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discussion of archive - marx - works - 1847 - wage-labour ch03

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Steve-SanFranci...
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discussion of archive - marx - works - 1847 - wage-labour ch03
this is an off topic response thread to reply in more detail to this message below


-------- posted in https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/marx-and-automation?page=47  -------


Thu, 28/09/2017 - 8:30am#478Alan Kerr Joined:08/09/2017

@Steve-San Francisco

What do you think of this chapter?

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/ch03.htm

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I think it's off topic in the discussion on marx and automation for me to do a long bit about all the ways it's not wrong for the time, but too limited for today.  So I think to keep the mods and other posters happy, i'll answer the question here. Also this could be used for others who want to comment on the article.  

 
Steve-SanFranci...
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@Alan Kerr,

My first thought is that I've read this and commented on it already for SPGB. But I forget where and the search function of SPGB are not automated in a way that will let me find it so I'll recreate my comments and rewrite them which is a good brainstorming excercize anyway. this seems relevant to marx and automation to me.  

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My second thought is "why are you suggesting I consider the article?".  What do you expect to happen or want from me based on your suggestion.  Since I've already read this and commented on it, then I wonder why you want me to read and tell you what I think about it again?  Usually when socialist or capitalist tell me to read something it's because they think I haven't already read it or it's going to be new information that changes my thinking in some way.  They often repeat that I should read something I disagree with in a way similar to how foreigners will repeat themselves to natives who don't speak their language as if that will somehow convince the natives to agree or understand.  I understand the content of the article quite well and others seem to be the ones confused.  So if you think this answers my questions or will educate me then you've got the teacher student relationship bacwards.  I'm not the student who needs to learn marx. That is not the case here. This is old news I read long ago an read again and read again.  so I ask you first. . . 

Are you legitimately interested in what I think about this?

or

Are you interested in promoting this view to me because of what you think about it?  

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My third thought is that this theory in the linked article is competely correct given the following assumptions which are completely incorrect.  

False assumption 1) "The same commodity is offered for sale by various sellers. Whoever sells commodities of the same quality most cheaply, is sure to drive the other sellers from the field and to secure the greatest market for himself."

-- there exists such a thing as a "commodity" in most markets selling to consumers.  looking up comodities it's assumed that they are all equal and all percieved as equal.  So a "comodity" as used in this discussion ariticle is indistintinguishable from each other.  this would be the case for example if two companies produce exactly the same product or sell exactly the same thing at exactly the same place and time.  Since assumption #1 almost never happens in a real marketplace such as the farmers market across the street, it's not very relevant to any real world understanding where in reality there is not such thing as a "comodity".  When I shop at the farmers market some stores have lower prices for carrots and other vendors have no beats instead of carrots, and some shops sell out of carrots earlier than others but charge higher prices, etc.   

From the first sentence in paragraph 2 we see that the model is already flawed and applicable only to large business to business sales where such a thing as a "commodity" actually exists.  A business selling tons of raw ore of a certain purity might perhaps be buying and selling a commodity.  Real people don't buy raw ore of a certain purity.  So marx is critiquing only a very very limited kind of market that rarely exists in reality. 


False assumption 2) "Each one of them wishes to sell, and to sell as much as possible, and if possible to sell alone, to the exclusion of all other sellers. Each one sells cheaper than the other. Thus there takes place a competition among the sellers which forces down the price of the commodities offered by them."


-- this is simply not supported by evidence in most markets where the seller wants to make the most "profit" with the least effort.  often, the seller can make more profit with less effort by selling fewer items at a higher price.  I think it might be true of selling theoretical commodities in a Business to Business market.  But since we have false assumption 1 above then we are already in fantasy land and there's no such thing as a commodity for most real world markets such as the grocery market or the corner market, or the city center market, or the westfield mall marketplace.  for real world people "A Market" is a specefic geographical location or website with limited competition and usually there is only one seller of a commodity at a mall. for example there are never two ice cream stores at the mall selling exactly the same flavors and brand of ice cream next to each other.  Why would you have two starbucks stores selling exactly the same coffee competing right next to each other on price?  It just doesn't happen because then they can't charge a profit and make much money.  In the real world a real market with a real geographical location or real website is generally only going to sell one of a specefic item.

Ridiculous example 3) "
Let us turn to the first worthy citizen we meet. He will not hesitate one moment, but, like Alexander the Great, will cut this metaphysical knot with his multiplication table. He will say to us: "If the production of the commodities which I sell has cost me 100 pounds, and out of the sale of these goods I make 110 pounds – within the year, you understand – that's an honest, sound, reasonable profit. But if in the exchange I receive 120 or 130 pounds, that's a higher profit; and if I should get as much as 200 pounds, that would be an extraordinary, and enormous profit." "
 

-- this is perhaps the behavior of a business but in the real world people buy thngs and don't sell them.  only business sells to people.  

and at this point the whole thing is no longer worthy of reading further.  there's too many false assumptions already to make the rest of the logic chain worth paying attention too.  Although i long ago read it and it works just fine if you accept many many fallacious premis.  There is probably a small amount of 1-10% of all exchanges and sales for which this simplistic assumptions and premis are actually valid.  Marx is right about this happening in 1%-10% of the economic activity, IMO.  but the rest of the economy works different. 

 

Alan Kerr
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Yes, of course we’re both putting views. We should let the reader know here that we are neither of us SPGB. But this is a debate.

The Socialist Preamble says

1) Capitalist ownership is a hindrance to production.

2) The small capitalist enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to that of the big capitalist.

3) The big capitalistic enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to Socialist Production.

So far, we have 3 steps

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

3) Socialist Production

Could step 2 have come before step 1?

How could step 2 come before step 1?

Steve-SanFranci...
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More old time wisdom that is newtime folly. . . 

"It is well known that the opposite case, with the opposite result, happens more frequently. Great excess of supply over demand; desperate competition among the sellers, and a lack of buyers; forced sales of commodities at ridiculously low prices."

 

um no.  so an excess of supply would be two stores selling exactly the same kind of soap at exactly the same place.  if two stores are separated by distance then they aren't actually in the same "market place".  So a mall comes up again as a common example.  There might be two stores at either end of the mall like target and macy's but they won't usually sell the same brands of soap.  And the soap is not a "commodity" under the definition provided earlier unless they are exactly the same product with exactly the same name and exactly the same size and same packaging.  So one seller selling ivory soft skin moisture enhancing soap squeeze bottles in bulk packs  like best buy and another seller selling individual irovry soft skin moisture enancing body loation soap individually at the dollar store are selling different things and ivory soap isn't really a commodity as the theory requires for the mall market like this theory would have us simplify things too.

 

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finally this ironic conclusion. . .

"We have just seen how the fluctuation of supply and demand always bring the price of a commodity back to its cost of production. "
 

Well, actually that's sort of true.  If you imagine some weird non-existent commodity like magazines at a check out counter that is sold at many stores in a mall, then the magazine "shape" for example might be considered a commodity in a shopping mall market.   In the case of magazines and other checkout impulse buys, the key term is "impulse buy".  it's in the name that these are not being purchased based on competitive value so in that case the whole rational actor model of economics fails.  The big failure in both marx and simplififed capitalism economics is the assumption that people are rational actors.  They aren't and they never have been. if people were rational actors and all things were comoditites of known value then there would be no demand for advertsing.  The existence of advertising and a large advertising industry in the market is clear evidence that this example is far from reality. 

Steve-SanFranci...
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this bit is kind of interesting in reaching almost the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. . .

"The determination of price by the cost of production is not to be understood in the sense of the bourgeois economists. The economists say that the average price of commodities equals the cost of production: that is the law. The anarchic movement, in which the rise is compensated for by a fall and the fall by a rise, they regard as an accident. We might just as well consider the fluctuations as the law, and the determination of the price by cost of production as an accident – as is, in fact, done by certain other economists. But it is precisely these fluctuations which, viewed more closely, carry the most frightful devastation in their train, and, like an earthquake, cause bourgeois society to shake to its very foundations – it is precisely these fluctuations that force the price to conform to the cost of production. In the totality of this disorderly movement is to be found its order. In the total course of this industrial anarchy, in this circular movement, competition balances, as it were, the one extravagance by the other."

Well, there is some truth to the whole argument and if all other things were equal and all things were commodities and all markets were located in the same place then something like this wouild happen slowly over time.  So if you imagine a world where marx was living with slow innovation and limited variety in products then for his time this was perhaps correct.  The fluctuations wouild average out over time and if, like in marx era, you had new products and new fluctuations only rarely or never then everything would settle down to something like what the author of this suggests after some time.  

there is truth to all this, but it's just very limited and a minor factor in the economy. to use an anology "there is truth to the theory of gravity but it's very limited and a minor factor in geography".  In geography mountains rise out of the see and above the ocean which defies the law of gravity.  the law of gravity is true and predicts that the densest materials will settle to the center of the earth and all matter wouild be organized in concentric shells equidistant from the center of the earth based on density.  So according to JUST the theory of gravity the earth should be uniformly flat and uniformly covered by 11.3 meters of water everywhere with no dry land at all.  People would exist floating slightly above the water and you would not find people on dry land because there is no dry land according to the theory of gravity since the water will always be less dense than the land and always water will cover land.

So this article and marx are correct, but irrelevant to the questions we want to answer just like gravity is correct but a minor factor to understanding why some avalanches occure and other ski resorts don't have many avalanche deaths. 

Steve-SanFranci...
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Alan Kerr wrote:

Yes, of course we’re both putting views. We should let the reader know here that we are neither of us SPGB. But this is a debate.

The Socialist Preamble says

1) Capitalist ownership is a hindrance to production.

2) The small capitalist enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to that of the big capitalist.

3) The big capitalistic enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to Socialist Production.

So far, we have 3 steps

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

3) Socialist Production

Could step 2 have come before step 1?

How could step 2 come before step 1?

well from what I understand this socialist preamble is just nonsense.  You can't have socialist production without a socialist revolution.  so until the world wide socialist revolution there is no such thing as socialist production. It's never been tried and can't be measure.    Also after the worldwide socialist revolution there is no such thing as capitalist production.  As I understand it the only clear way to distinguish between capitalist production an socialist production is to test if the government of the world is socialist or not.  So line 3 of "The preamble" in your comment seems to be asking to compare yesterdays apples with tommorows beef jerky.  You would need some common metric to compare the two in order to make sense of this word salad (ps. I also think there must be more than one preable and people disagree on the preamble)

Maybe there's a definition or link you can give me that better defines these?  I get lots of different answers when I try to ask commenters so terminology changes a lot. . . 

I guess I would say that the answer is YES, depending on your definitions and interpretations and NO depending on your definitions and interpretations. 

p.s. you can tell the reader you are not SPGB if you want.  I would ask the reader what her or his definition of SPGB is before answering.  My answer would be in the form of "according to your understanding of SPGB and my understanding of myself, I believe that YOU would conclude [I am] Or [I am not] SPGB.  Other people may reasonably disagree".  I might then follow up with the question of property and ask questions about if anyone can be a property of SPGB or if SPGB can be a property owned by an individual?  I might also ask the how they feel about tribalism and in-group out-group psychology if they had those concepts.  Marx of course didn't have those concepts and words in the language when he was writing so we have to kind of interpret how he'd feel about the subject as a guess if he were alive today and could be educated to understand the modern meaning and implications of in-group out-group psycho-dynamics.  Suffice it to say that anyone asking if you are or are not a member of some group or identifying theselves that way is engaging in questionable social norms which may be necessary to advance a dialectic but might more likely be a trap to silence a dialectic.  
 

Alan Kerr
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Thank you for answering and sorry post #3 should have read 

Yes, of course we’re both putting views. We should let the reader know here that we are neither of us SPGB. But this is a debate.

The Socialist Preamble says

“Capitalist ownership is a hindrance to production.

“The small capitalist enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to that of the big capitalist.

The big capitalistic enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to Socialist Production.”

In The Socialist Preamble (and in fact) we can find 3 steps.

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

3) Socialist Production

Could step 2 have come before step 1?

How could step 2 come before step 1?

Alan Kerr
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Since according to you

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

Could have come before

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

How could you do that?

How in that case would you make the very first machine?

You could not make it by machine as it was the first one.

So how would you make it?

Steve-SanFranci...
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@Alan Kerr,

Alan Kerr wrote:

Since according to you

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

Could have come before

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

How could you do that?

How in that case would you make the very first machine?

You could not make it by machine as it was the first one.

So how would you make it?

1) um maybe you have me confused with someone else when you say "according to you".  Who is "you" refering to?  is that something someone said to you, alan Kerr and you are quoting them?  

2) These seem like rhetorical questions intended to prove something about what I believe or you believe.  Are you asking a logical questions or are you questioning my allegiance to some belief system you subscribe to? 

3) you questions so far seem intended to put words in my mouth.  What is your intention and motivation for this discussion?  what goal are you pursuing with this conversation? 

Steve-SanFranci...
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Alan Kerr wrote:

Thank you for answering and sorry post #3 should have read 

Yes, of course we’re both putting views. We should let the reader know here that we are neither of us SPGB. But this is a debate.

The Socialist Preamble says

“Capitalist ownership is a hindrance to production.

“The small capitalist enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to that of the big capitalist.

The big capitalistic enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to Socialist Production.”

In The Socialist Preamble (and in fact) we can find 3 steps.

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

3) Socialist Production

Could step 2 have come before step 1?

How could step 2 come before step 1?

I think you should probably ask whoever wrote the socialist pre-amble about these questions or link to the definition of terms and intention of the argument provided by the original author you are quoting.  This is a very context loaded discussion that seems to be taken out of context and lost much of it's meaning in the extraction process.  If the author wrote this in that order, and you are asking if the author could have written things in a different order, then I would say that "The author probably has that power to rewrite what they wrote and change the order of the authors own words after the author has written them". 

Whether the authors words have any resemblance to any actual order of events in the real world is unclear from a small quote like this taken out of context. Why don't you link to the longer text this apears to be a part of where the terms are explained and the intended usage of the text is explained.  In any case, since you identify this as a "pre-amble" and not a "conclusion", then it seems more likely this is a statement of asumptions and pre-conceptions that are then used to build a logical chain of reasoning that leads to some conclusions.  It's basically reductive resoning and bordering on absurd because it's taken out of context and removed of the definitions or statement of intent of the argument to give it meaning. Maybe you can't understand that? 

Alan Kerr: What do you believe is meant by the concept "reductive reasoning"?  

Steve-SanFranci...
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Alan Kerr wrote:

Thank you for answering and sorry post #3 should have read 

Yes, of course we’re both putting views. We should let the reader know here that we are neither of us SPGB. But this is a debate.

The Socialist Preamble says

“Capitalist ownership is a hindrance to production.

“The small capitalist enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to that of the big capitalist.

The big capitalistic enterprise is a hindrance to production compared to Socialist Production.”

In The Socialist Preamble (and in fact) we can find 3 steps.

1) Capitalist manufacture by hand

2) Capitalist mass production with machines

3) Socialist Production

Could step 2 have come before step 1?

How could step 2 come before step 1?

um, maybe not relevant, but since I study human behavior in a capitalist market economy for a living some maybe relevant news for you.  

Assumption: Presuming you want to consider the USA as the most advanced center of capitalism and us the evolution of markets in the USA to assess some projection of the future from long ago. . .  I should mention all this I'm saying next is specefic to the context of USA markets and I don't really study world markets with the same level of detail and things seem to be going in a different direction for many nations. 

Real world Evidence: profit margins in capitlism are up and competition is down in the USA as a general trent in capitalist markets over the last 25 years.  Large corporatioins have exercized monopoly like power to largely change competition between corporations to manipulate the economy and it's well documented that standard of living and effective buying power for the median USA person is less than 50 years ago. Americans no longer expect to do better than their parents. - just google for plenty of support of this.  Wikipedia is good.

Real world Evidence: small business startups are decreasing and this year there are fewer small business startups than last year.  Increasingly the economic pie in the USA is being owned and controlled by large business not small business.  This is a relatively recent trend over the last 10 years approximately.  Use google and wikipedia again.

Contentious real world Evidence: Econonomic actors in the USA continue to innovate new business models, new modes of production, new modes of distribution and new modes of exchange at an increasing rate. For example:   Uber changes transportation using some sort of hire by the mile of free citizens strategy. Holocracy is adapted by Zappos shoes a leading successfull shoe wear manufacture.  Square and Swipe and previously Visa continue to modify and evolve new modes of exchange and vary the purchasing process in ways that were not technologically feasible 10 years ago and certainly not feasible even in theory in marx time. 

Speculative effects of real world Evidence:  3 years ago the big thing in capitalist markets that popular economic theory seems to have missed the implications of was the perfection of the "single use, personally individuallized coupon"  which allows manufactures or retailers to give individual people individualized prices though a coupon.  This is actually a really big thing for economic flows and functions because individualized, personalized coupons that work nationally consititute and function as a form of individualized currency that can be handled on a mass basis with computers.  Previously it was not possible to haggle or charge different prices to different people for the same product.  Now that is routine and growing as a practice quickly because it makes the company more profit in general to offer discounts to poor people and charge more to rich people in several markets such as travel and vacation sells, medical, and retail. 

Personal annecdotal evidence from the real world:  When I walk into the corner store, a "Buy Rite" convenience shop with thousands of small stores acorss the USA, I have to swipe my "Buy rite" ID card to get discounts on shoping products that typically amount to 20% of total purchase price.  after purchase I get my reciept showing my discounts and others may not get those same discounts for buying the same things.  Furthermore, I get, along with my reciept personalized coupons that only work when used in combination with my "Buy Rite" customer loyalty ID card.  These coupons are personalized to me automatically by a computer in a process similar to hagling only done withhout a human in the loop.  If I am poor as infered from my purchase habbits they give me discounts on luxuries.  For rich people they discounts for convenience items to draw them in the door mostly and give no discounts for high end luxury items.  I should add that I worked at a major nation wide retailer of party supply goods for several years and build some of these individualized coupon system architecture and decision making software and analytics.  the practice of charging individual consumers differently based on their price sensitivity is also called "electronic haggling" in the business an it's pervasive now in most large business to consumer purchasing practices.  The assumption that everyone pays the same price in the marketplace has not been true for for a few years now and is becoming less true every day. 

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anyway, I hope that real world evidence from capitalist markets in the USA supports whatever it is you're trying to prove.  Speculatively it seems like "haggling" was originally a popular mode of exchange in localized markets typical of pre-industrialized society.  "Haggling" became cost prohibitive and not-feasible to do in a large scale non-localized markets during the industrial revolution and was no longer done manually for the majority of purchase (not popular).  In the last 3 years electronig "haggling" has been largely perfected and automated in ways the consumer is unaware of because it happens over the course of several purchases instead of all at once and also the business try to keep this conception of the purchase process from entering the awareness of consumers who often reject the idea on priciple if they become conciously aware their price is being manipulated individually based on their wealth or ability to pay or other factor. 

I guess in terms of popularity, you could describe "hagling" as going from 1) first done by hand by everyone  2) then later, not done much at all by anyone 3) presently done by machine AI and automation by almost everyone.  

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