Re: [OPE] Reply to critics (Cockshott mainly)

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Sun Oct 03 2010 - 07:20:12 EDT

  On 2010-10-03 12:10, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> Thanks for the comment. I regard the theory of information as "fully
> independent of human minds" as a reified, reductionist ideology which just
> assumes that the information is supplied, without understanding anything
> much about the production process which created it. It has insufficient
> regard for the fact that the meaning of information has to be constructed,
> both by the creator and the user, the sender or emitter and the receiver or
> observer.

Information content of a structure is independent of minds, but the
production of the content can very well involve agents. And the utility
of the content is certainly agent-dependent. (That distinction may
remind you of a similar distinction from vol.1.)

> it neatly reduces the concept of information
> to the smallest observable unit expressible with a number, but if it is a
> meaningless unit, it cannot orient behaviour except in the absolutely
> minimalist sense that one tries to disregard or avoid such meaningless
> units. [...]
> In information management, we can find literally hundreds of different
> "scientific" definitions of "information", all of which have been proposed
> by reputable scientists, and a historian would point out, that these
> definitions continue to change.

I'm afraid this is a serious misunderstanding and underestimation of
what modern information theory, starting with Shannon, is about. What
you perceive as 'meaningless units' belong to some of the most profound
discoveries of the 20th century with almost immediate practical
ramifications. Shannon's derivation of channel capacity and limits to
compression has transformed production processes, the means of
communication and the lives of millions of people. Without the
'meaningless units' we would not have this conversation.

John R. Pierce's "An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols,
Signals and Noise" (Dover, 1980) is a nice book on the topic.

> There exists no neutral definition of productive and unproductive labour,
> because what is productive from the point of view of one social class may
> not be productive from the point of view of another. The only objective
> definition of productive labour is in terms of what is as a matter of fact
> productive within the social conditions of a given mode of production. From
> the point of view of the capitalist class, labour is productive, if it
> increases the value of capital or results in capital accumulation.
Agreed, we are well aware of the fact that any conceptual classification
depends on the questions one asks. And the questions we ask about real
capital accumulation and relative surplus value, originating from two
intellectual giants, lead to a specific classification of social labour
that has certain theoretical and practical uses from that standpoint.
Contrary to what you might think, the classification is not static but
changes with technology and living standards as indicated by the
production matrix A and real wage vector w.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Sun Oct 3 07:21:44 2010

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