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Marx and Automation

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Marcos
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robbo203 wrote:

Hi Michel, Welcome to the forum.  Here are few random thoughts in response to your post

 

MBellemare wrote:

 

1. The Art-world, completely operates outside the bounds of labor-power and Marxist economics. And I quote Andy Warhol, although I am not a fan of Warhol, he is correct on this point "Its not how much labor that goes into artifact/aesthetic-commodity that determines its value/price, it is how much you can get for it!". I can place a useless object with absolutely no value whatsoever, completely damaged or rusted out etc., in a well-connected gallery and if I can convince a patron or collector that this is a significant art-piece and worth 1 million, presto! you have a sale of a useless object, with little to no labor-time involved, now fetching 1 million on the art market. This is not fashioning value out of thin air. It is fashioning value in and through conceptual-perception, "creatively". (There are many other forms of profiteering out there like this.) 

You make a valid point but the point that you are making has to with those exceptions that prove the rule.  An original Warhol work of art is not strictly a commodity in the Marxian sense since it is not reproducible. Certainly, it can be bought and sold and at a price some would say is totally out of proportion to the effort put into making it but even so, you cannot really talk of it being a commodity.  Marxian value or socially necessary labour time would not be applicable here since this refers to a sort of industry wide average whereas the work of art we are talking of is unique and one-off.  However, should print copies of this work of Art be manufactured on a large scale, you would indeed have a case of commodity production and unsurprisingly, this will be reflected in the huge price differential between the original and the (multiple) fakes attempting to imitate the original on a semi industrial scale. 

 

So it is not quite true that “The Art-world, completely operates outside the bounds of labor-power and Marxist economics”. The reproduction of art products, I would argue, is indeed subject to the law of value and even the production of originals though, by definition, not reproducible, involves the application of labour power.  Moreover, beyond that relatively small segment of human activity you call the Art World, and for all the hype surrounding it, the vast majority of products do indeed take the form of commodities ans as such are subject the law of value governing their exchange

 

 

MBellemare wrote:

2. The same scenario and logic applies to CEO salaries, Sport-Star salaries, Reality-Star salaries etc., their value/price/wage have nothing to do with "quantifiable labor-time expended within the production process". It has everything to do with the networks they belong to, the conceptual and material networks of power. To quote, an important saying of mine, "whatever one can get away with in the market-place" is valid and legitimate. When it comes to value, price and wage, if you or your network have the power to back up, artificially fabricated values, prices and wages, then it becomes normalized over an extended period of time and space, through routine. Sport stars exist in an oligarchical, highly-controlled-market, where competition is very lax between clubs, i.e., there is an oligarchical network controlling the sport, while competition is fierce between players. I cannot start a club in any city, I cannot move a club where there is already one in place, unless I get approval from the league, i.e., the oligarchical network, etc. The rules are endless, nonetheless, through these rules professional sports artificially fabricates an oligarchy with highly inflated, highly obscene, highly arbitrary wages, prices and values, that have nothing to do with labor-time or labor-power and everything to do with conceptual-perception, namely, creativity in maximizing profits. People are conditioned, both materially and conceptually, via media, and other enterprising-networks/social relations to flock to sport stadiums to pay exaggerated commodity-prices, to support exaggerated wages, concerning a completely useless set of activities, that if abolished, wouldn't change a thing. The reason is that these artificially fabricated pseudo-economies produce nothing but useless empty-spectacle. These types of pseudo-economies, which are now almost everywhere, are outside the traditional Marxist factory and theory, and operate based on much that is (unquantifiable), subjective, artificial and most importantly, arbitrary. If the league gets together at its annual meeting and decides to charge 15 dollars extra for tickets or 15 dollars for a beer etc., (which happens with hockey in Canada and North America) then this has nothing to do with socially necessary labor-time and everything to do with "what one can get away with" in a sphere of production and consumption. In a post-industrial, post-modern socio-economic formation, like neoliberal-state-capitalism, power and control are paramount in determining value, price and wage, and when this is the case, everything is skewed, slippery and arbitrary, subjective, artificially fabricated. That is, all the conditions, the old post-modernists have been describing in language have come to infect and have infected economics, and the economy, for better or worst. Consequently, the fount of value is not per say strict scientific quantifiable labor-power/labor-time, although this has not totally gone away, it is, in my estimation, creative-power, a fount that is both quantifiable and unquantifiable. For example, you cannot put a scientifically measured value on "networking", being well-connected, being born in a wealthy family etc. If I marry the US presidents daughter and as a result, have the president's ear, I can have an enormous amount of influence on policy, that, in turn, influences/determines value, price, wage and profits in a particular sphere of production and consumption down the line. And if I am influencing value, price, wage and profits down the line, thus I am involved in the manufacturing of surplus value, a type of manufacturing beyond the factory floor, that is unquantifiable and creative, such is, creative-power, a power greater than yet encompassing labor-time.       

(The only thing unifying these post-industrial, post-modern economies and wacky phenomena is the logic of capitalism, to maximize profit byany means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible.)    

Again there is an element of truth in what you say but you grossly exaggerate the significance of what you are talking about.  The overwhelming majority of us are not sport stars but wage slaves and our wages being the price of working ability which we sell to our employers are indeed subject to the law of value.  Sports stars play a role analogous the production of original works of art in the Art World.  They are merely exceptions that prove the rule.

 

It is the rule that should interest us in the formulation of social theory rather than the exception, fascinating though the latter may be.  Social theory is, or should be, focused on generalisations that seek to capture the main outlines of the object of our study.  Disregarding the circumstances of the great majority, the lives of “ordinary” folk and what they do, as if they did not really matter in the larger scheme of things, betrays a kind of elitist outlook which to some extent is endemic in the Art World itself with its snobby name dropping and rich well connected patrons.

 

Allow me to make one or two further points under this heading.

 

 

Firstly you say to “CEO salaries, Sport-Star salaries, Reality-Star salaries etc., their value/price/wage have nothing to do with quantifiable labor-time expended within the production process". Well, according to the American trade union AFL/CIO website, median compensation for CEO's in all industries in the US early 2010 was $3.9 million; $10.6 million for companies listed in Standard and Poor's 500, and a staggering $19.8 million for the companies listed in the Dow-Jones index.  Now if you happen to have an annual income of nearly 20 million dollars then certainly that would place you in the capitalist class, albeit in the lower rungs of that class.  In that event, it is entirely to be expected that your income will not reflect your labour contribution but will greatly exceed it.  This is precisely what the Marxian theory of exploitation states.  CEOs, of course do contribute some labour but the remuneration they receive in the guise of a compensation package will bear little relation to this labour contribution, a major component of which derive from the fruits of other people’s unpaid labour.

 

This is not that different from the situation in the old Soviet Union where the nomenklatura or de facto soviet capitalist class took their share of the surplus value in the guise of inflated and multiple salaries as well payments in kind of all sorts.  The fact that they formally received their income as a “salary” only served as an ideological fig leaf to hide their status as an exploiting class.

 

As for those grotesquely overpaid sport stars, though their income may not appear to derive from the exploitation of others you can be certain that a large chunk of this will find its way into the capitalist investment cycle where it will reproduce itself through precisely the process of exploitation.

 

 

Finally, you refer once again to “quantifiable labor-time expended within the production process”.  But again I would point out that socially necessary labour time is not something that can be measured with a stop watch.  It is an industry wide social average which only manifests itself post sale in the ratios in which commodities exchange.  It is not something that lends itself to empirical quantification – though some commentators have attempted to quantify Marxian labour values in a rough and ready sort of way

 

 

 

 

MBellemare wrote:

3. I also describe two trends happening across the post-industrial, post-modern economy, 1. The cutting of production costs to increasingly new lows. 2. The raising of prices, pertaining to these specific commodities, within a specific sphere of production.The result is increasing debt for commodities our parents and grandparents could pay outright and the result is ever-increasing financial inequality. I mention two, Apple and the Car industry. Apple wants to cut production costs, thus they move their factory to china etc., pay less for workers etc., (Marx is in accord). Apple then sells these cheap products for exaggerated sums in North America, because they operate in a closed-economy and sphere of production, a type of oligarchy, where they and their competitors, which are not in my estimation competitors but friendly jousters, agree (wink wink, at arm's length) to sell according to a certain similar range of prices, which every year or so, magically rise, across the board (the same applies to insurances, bank rates, mortgage rates etc.), due to the fact that all companies must maximize profit by any means necessary. Via a closed-economy and/or sphere of production, shared among a select few, competition is pushed to periphery and down to the grassroots of the specific closed-economy/sphere of production, where the global working class is located and at war with each other for jobs, better living conditions, human rights etc.  Contrary to Neoliberals, we do not live in free markets, where everyone gets an equal kick at the can, markets are highly controlled affairs, value, price and wage are highly controlled machinated affairs. Economic laws hide the backroom machinations, behind, a seemingly unbiased, invisible hand that somehow always bestows its favor on the same select few. Financial inequality is not the product of any invisible-hand or economic law, i.e., law of value, it is the product of people in positions of power, exercising their creative-power, both material and conceptual, based on the fundamental imperative of capitalism, "to maximize profit by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible". All sort of economic gimmicks spring from this because if an entity, human or otherwise, can fashion a closed-economy/sphere of production, they can set prices, values and wages whereever they like. It has nothing to and/or very little to do with labor-time expenditures in production. It has to do with what conceptual-perceptions of the public are, what they are willing to live with. And as we know, the general public can tolerate a lot of shady stuff, maybe indefinately.   

Once again, yes there is something in what you say here but you exaggerate.  Producers will strive to charge monoply prices if they can get away with it but even with closely knit cartels there is always a temptation to break rank.  You can’t just set prices, values and wages as you like, completely arbitrarily.  There are countervailing pressures. 

 

You talk of production costs (including wages presumably) falling and prices of commodities rising nonetheless.  But this is misleading.  At some point if wages steadily fall and commodity prices steadily rise, you will end up with vast  amount of unsold stock (which will in turn will exert a downward pressure on commodity prices)

 

Some prices have risen but others have fallen in real terms and adjusted to account for inflation .  Have a look at this chart supplied by the Bureau of Labour statistics  covering the period the period 1997-2013 https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/long-term-price-trends-for-computers-tvs-and-related-items.htm.  This is precisely what Marx means by the cheapening of commodities brought about by technological innovation and enhanced productivity per worker.  A fall in the rate of profit through mechanisation is compensated by an increase in the resulting mass of profit through an increase in the sheer volume of output making for a decline in individual prices

 

You mention China and Apple again.  You say “Apple wants to cut production costs, thus they move their factory to china etc., pay less for workers etc”.  Yes the wages are low and the shifts appalling for workers but again it is misleading to suggest that Apple can just get away with doing whatever it wants with impunity.  The very fact that this case is highlighted shows pressure is and can be brought to bear on those concerned.  See for example this https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/feb/20/foxconn-apple-china-wages

 

Generally speaking as I said wages have been rising in China and this is in part a reflection of the greater degree of militancy among workers.  And it is because of rising wages that Chinese capitalists are showing an interest in forms of mechanisation such as robotisation

 

 

 

MBellemare wrote:

4. We are stuck between the chicken and the egg. Does value create price ( I think Marx might be situated here)  or price create value (Crank economists)? Marx agreed that price could create value, although he theorized that this was an exception. I am inclined to state within the arrival of post-industrialism, post-modernism that increasingly mechanisms and networks of power, both conceptual and material, are fashioning price, value and wage, not out of nothing (like crank economists) but out of creative-power, i.e., the ability to set price, value and wage and sustain these artificially fabricated values, prices and wages over an extended period of time and space, via powerful networks both conceptual networks and material networks. Marx, stated that the connection between value and price was an ideal one, meaning it was localized in the mind (I state exactly where in a prior DV article). I have followed Marx's logic and I took the next logical step that price, value and wage is based on conceptual-perception and moreover a ruling ideational comprehensive framework, or a ruling ideology, i.e., how an ideology defines reality, favors certain phenomena over others etc., how ideology is produced, reproduced and functions at all levels of human existence to fashion a bias framework of comprehension and understanding, both to what constitutes value, price and wage, including what constitutes labor-time, productive and unproductive labor etc. The concept of creative-power both acknowledged Marx's concept of labor-power, and humans as the producers of their social existence and, broadly speaking, the many unquantifiable energy expenditures that cannot be measures, such as creative-innovation, art making, networking, control, oligarchy, child rearing etc., whereupon one cannot scientifically measure the quanta of influence. Creative-power gets radical economic theory out of certain theoretical jams, without falling into the crank economist trap, and explains certain economic phenomena, which can be considered post-industrial and post-modern.

 

I am not quite sure what you mean when you say “Marx agreed that price could create value, although he theorized that this was an exception”.  Could you elaborate on this possibly with a reference from Marx?

 

I don’t really understand what you mean by creative power or how it “gets radical economic theory out of certain theoretical jams, without falling into the crank economist trap, and explains certain economic phenomena, which can be considered post-industrial and post-modern”. 

 

You say that “Marx, stated that the connection between value and price was an ideal one, meaning it was localized in the mind” and that you have followed Marx’s logic and have taken the “next logical step that price, value and wage is based on conceptual-perception and moreover a ruling ideational comprehensive framework, or a ruling ideology”.  I might be misreading you here but this seems to be suggesting a single monolithic source that exercise determinative influence over these magnitudes of price value and wage. 

 

 

I would argue to the contrary that the magnitudes are emergent properties resulting from the interactions of multiple agents.  The ruling class, the supposed source of this “ruling ideology” is not a monolith but is endemically prone to factional infighting and competing interests.  It confronts a working class that is also able to exert an influence in these matters

 

 

Robbo has done a pretty good analytical job. Land has not value either, but it can be sold for millions of dollars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcos
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Since he has written about the fall of communism and the iron curtain. It already comes to my mind that he does not what the capitalist society really is. It is the same opinion of the capitalists economists and capitalist politicians. Communism did not fall, capitalism was transformed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

robbo203
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Hi Michel.  A few more comments...

 

MBellemare wrote:

Robbo, you do state think-points that deserve consideration. May be I am exaggerating, but I don't think so and I think with time you'll come around. Working myself in the artworld, I can say that with almost perfect certainty that labor-time expenditures have nothing to do or very little to do with how the artworld functions as an artist. Network, networking and image is paramount, labor is secondary to creativity and conceptual-perception, i.e., what one thinks and what people think. Now, you may think that the artworld is an exception, but I don't think so, I think it is a central economy/ sphere of production and consumption in post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, that flows into other spheres like other the art-form economies, advertising etc., it is usually celebrated as a diamond of western societies to show the world, how democratic, inclusive, cool and multi-cultural, bourgeois, neoliberal capitalism is.

Well, there are several points I would make here by way of response. The first is to question your cut-and-dried distinction between art and labour as if the one does not involve the other (and vice versa).  That, I think, is to diminish and impoverish both. Working in the art world you would probably have heard of the great Victorian artist and revolutionary socialist, William Morris. The SPGB long go published a pamphlet on Morris which I would recommend to you.  Here's the link - http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/art-labour-and-socialism

 

Secondly, while it is perfectly true that networking, image manipulation, advertising hype and so on can add monetary value to a particular product, what you overlook is the labour theory of value is, and can only function as, an economy-wide theory of value.  It is not a theory of the value of any particular product.  Your approach to the subject matter, with respect, unfortunately suffers from the shortcomings and myopia of methodological individualism which does not permit you to see the wood for the trees.  Of course there are many reasons why the price of any particular product can diverge from its value and you cite some of these.  But at the end of the day, the sum total of prices must equate with the sum total of values generated.  This is absolutely crucial to understand. If some goods sell at prices above their values this necessarily means other goods selling at prices below their values.  In that regard we are talking about a zero sum game

 

 

MBellemare wrote:

 

   The fall of communism is related to how seemingly free-spirited western societies and their artistic productions looked to those behind the iron curtain. But this art-economy and those related to it, were constructed on networks designed to manufacture, value, price and wage on conceptual-perception, and not labor-time. For example, supposedly the CIA, funded the arts in America during the 1950's, which enabled abstract-expressionism to take off. Now, I am not into conspiracy theories, but there seems to be good evidence, that CIA backed certain galleries to purchase abstract art, i.e., they socially constructed value and price, primarily in the arts price dictated value. This may be an exception, but the art-world functions like this to this day. Gone is the CIA, but networks of galleries mutually support each others' stable of artists in essence artificially and arbitrarily sustaining socially constructed prices, values and wages, labor-time is truly secondary. There is a propaganda element to this, where media, universities etc., in a post-industrial, post-modern societies indoctrinate and normalize us to certain preconcieved, artificially fabricated values, prices and wages that are in essence emphemeral.

I am not quite sure what you mean by this statement.  In practice prices have always been ephemeral or changeable because of constantly shifting interactions of supply and demand, post modernism notwithstanding.  Of course, ideological considerations make themselves felt in artistic constructions.  I don’t know enough to comment on your suggestion that the CIA might have funded the arts during the 1950s to promote a particular kind of art form – abstract expressionism – to serve as a kind of ideological tool.  Of course Soviet state capitalism, for its part, also strove to promote its own particular forms of artistic expression - notably so called “socialist realism”. 

 

 

However, I cannot see how any of this invalidates the labour theory of value as an economy wide theory of value.  The art objects from the so called Cold War era may now attract astronomical prices in some cases but, as I said, as one off orginals they are not strictly commoditities in the Marxian sense.  They are merely exceptions that prove the rule.  Insofar as artistic effort is appplied in advancing that rule, this does not add value in the Marixan sense over and above the labour that it involves.  It merely allows those products that are more attractively packaged to be sold at the expense of those that are not.

MBellemare wrote:

 

    CEO salaries function in this manner, its fundamentally about belonging to certain well-connected networks, via these well-connected networks, these individuals are able to circumvent the regulatory mechanism of socially necessary labor-time and establish their arbitrary obscene salaries in the realm of conceptual-perception. And as long as average people do not rebel, these artificially constructed salaries, founded on whim and nonsense, continue to persist.

But as I explained in my earlier post, the “obscene salaries” that some of these CEOs enjoy has got very little to do with their labour input and a great deal to do with the fact that in large measure these so called salaries represent their cut of the surplus  value generated by their employees.  There is nothing whimsical about this at all! These CEOs, insofar as they constitute minor capitalists in their own right, are substantially drawing an income based on the exploitation of the working class and their so called labour contribution serves merely as a fig leaf to hide this exploitative relationship.  This is what your suggestion that they “circumvent the regulatory mechanism of socially necessary labor-time” boils down to.  Of course the income of the capitalist class circumvents this mechanism for the very simple reason that it is substanitally based on the exploitation of those who provide that socially necessary labour time in the first instance

 

 

MBellemare wrote:

  I do believe that what Marx thought about all these types of fabricated economies was an exception. However, I've come to believe that artificially, fabricated prices, is now much more prevalent and central. 

But in a deeper sense all prices are artificial and fabricated and always have been.  The labour theory of value fully allows for the divergence of individual prices and values.  The capitalists have always sought to get as a high a price as they could possibly get by whatever means available including stylistic adornment as a way of promoting product differentiation.  Indeed, so called “Veblen goods” named after the late 19th century economist who write a seminal work called “The Theory of the Leisure Class” (1899) are basically goods, the demand for which rises as the price rises - thus inverting what is normally supposed to happen.  This is because the ability to afford such high prices imparts high status to the individual purchasing them and separates him/her from those unable to afford such goods (http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/1164/economics/veblen-goods/).  There is nothing really new about post-modernist theory though it likes to market itself as some kind of unique insight into our contemporary condition, that displaces or has rendered redundant all other explanations

MBellemare wrote:

 

    I know this may sound like there is one ideological edifice of bourgeois capitalists, dictating the value, price and wage to us, deciding everything. YES!, I agree there is much in-fighting between capitalists, capitalist-entities, capitalists-networks, capitalist-industries, which gives credence to the coercive laws of competition, Marx spoke about, which eventually destroy capitalism. There is not one power-block of capitalists governing. However, it seems to me that there is one unifying logic to these seemingly, at war, capitalists, namely, the logic of capitalism, "to maximize profit by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible". So, I do agree with you that there is not a singular body of people dominating us and that this body of people is constantly at war between themselves, however, I do posit a totalitarian unitary logic, i.e., the logic of capitalism, as directing the actions and thoughts of people living within the confines of capitalism, specifically in the upper levels of capitalism. There is no cabal deciding world-affairs and world-market affairs, but their is a totalitarian logic, the logic of capitalism, call it what you will, an ideology or an ideational comprehensive framework, directing world-affairs and world-market-affairs. Yes, there are many conflicting ideologies out there, but (in the last) instance, the logic of capitalism, to maximize profit by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible, decides, determines and governs. The logic of capitalism, expresses itself in different manners, it is imprinted on all sorts of activities, thinking processes, institutions, social relations etc., it is pluralized across the stratums of everyday life, but, in last instance, it is always about maximizing proft by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible. The outer-shell of the logic of capitalism is plural, it expresses itself in many different ways, and has done so throughout history, but its inner kernel, its inner logic, is always the same, to maximize profit by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible.  Those fundamental, ruling networks of people, who govern, can change, and do change their stripes, their make-up,  these ruling networks are plural and in certain instances they are unified, but in the end it is the logic of capitalism that always remains and determines value, price and wage, according to what serves its imperative best.   

 

Yes, it is perfectly true that capitalists are united by their desire to maximise profit by any means possible but the point I am trying to impress on you is that this very imperative brings them into irreconcilable conflict with each other.  The desire to increase their market share is necessarily and logically, a zero sum game in which some may gain only at the expense of others.  There is no way around this.  Increasing your market share is accomplished by undercutting your rivals, encouraging consumer’s to switch loyalties from them to you. Lower prices, whether for consumer goods or producer goods, is the apple that induces them to make this switch.

 

This is the basic reason why I am somewhat critical of your whole approach, sympathetic though I am to some of the points you make.  Your whole argument seems to be based on the idea that capitalists can just arbitrarily or whimsically raise prices in the face of declining unit production costs resulting from technological innovation.   But you cannot just arbitrary raise prices above what your competitors charge or what the market can sustain because, if you do, what you will end up is a stock of unsold products languishing in the warehouse. To get rid of that surplus , to clear the market s to speak , you will be forced in the end to lower your prices.  It’s like water finding it own level, notwithstanding the best  efforts of the capitalists to impose what your call their “ideational comprehensive framework” of thought on the consuming public.

 

alanjjohnstone
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Just to prove that i am following this thread i thought this article made a point that might be relevant to the debate on wages.

Quote:
But some, those who play for the first teams of clubs (rather, businesses) in the Premier League, are paid fabulous amounts of money, by working class (if not capitalist class) standards. What is their income? Is it wages? Not really. It’s more like rent. Rent is paid whenever there is a natural monopoly in something that cannot be increased, normally land, mineral deposits, waterfalls and other natural features that can be employed in production. The rent of land and natural resources is essentially fixed by the paying demand for it. The higher the demand, the higher the rent.

As Arsène Wenger pointed out, “you normally need special qualities to be a strong footballer”. It is these “special qualities – which are a sort of natural resource that cannot be increased – that enable the best footballers to command so high an income, but as rent rather than as the price for the mere sale of their labour power.

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2000s/2006/no-1221-may-2006/cooking-books-2-footballers%E2%80%99-wages

After all their productive working time is simply 90 minutes of labour (and i am sure we know many individual players that don't even do that on the pitch wink )but it is also the socially necessary labour time involved...the training over the many years etc

I guess the same argument can be applied to musicians and other types of artists. In fact, i am sure CEOs would also endeavour to claim their "talents" as a special resource, although that is much more debatable.

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." - Eugene V. Debs

robbo203
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alanjjohnstone wrote:

 

I guess the same argument can be applied to musicians and other types of artists. In fact, i am sure CEOs would also endeavour to claim their "talents" as a special resource, although that is much more debatable.

 

CEOs might well claim that, Alan, but in their case, at least as far as the top ranking CEOs commanding many millions of dollars income per year, it is much more straightforwardly a case of surplus value extraction via, for instance, a stock options component in their compensation package as well as the grossly inflated "salaries" they receive (as was also the method by which the Soviet ruling class took their share of surplus value to fund their lavish lifestyle)

 

This is where Michel's argument gets questionable as an attempt to refute or marginalise the labour theory of value.  The income CEO's receive bears no relation to the socially necessay labour time required to produce and reproduce their skills..  But why should it if such CEOs are not strictly part of the working class but rather that capitalist class - or at least on the lower rungs of the catalist class

MBellemare
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    Many interesting points, here, which I fueling this debate tread very well. I'll try to add a little more fuel to the fire, a little @narchism :). I think some of you are seeing the unquantifiable nature of value, there is something not quite right with Marx's law of value, there are things within the economy influencing price, value and wage, which are intangible, unquantifiable. I am of the firm belief that Marx wanted to give the world a Science, a scientific understanding of capital and how capital works. He was part of the 19th century's fetishization for laws, there must be laws to all phenomena, including the economy. This is why Monsieur Marx, sent a copy of Das Capital to Darwin, I felt they were cut from the same scientific determinist cloth. And repeatedly throughout Marx's Capital series of books, he states labor-time is quantifiable, labor-power is determined by social necessity, and this socially necessary labor-power expended in production, always mesurable. His whole concept of the commodity is as a container of use-value and surplus valus, necessary labor and surplus labor, measured in quantifiable segments of labor-time, clock-time. Which is pure science, the application of the scientific method to labor-power. How victorian of Marx, to do this, a man of his age and epoch.

    Well, the end of capitalism has yet to arrive and come to pass (something is a foot in his theory), And I ask What and Why? In hopes finding the when and how. If capitalism did not end with WWI and WWII and the great depression, it is functioning differently then what Marx concieved in Capital. And it is functioning differently, it is flexible, it is plural, it at times and in certain places, a buch of capitalist fighting it out, at other times, it is an ironclad edifice where capitalists are unified in their resolve.

     Capitalists are not always at each others throats! They collude, they work together, they golf together, they mingle, they marry among themselves etc. etc. etc.

     I am of the mind that capitalism is a soft-totalitarian-state, it is elastic, the capital/labor relationship is always in a state of change and transformation, new economic formations are always coming into being, yet always founded on exploitation. because the fundamental logic underlying the system, both as a whole and as a plethora of competing markets and economies etc., ties it all together, "the maximization of profit by any means necessary etc." The logic of capitalism does not change but its make-up we see everyday does, i.e., the capital/labor relation at the center of the capitalist system changes constantly, keeping workers off-balance.

     The scientific stability Marx saw in capitalism in the 19th century is no longer central, it is there but now secondary, a minor consideration. This has throw value, price and wage out of whack, and increasingly arbitrary and artificially fabricated. The result is old working class hieararchies are distorted and out of whack as well.

I ask why? I've come to believe a broader concept of labor-power and value is needed, i.e. creative-power and general-value, which encompasses both quantifiable labor-time and unquantifiable labor-power, quantifiable value and unquantifiable values that are priceless to the sustaining capitalism and the logic of capitalism.

Best,

Michel Luc Bellemare Ph.d. 

MBellemare
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   A side note to my recent previous comment, I'd like to add a quick comment on competion,i.e., the coercive laws of competition.  It seems to me that for product costs to steadily go down and for prices to steadily go up across a sphere of production or pertaining to a specific commodity, competition between producers must be short-circuited.

  So how do you short-circuit competition?

    You form networks, buttressed by policies, which govern an industry and/or a sphere of production. This is collusion at its essence, but, the politically correct term is Arm's lenght relationships. 

   An example of this is the gas market, have you ever noticed how gas prices tend to remain relatively the same. The price at the pump tend to go up, en masse, everyone together, they tend to go down, en masse, everyone together. A holiday arrives prices rise, en masse, across Canada or North America, then, en masse they fall. This is a perfect opportunity for a supposed competitor to undercut his neighboring gas-station across the street. He does not. Why, when this is a perfect opportunity to eat-up more profit? Because there is something else involved preventing him from doing so, i.e., he or she is a node in a network of gas-stations represented by a specific company, which dictates final price, through various control mechanisms. What I've come to call conceptual-commodity-value-management. 

Where is the competition? Plus, you have a cartel like OPEC etc., who have great influence over gas-prices at the pumps.

Where is the competition, Marx spoke about, ready to kick-in and lower prices. 

 The truth is that if we truly had competition, gas companies would have eaten each other up a long long time ago. Something is foot, what is it? In one word, networking or to be perfectly accurate arm's length, wink, wink, collusion! The ability to short-circuit the coercive laws of competition as an industry/sphere of production in order to control value, price and wage-determination at will, for those companies, oligarchies, who are big enough.

What effect does this have? It enables a oligopoly-type sphere of production, to lower production costs while steadily raising, maybe a few pennies, at a time, the price of a product such as gas.

It is like a school of predatory fish, like piranahs etc., why don't they eat each other. They hunt together in formation but are never really sympatico with each other. They are theoretically in competition, but not really in competition, somehow knowing biologically, or in the capitalist case, ideologically, that working in a network, or a loose network, they can devour more, have more to eat, they can capitalize to a greater extent, while, short-circuiting the coercive laws of competitition. In the pirannahs case, it is the law of the survival of the fittest that is temporarily suspended.

Where does competition go then within capitalism, when  capitalists increasingly organize themselves in networks and short-circuit competition? Well, it falls on the global working class evermore stringently, obdurately, exploitatively.  

Michel Luc Bellemare     

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MBellemare wrote:

    Many interesting points, here, which I fueling this debate tread very well. I'll try to add a little more fuel to the fire, a little @narchism :). I think some of you are seeing the unquantifiable nature of value, there is something not quite right with Marx's law of value, there are things within the economy influencing price, value and wage, which are intangible, unquantifiable. I am of the firm belief that Marx wanted to give the world a Science, a scientific understanding of capital and how capital works. He was part of the 19th century's fetishization for laws, there must be laws to all phenomena, including the economy. This is why Monsieur Marx, sent a copy of Das Capital to Darwin, I felt they were cut from the same scientific determinist cloth. And repeatedly throughout Marx's Capital series of books, he states labor-time is quantifiable, labor-power is determined by social necessity, and this socially necessary labor-power expended in production, always mesurable. His whole concept of the commodity is as a container of use-value and surplus valus, necessary labor and surplus labor, measured in quantifiable segments of labor-time, clock-time. Which is pure science, the application of the scientific method to labor-power. How victorian of Marx, to do this, a man of his age and epoch.

 

 

Michel,  I think you are seriously misunderstanding  Marx and his labour theory of value judging by some of your comments here, Marx did not envisage value or abstract labour to be something capable of, or lending itself to,  empirical measurement or quantification.  Allow me to quote a lengthy exceprt from Geoff Pilling's 1980 book "Marx’s Capital, Philosophy and Political Economy"

(https://www.marxists.org/archive/pilling/works/capital/geoff4.htm)

 

"A ‘measure’ of value

These comments by Marx about the nature of social labour raise another directly related topic. For in these statements Marx is by implication rejecting what for political economy was one of its main tasks – the search for some ‘measure’ of value, or what amounted to the same thing, the attempt to arrive at a true definition or concept of value. (We shall deal later in more detail with this question of Capital’s concepts.) We have seen that in a commodity-producing economy the equalisation of labour is achieved through the equalisation of the products of labour. This is but another way of saying that all varieties of concrete labour are reduced to abstract labour through the market and thus become social labour. But nobody can or does ‘measure’ these many forms of labour empirically. To imagine that this is so would be to ignore an essential feature of commodity production – its spontaneous, anarchic nature. Considerable misunderstandings will arise (as Rubin, Theories of Surplus Value, has rightly pointed out) if the law of value is seen as an ‘instrument’ which makes possible the comparison and measurement of the various products in the act of exchange. It has been widely (and wrongly) believed by many economists and others that Marx emphasised labour precisely as this ‘practical’ standard of value. As opponents of Marx, such writers have directed their efforts to showing that labour could not be accorded this privileged status; they have argued along these lines because of the absence of precisely established units with which to measure the various forms of labour which are different from each other with regard to intensity, skill etc.

Such a line of attack utterly misconceives the nature of Marx’s value theory. It is both impossible and unnecessary to discover a measure of value which will make possible the equalisation of labour or the products of labour. It may be a simple point, but none the less profound, to insist that this equalisation of labour takes place objectively, spontaneously and indirectly – that is, independently of any participants within the capitalist system. It is in this real, objective process that value is measured. Out of the process of the production and circulation of commodities money (gold) arises. Gold is not some ‘external’ measure, standing outside the world of commodities. Nor was it ‘selected’ by conscious planning on the part of economists or politicians. This measure (gold) was historically selected, after long trial and error, in the sense that it was its physical-material properties which enabled gold to select itself as the most suitable money-commodity. The matter can be reformulated thus: it is not money that renders commodities commensurable; on the contrary, it is because all commodities as values are realised human labour, and therefore commensurable, that their values find their measure in one and the same commodity. By a social and historical process this commodity is converted into money. Unless the objective nature of these processes is grasped, then the significance of all Marx’s categories of political economy is lost. We have already spoken of the social character of the labour which creates value, summed up in Marx’s concept of abstract labour. Marx insists that the measure of value is not labour-time, but socially-necessary labour-time, that is labour-time required to produce a commodity at a definite stage in the development of the productive forces. And it is only when the producer of a product tries to sell this product on the market that he discovers its real, objective value (if any). During periods of capitalist slump the piles of unsold goods signify that the concrete labour embodied in them was socially unnecessary. Such labour cannot, through the market, be transformed into abstract labour and therefore creates no value. But the owner of capital can never discover this beforehand, even though he may be armed with the latest ‘market research’ techniques and may even have read Capital. The essence of capitalist production here is that he can only discover whether the labour incorporated into his products was socially necessary at the end of the process.

Our task is not, therefore, to seek some measuring rod for the processes of capitalist production. The very process is its own measure. Value does not measure commodities; commodities discover their own measure of value. The task of Marxism is to discover how this is done, to discover the laws and tendencies of this process, laws and tendencies which do not appear empirically on the surface of society but appear always in the form of crises:

"in the midst of the accidental and ever-fluctuating exchange relations between the products, the labour-time socially necessary to produce them asserts itself as a regulative law of nature. In the same way, the law of gravity asserts itself when a person’s house collapses on top of him. The determination of the magnitude of value by labour-time is therefore a secret hidden under the apparent movements in the relative values of commodities."

In short, instead of the vain search for some formal standard by which to measure the magnitude of value, Marx set out to abstract the laws of the development of capitalism (‘law of motion’), that is to uncover the (highly contradictory) processes whereby this problem was actually resolved in practice.

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 Come on Robbo, that  I somehow misconstrue Marx, is the last rung on the critique ladder. You cannot go anywhere with this line of argument. It ends up by me stating back unto you that you have misunderstood Marx. There is not a fundamentally true understanding of Marx, there are interpretations of Marx.  The holy grail of Marxian truth does not exist its full of nuances. 

 Most certainly Marx, founded his science on scientific quantification. That's what he wanted to do, a scientific understanding of capital and surplus value, what regulates capital flows etc. The law of motion is measurable and quantifiable and expresses itself as the regulatory mechanism of socially necessary labor-time. By the simple fact Marx uses the word "labor-time", means he corrolates labor-power and the commodity-form in general to time segments, measurable time segments. There is no getting out of that one. Now, whether these time-segments, embodied in a commodity, are valorized/realized in circulation is another matter all together.

 What did Marx say in Volume 3: Total Value = Total Price. Once again price is a numerical number sitting-in for the nebula of value. However, in our everyday lives  value is both measurable and immeasurable. That's why in reality, and I think Marx, states this, value and price do not equate. They oscillate. Well that's because value cannot be reduced to absolute quantification, there are values outthere essential to the production process, that are not scientifically quantifiable.

Michel Luc Bellemare  

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alanjjohnstone wrote:

That's quite a detailed response, Robbo. It is a pity the author has not engaged directly on the forum to answer your queries about what he is actually meaning in places.

Hopefully, he will discover this thread the same way as he did previously and this time answer the criticisms and i am sure it will lead to further clarification. I hope it can be accomplished in a comradely exchange.

your comments have been very helpful.

 

Roboo knows what he is talking about

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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