RE: [OPE] value of knowledge

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Mon Nov 30 2009 - 05:29:43 EST

Babbage, op cit, chapter 11

"The two last-mentioned sources of excellence in the work
produced by machinery depend on a principle which pervades a very
large portion of all manufactures, and is one upon which the
cheapness of the articles produced seems greatly to depend. The
principle alluded to is that of copying, taken in its most
extensive sense. Almost unlimited pains are, in some instances,
bestowed on the original, from which a series of copies is to be
produced; and the larger the number of these copies, the more
care and pains can the manufacturer afford to lavish upon the
original. It may thus happen, that the instrument or tool
actually producing the work, shall cost five or even ten thousand
times the price of each individual specimen of its power."

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Paula
Sent: 29 November 2009 20:07
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: [OPE] intermission: value of knowledge

Regarding 'quantities of information', I have now looked into the links sent
by Dave and Paul C. My initial thought is that the concept for information
used there does not correspond closely enough to the concept we would need
for a discussion of value creation in the 'information society' and/or
'knowledge economy'.

Take Paul C's example of the manufacturing of paper, a process that reduces
the entropy of the raw material (wood pulp). Note, first, that this process
involves concrete labor - it is the process of changing one use-value into
another. Second, that although entropy is being reduced, value is being
added. These two points suggest to me that the process of increasing (or, in
this case, reducing) information in the sense used here belongs to the
creation of use-value, not value.

But, third, note also that paper-making is not part of the 'knowledge
economy' as most business people, consumers and economists understand it. Of
course, in a sense, all economies are 'knowledge economies'. But this is not
the sense that interests us here. We are interested in economic activities
that do not produce material things - the writing of the novel as opposed to
the making of the book, etc.

It appears that the limitations of the 'quantitative' notion of information
are also an issue for philosophers. The 'Information Theory' entry of my
Routledge Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this to say:

"The information studied by Shannon is sharply distinct from information in
the sense of knowledge or of propositional content. It is also distinct from
most uses of the term in the popular press ('information retrieval',
'information processing', 'information highway', and so on). While Shannon's
work has strongly influenced academic psychology and philosophy, its
reception in these disciplines has been largely impressionistic. A major
problem for contemporary philosophy is to relate the statistical conceptions
of information theory to information in the semantic sense of knowledge and
content" (the author of this entry is Kenneth M. Sayre).

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Received on Mon Nov 30 05:34:23 2009

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