holland educators often complain that they spend more time on administration than on learning, teaching and writing, and it doesn't help either if education is regarded low-status work. To some extent this is nowadays counteracted by splitting administration from purely educational work, but this doesn't always work so well - power fights break out, insofar that if you lose control over the administration, you can also lose control over your educational process, so that the purpose of why you are there, can be lost. The hand that rules the database is the hand that rules the world, sort of thing.

I suppose in the end, it is all a matter of clarity of purpose, and the will to sit down and write, make time for it. A fault I have is, that I often disregard the biophysical prerequisites for maintaining good concentration and eyesight, there's a sense in which life passes you by, while you are having doubts and trying to fix your idea in words, I have to resolve that better. You can sort of write to clarify an idea, I often do, whereas the idea should ideally be clear before you write. It's a form/content thing, but not always easy to resolve.

That aside, I often just work at home quite a bit at studying and writing in addition to the hours in my paid job, before you know it you can clock up, like, 60, 80 hours a week easy, in various cognitive activities that way, i.e. about 70% of your waking hours, but often people here are critical of that stance, they want less words, and more action, plus the household gets untidy. If I had a wife, she would simply pull the plug out of the PC at a certain point, I guess, in which case I have to be sure I've saved my stuff. Droit la paresse. You have to "prove" everything these days, but a lot of time can also go into that, there's often not enough hours in a day.


If you wanna live your life
Live it all the way
and don't you waste it
Every feeling, every beat
Can be so very sweet
you gotta taste it
You gotta do it
You gotta do it your way
You gotta prove it
You gotta mean what you say
You gotta do it

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Received on Tue Dec 16 18:30:10 2008

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