Friday, May 12, 2006

Notes on labour


The LTV. See also. Also Samuelson - transforming from surplus value to prices, from phlogiston to entropy, etc.

Is this right?

Domination is already present in Marx's distinction between value and exchange-value. Since the producers do not come into social contact with each other until they exchange their products, the specific social character of each producer’s labour does not show itself except in the act of exchange. In communicatively integrated production, to use a Habermasian concept, things like differential in labour capabilities, degree of toil, luck etc., would appear in the full, complex and qualitative attitude of the productive community to the products of its labour. But in the production of commodity, the individual labour asserts itself as a part of the labour of society, only by means of the relations which the act of exchange establishes directly between the products, and indirectly, through them, between the producers. To the latter, therefore, the relations connecting the labour of one individual with that of the rest appear -- not as direct social relations between individuals at work -- but as what they really are, material relations between persons and social relations between things. It is only by being exchanged that the products of labour acquire, as values, one uniform social status, distinct from their varied forms of existence as objects of utility.

This nuance is missed in the frequent presentation of commodity fetishism as a distortion of the thing by only apparent social qualities. It is a *real* illusion.

Picture a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community. All the characteristics of Robinson Crusoe’s labour are here repeated, but with this difference, that they are social, instead of individual. Everything produced by him was exclusively the result of his own personal labour, and therefore simply an object of use for himself. The total product of our community is a social product.

The distinction between value, which is a complex manifold determined by a sensuous and social history, and exchange value, which is determined by socially necessary labour time, gives us the reduction of qualitative to quantitative.

Under the capitalistic mode of production, labour becomes a commodity, the restraints are taken from this real illusion, and it expands and intensifies its domination exponentially.

Previously, I might dominate you to a degree if I swapped the two deer I caught easily for the one beaver you caught with difficulty. Now, any disequilibrium - my fleetness of foot, your bad luck, my fence, my notion to say "this is mine" and your simplicity to believe me - is iteratively multiplied through the circuit M-C-M'. For the first time, I can command the labour of others in exchange for a fraction of the product of that labour.

A dogmatic anthropology superimposed on empirical distribution of wealth would not contain this dynamic of tendential immiseration and crisis.

Surplus value is presented as a condition of possibility of profit. Marx makes tentative attempts to solve the "transformation problem" and determine profit on the basis of surplus value. But this is to some degree a red herring. As general a relationship as supervenience would do.

Marx makes the critical distinction between labour and labour-power. Labour is the common denominator of the commodity form, the substance and immanent measure of value, but it has no value itself. Labour-power represents the quantitative, commodity-form of labour, which also expresses the wages of workers. Thus wages are the exchange-value of labour-power measured in money.

Under capitalism, labour is a commodity, the concrete labour (or "labour-power") which determines its exchange value less than concrete labour which it is. This recursive mechanism makes domination into an ineradicable feature of private accumulation. The very essence of exploitation is expressed by the difference between labour embodied in the goods consumed by the worker, and the labour-power expended in the capitalist process of production.

The worker "sells labour as objectified labour; i.e. he sells labour only in so far as it already objectifies a definite amount of labour, hence in so far as its equivalent is already measured, given; capital bups it as living labour as the general productive force of wealth; activity which increases wealth" (Grundrisse).

Hmm, but value not just congealed magically: "The value of any commodity - and this is also of the commodities which capital consists of - is determined not by the necessary labour-time that it itself contains, but by the socially necessary labour-time required for its reproduction [...]"

So perhaps value and exchange value are closer than I thought.

Vital needs: "The realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases."

Labour and use value: "Labour, then, as the creator of use-values, as useful labour, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself [...]"

Cf. Smith, labour is disutility.

"In order to find out how the simple expression of the value of a commodity lies hidden in the value-relation between two commodities, we must, first of all, consider the value-relation quite independently of its quantitative aspect. The usual mode of procedure is the precise opposite of this: nothing is seen in the value-relation but the proportion in which definite quantities of two sorts of commodities count as equal to each other. It is overlooked that the magnitudes of different things become comparable in quantitative terms when they have been reduced to the same unit. Only as expressions of the same unit do they have a common denominator, and are therefore commensurable magnitudes."

Price: "Since it is the total value of the commodities that governs the total surplus-value, while this in turn governs the level of average profit and hence the general rate of profit - as a general law or as governing the fluctuations - it follows that the law of value regulates the prices of production."


"The classical Marxian theory envisages the transition from capitalism to socialism as a political revolution: the proletariat destroys the political apparatus of capitalism but retains the technological apparatus, subjecting it to socialization. There is continuity in the revolution: technological rationality, freed from irrational restrictions and destructions, sustains and consummates itself in the new society.

[...] In advanced capitalism, technical rationality is embodied, in spite of its irrational use, in the productive apparatus. This applies not only to mechanized plants, tools, and exploitation of resources, but also to the mode of labour as adaptation to and handling of the machine process, as arranged by 'scientific management.' Neither nationalization nor socialization alter by themselves this physical embodimeent of technological rationality; on the contrary, the latter remains a precondition for the socialist development of all productive forces.

To be sure, Marx held that organization and direction of the productive apparatus by the 'immediate producers' would introduce a qualitative change in the technical continuity: namely, production toward the satisfaction of freely developing individual needs. However, to the degree to which the established technical apparatus engulfs the public and private existence in all spheres of society -- that is, becomes the medium of control and cohesion in a political universe which incorporates the labouring classes -- to that degree would the qualitative change involve a change in the technological structure itself. And such change would presuppose that the labouring classes are alienated from this universe in their very existence, that their consciousness is that of the total impossibility to continue to exist in this universe, so that the need for qualitative change is a matter of life and death. Thus, the negation exists prior to the change itself, the notion that the liberating historical forces develop within the established society is a cornerstone of Marxian theory.

Now, it is precisely this new consciousness, this 'space within,' the space for the transcending historical practice, which is being barred by a society in which society in which subjects as well as objects constitute instrumentalities in a whole that has as its raison d'etre in the accomplishments of its overpowering productivity. Its supreme promise is an ever-more-comfortable life for an ever-growing number of people who, in a strict sense, cannot imagine a qualitatively different universe of discourse and action, for the capacity to contain and manipulate subversive imagination and effort is an integral part of the given society. Those whose life is the hell of the Affluent Society are kept in line by a brutality which revives medieval and early modern practices. For the other, less underprivileged people, society takes care of thte need for liberation by satisfying the needs which make servitude palatable and perhaps even unnoticeable, and it accomplishes this fact in the process of production itself. Under its impact, the labouring classes in the advanced areas of industrial civilization are undergoing a decisive transformation, which has become the subject of a vast sociological research. I shall enumerate the main factors of this transformation:

(1) Mechanization is increasingly reducing the quantity and intensity of physical energy expended in labour [...] this form of drudgery is expressive of arrested, partial automation, of the coexistence of automated, semi-automated, and non-automated sections within the same plant, but even under these conditions, 'for muscular fatigue technology has substituted tenios and / or mental effort' [...] The proletarian of the previous stages of capitalism was indeed the beast of burden, by the labour of his body procuring the necessitities and luxuries of life while living in filth and poverty. Thus he was the living denial of his society [...] In contrast, the organized worker in the advanced areas of thte technological society lives this denial less conspicuously and, like the other human objcets of the social division of labour, he is being incorporated into the technological community of the administered population [...] things swing rather than oppress, and they swing the human instrument -- not only its body but also is mind and even is soul [...] The machine process in the technological universe breaks the innermost privacy of freedom and joins sexuality and labour in one unconscious, rhythmic automatism -- a process which parallels the assimilation of jobs.

(2) The assimilating trend shows forth in the occupational stratification. [...] To the extent to which the machine becomes itself a system of mechanical tools and relations and thus extends far beyond the individual work process, it asserts its larger dominion by reducing the 'professional autonomy' of the labourer and integrating him with other professions which suffer and direct the technical technical ensemble [...] Now the laborer is losing the professional autonomy which made him a member of a class set off from the other occupational groups because it embodied the refutation of the established society.

The technological change which tends to do away with the machine as an individual instrument of production, as 'absolute unit,' seems to cancel the Marxian notion of the 'organic composition of capital,' and with it the theory of the creation of surplus value. According to Marx, the machine never creates surplus value but merely transfers its own value to the product, while surplus value remains the result of the exploitation of living labour. The machine is embodiment of human labour power, and through it, past labour (dead labour) preserves itself and determines living labour. Now automation seems to alter qualitatively the relation between dead and living labour; it tends toward the point where productivity is determined 'by the machines, and not by the individual output.' [...] Moreover, the very measurement of individual output becomes impossible: 'Automation in its largest sense means, in effect, the end of measurement of work . . . . With automation, you can't measure output of a single man; you now have to measure simply equipment utilization. If that is generalized as a kind of concept . . . there is no longer, for example, any reason at all to 'pay a man by the piece or pay him by the hour,' that is to say, there is no more reason to keep up the 'dual pay system' of salaries and wages [...] industrialization did not arise with the introduction of factories, it arose out of the measurement of work. It's when work can be measured, when you can hitch a man to the job, when you can put a harness on him, and measure his output in terms of a single piece and pay him by the piece or by the hour, that you have got modern industrialization" [Daniel Bell].

(3) These changes in the character of work and the instruments of production change the attitude and the consciousness of the laborer, which become manifest in the widely discussed 'social and cultural integration' of the labouring class with capitalist society.

[...] (4) The new technological work-world hus enforces a weakening of the negative position of the working class: the latter no longer appears to be the living contradiction to the established society. This trend is strengthened by the effect of the technological organization of production on the other side of the fence: an management and direction. Domination is transfigured into administration [...] The capitalist bosses and owners are losing their identity as responsible agents; they are assuming the function of bureaucrats in a corporate machine. Within the vast hierarchy of executive and managerial boards extending far beyond the individual establishment into the scientific laboratory and research institute, the national goverment and national purpose, the tangible source of exploitation disappears behind the facade of objective rationality. Hatred and frustration are deprived of their specific target, and the technological veil conceals the reproduction of inequality and enslavement [...] With technical progress as its instrument, unfreedom -- in the sense of man's subjetion to his productive apparaus -- is perpetuated and intensified in the form of many liberties and comforts. The novel feature is the overwhelming rationality in this irrational enterprise, and the depth of the preconditioning which shapes the instinctual drives and aspirations of the individuals and obscures the difference between false and true consciousness [...]"


"It is long established that wage labour created the hordes of the modern epoch, indeed formed the worker himself. As a general principle the individual is not merely the biological basis, but the reflection of the social process; his consciousness of himself as something in-itself is the illusion needed to raise his level of performance, whereas in fact the individuated function in the modern economy as mere instruments of the law of value.

Yet the inner composition of the individual must be derived in itself, not merely out of its social role. In the present phase, what is decisive is the category of the organic composition of capital. By this the theory of accumulation meant "the growth in the mass of means of production, compared with the mass of labour-power which vivifies it" (Marx, Kapital).

As the integration of society, particularly in totalitarian states, determines subjects ever more exclusively as partial moments in the system of material production, the "transformation of the technical composition of capital" perpetuates itself through the productive-technological demands in those whom it not only encompasses, but constitutes.

The "organic" composition of human beings is increasing. That which determines subjects in themselves as means of production, and not as living purposes, increases with the proportion of machines to variable capital. The pat phrase, the "mechanization of man," is misleading, because it understands the latter as something static, that adapts to conditions of production external to him, and is deformed by external influence. But there is no substrate of such "deformations," nothing ontically interiorized, which social mechanisms merely act upon from outside: the deformation is not a sickness in men, but in the society whose children arrive with that “hereditary taint” which biologism projects onto nature.

Only when the process that begins with the transmutation of labour-power into a commodity has permeated men through and through, and objectified each of their impulses as formally commensurable variations of the exchange relationship, is it possible for life to reproduce itself under the prevailing relations of production. Its consummate organisation demands the coordination of people that are dead. The will to live finds itself referred to the denial of the will to live: self-preservation annuls life in subjectivity. Against this, all the achievements of adaptation, all the acts of conforming described by social psychology and cultural anthropology, are mere epiphenomena.

The organic composition of man refers by no means only to his specialised technical faculties, but – and this is something the usual cultural critique wishes at no price to reveal – equally to their opposite, the moments of naturalness which once sprung from the social dialectic and are now succumbing to it. Even what differs from technology in humans is now being incorporated into it as a kind of lubrication. Psychological differentiation, originally emerging as the dismemberment of man according to the division of his labour and the compartmentalization of his freedom, is finally entering service of production. "The specialized virtuoso," wrote one dialectician [Lukács!] thirty years ago, "the seller of his objectified and substantialized faculties ... ends up in a contemplative attitude towards the functioning of his own objectified and substantialized faculties. This structure shows itself most grotesquely in the case of journalism, where it is precisely subjectivity itself – knowing things, moods, the capacity to express – which turns into something abstract, as divorced from the personality of the 'owner' as from the material-concrete essence of the objects, which are dealt with independently and nomothetically as if by a moving mechanism. The 'disinterestedness' of journalists, the prostitution of their experiences and convictions, is only comprehensible as the apogee of capitalist reification." What was here established as the "phenomena of degeneration" of the bourgeoisie, which it itself still denounced, has meanwhile emerged as the social norm, as the character of full-fledged existence under late industrialism. It has long since ceased to be merely a question of the sale of what is living. Under the a priori of salability, what is living makes itself, as the living, into a thing, into equipage.

The ego consciously takes the whole man into its service as a piece of apparatus. In this restructuring, the "ego as team leader" delegates so much of itself to the ego as "management technique" that it becomes quite abstract, a mere point of reference: self-preservation forfeits itself. Character traits, from genuine kindness to the hysterical outbursts of rage, become capable of manipulation until they shift perfectly into the demands of a given situation. With their mobilization they change. All that is left are the light, rigid, empty husks of emotions, matter transportable at will, devoid of anything personal. They are no longer the subject; rather, the subject responds to them as to his internal object. In their unbounded docility towards the ego they are at the same time estranged from it: being wholly passive they no longer nourish it. This is the social pathogenesis of schizophrenia. The severance of character traits from both their instinctual basis and from the self, which commands them where once it merely held them together, makes man pay for his increasing inner organisation with increasing disintegration. The consummation of the division of labour within the individual, his radical objectification, leads to his morbid scission. Hence the 'psychotic character's, the anthropological pre-condition of all totalitarian mass movements. Precisely this transititon from stable characteristics to push-button patterns of behaviour - apparently enlivening - is an expression of the rising organic composition of man. Quick reactions, unballasted by a mediating constitution, do not restore spontaneity, but establish the person as a measuring instrument deployed and callibrated by a central authority. The more immediate its response, the more deeply in reality mediation has advanced: in the prompt, unresistant reflexes the subject is entirely extinguished.

So too, biological reflexes, the models of the present social ones, are - when measured against subjectivity - objectified, alien: not without reason are they referred to as "mechanical." The closer organisms are to death, the more they regress to such jerking.

Accordingly, the destructive tendencies of the masses that explode in both varieties of totalitarian state are not so much death-wishes, as manifestations of what they have already become. They murder so that whatever to them seems living shall resemble themselves."

Jarvis on Marx and Adorno:

"It is here that we might return to the question of how viable a commitment to the notion of commodity fetishism still is. The doubts raised by deconstructive commentators are among the more important here. Jacques Derrida, for example, has cautiously described Marx's theory of exchange value as 'pre-deconstructive.' The theory appears to rest on an appeal to the possibility of finally freeing transparent and living social relations from their concealment by non-living and inert objects, whereas Derrida's double readings, through their attention to the border-category of the 'spectral', the ghostlike, would display the difficulty of finally separating out the living from he non-living.

Derrida has hit on an important point here, because as Michel Henry's remarkable book about Marx argued long ago, the distinction between the living and the non-living is indeed far more fundamental to Marx than any distinction between 'consciousness' and 'being'. It is also one of the few categorical oppositions which Adorno makes little attempt to place in question [!]; an appeal to the need to protect living experience from becoming 'dead', 'lifeless' or 'petrified' is one of his favoured topics. But whereas the importance of this distinction finally drove a figure like Erich Fromm into a Manichean view of the world as a batle between life-loving 'biophiles' and death-fixated 'necrophiles', Adorno attempts to understand the merging of the living and the non-living as a real illusion, that is as an illusion which cannot be dispelled simply by recognizing it as such.

Adorno's continual recourse to a strong distinction between the living and the non-living, however, indicates an important difference from the deconstructive thought about Marx. If it is thought through in the context of the approach to myth developed in the Dialectic of Enlightenment, it provides some resources for a way of thinking about commodity fetishism which does not depend upon a dogmatic appeal to social transparency. Commodity fetishism is a model of the way in which enlightenment reverts to mythology: commodity exchange looks like the most sceptically disenchanted social relationship there could be, but the chapter on fetishism shws why the exchangers are not so undeluded as they think themselves.

We can appreciate the importance of the distinctin between the living and the non-living to Adorno's though in slightly mre detail if we look at one particular issue, the question of surplus value and its relationship to living labour. In Capital Marx had se out to explain how surplus value (whether in the form of profit, rent or interest) is produced. Marx argued that the value of commodities was determined by the labour-time socially necessary for their production. The value of the commodity of labour-power was accordingly determined by the labour-time socially necessary for their production. The value of the commodiy of labour-power was accordingly determined by the labour-time socially necessary for the subsistence of the worker. Surplus value arose from the double character of labour as concrete and abstract labour. Labour-power, bought by the capitalist like any other commodity, was in fact unlike any other commodity because it was alive and capable of producing further commodities. Paid for at the rate of subsistence, it would nevertheless, given a sufficiently extended working day, produce surplus-value beyond the value of the wage paid. Surplus value could only be extracted from living labour. In any given sum of capital Marx therefore distinguished variable capital invested in living labour. the rate of surplus value was not to be calculated with reference to all capital invested, but only with reference to variable capital.

Marx had argued, and Henryk Grossman had re-emphasized, that capitalist accumulation tended to bring about a change in the composition of capital. The rapid technical development of the means of production in a capitalist economy tended to increase the proportion of constantt captial with respect to variable capital. Adorno argued that this could not leave the extraction of surplus value from living labour unaffected:

'The theory of surplus value was supposed to explain class relations and the growth of class antagonism objectively and economically. Yet once the advantage of living labour, from which alone according to its concept the surplus value is derived, tends to sink through the extent of technical progress -- through industrialization, in fact -- to a marginal value, the centre-piece, the theory of surplus value, is affected by this.'

The contemporary difficulty of expounding an objective theory of surplus value, furthermore, leads to 'prohibitive difficulties grounding the formation of classes.' An objective theory of the production of value and of class struggle should also furnish a clear theory of ideological misrepresentations of value and class.

For Adorno, the insuperable difficulties at present lying in thte way of an objective theory of value are bound up with the current impossibility of distinguishing true from false needs. Not all subjectively experienced 'need' can be endorsed as real need. Capitalist production mystifies all needs as though exchange-value were their measure; yet this mystification cannot be overcome by a dogmatic distinction between needs and wants. for similar reasons, it is no longer possible dogmatically to identify the 'real' interests of workers and chalk up a failure to follow these real interests to ideological mystification.

[...] The only possible anthropology in mass society is a 'negative anthropology' or a 'dialectical anthropology'. Even such an apparent lowest common denominator as a 'will to live' cannot be presupposed as a universal feature of human nature.

In a section of Minima Moralia [q.v.] [...] the thesis of the Dialectic of Enlightenment that modern rationality is 'mimesis of what is dead' is more explicitly worked through with refeence to the capitalist mode of production. The more thoroughly developed the means of production and its associated division of labour, the less living labour can set its own goals: the less, indeed, living labour is living. The shift in the proportion of constant and variable capital is extended into the proportion of living and dead elements in the individuals. A social psychology posits a prior individual 'affected' by social developments. Adorno argues that petrified social relations have already entered into what individuals are. when 'Life in the late capitalist era' is described as 'a constant initiation rite' the emphasis falls on 'constant'. Unlike a literal initiation rite, this initiaion rite is not one which once completed allows a secure place within social relations, but one which must be undergone again and again, because the threat of expulsion is renewed again and again. It is this negative or dialectical anthropology of late capitalism which is worked out in Adorno's theory of the culture industry [...]"

Austrian school / marginalism:

One reason Böhm-Bawerk provides for why interest rates are positive: "technical superiority of present over future goods". Production, he noted, is roundabout, meaning that it takes time. It uses capital, which is produced, to transform nonproduced factors of production—such as land and labor—into output. Roundabout production methods mean that the same amount of input can yield a greater output. Böhm-Bawerk reasoned that the net return to capital is the result of the greater value produced by roundaboutness.

An example helps illustrate the point. As the leader of a primitive fishing village, you are able to send out the townspeople to catch enough fish, with their bare hands, to ensure the village’s survival for one day. But if you forgo consumption of fish for one day and use that labor to produce nets, hooks, and lines—capital—each fisherman can catch more fish the following day and the days thereafter. Capital is productive.

Further investment in capital, argued Böhm-Bawerk, increases roundaboutness; that is, it lengthens the production period. On this basis Böhm-Bawerk concluded that the net physical productivity of capital will lead to positive interest rates even if the first two reasons do not hold.

Although his theory of capital is one of the cornerstones of Austrian economics, modern mainstream economists pay no attention to Böhm-Bawerk’s analysis of roundaboutness. Instead, they accept Irving Fisher’s approach of just assuming that there are investment opportunities that make capital productive. Nevertheless, Böhm-Bawerk’s approach helped to pave the way for modern interest theory.

Böhm-Bawerk argued that interest does not exist due to extraction of surplus value. Workers would be able to receive the whole of what they helped produce only if production were instantaneous. But because production is roundabout, some of the product that Marx attributed to workers must go to finance this roundaboutness, that is, must go to capital. Böhm-Bawerk noted that interest would have to be paid no matter who owned the capital. Mainstream economists still accept this argument.


A core proposition in neoclassical economics, especially textbook neoclassical economics, is that the income earned by each "factor of production" (essentially, labour and "capital") is equal to its marginal product. Thus, the wage is alleged to be equal to the marginal product of labour, and the rate of profit or rate of interest equal to the marginal product of capital.

A second core proposition is that a change in the price of a factor of production -- say, a fall in the rate of profit -- will lead to more of that factor being used in production. A fall in this price means that more will be used since the law of diminishing returns implies that greater use of this input will imply a lower marginal product, all else equal.

Piero Sraffa, who originated the Cambridge controversy, pointed out that there was an inherent measurement problem in applying this model of income distribution to capital. Capitalist income is the rate of profit multiplied by the amount of capital, but the measurement of the "amount of capital" involves adding up quite incompatible physical objects -- adding trucks to lasers, for example. That is, just as one cannot add heterogeneous "apples and oranges," we cannot simply add up simple units of "capital" (as a child might add up "pieces of fruit").

Neoclassical economists assumed that there was no real problem here — just add up the money value of all these different capital items to get an aggregate amount of capital. But Sraffa (and Joan Robinson before him) pointed out that this financial measurement of the amount of capital depended partly on the rate of profit. There was thus a circularity in the argument.

The traditional way to aggregate is to multiply the amount of each type of capital goods by its price and then to add up these multiples. A problem with this method arises from variations in the ratio of labor to the value of capital goods used in production across sectors. At different income distributions, prices would have to differ if the competitive market assumption of equal rates of profits in all sectors is to hold. For example, suppose a higher rate of profits and lower wage were to prevail than at the initial situation. The prices of capital goods used in the less capital-intensive sectors would seem to need to rise with respect to the prices of capital goods used in more capital-intensive sectors, thereby ensuring the rate of profits remains identical across sectors. But additional complications arise from the varying capital intensities in the sectors producing capital goods. At any rate, the price of a capital good, or of any arbitrary given set of capital goods, cannot be expected to remain constant across variations in the rate of profits.

In general, this says that physical capital is heterogeneous and cannot be added up the way that financial capital can. For the latter, all units are measured in money terms and can thus be easily summed.

Sraffa suggested a technique (stemming in part from Marxian economics) by which a measure of the amount of capital could be produced: by reducing all machines to dated labor. A machine produced in the year 2000 can then be treated as the labor and commodity inputs used to produce it in 1999 (multiplied by the rate of profit); and the commodity inputs in 1999 can be further reduced to the labor inputs that made them in 1998 plus the commodity inputs (multiplied by the rate of profit again); and so on until the non-labor component was reduced to a negligible (but non-zero) amount. Then you could add up the dated labor value of a truck to the dated labor value of a laser.

However, Sraffa then pointed out that this accurate measuring technique still involved the rate of profit: the amount of capital depended on the rate of profit. This reversed the direction of causality that neoclassical economics assumed between the rate of profit and the amount of capital. According to neoclassical production theory, an increase in the amount of capital employed should cause a fall in the rate of profit (following diminishing returns). Sraffa instead showed that a change in the rate of profit would change the measured amount of capital, and in highly nonlinear ways: an increase in the rate of profit might initially increase the perceived value of the truck more than the laser, but then reverse the effect at still higher rates of profit. See "Reswitching" below. The analysis further implies that a more intensive use of a factor of production, including other factors than capital, may be associated with a higher, not lower price, of that factor.

According to the Cambridge, England, critics, this analysis is thus a serious challenge, particularly in factor markets, to the neoclassical vision of prices as scarcity indices and the principle of substitution they claim underlies the neoclassical theory of supply and demand.

Keston on Marx:

Capital does not include the idea, central to Das Kapital, that “abstrakt menschliche Arbeit”
is a “bloße Gallerte unterschiedsloser menschlicher Arbeit.” It includes instead the substitute idea that “human labour in the abstract” is “a mere congelation of homogeneous human labour.” This substitute, imposed by Moore and Aveling and continued by Fowkes, has the considerable advantage that its conceptual content is much easier to specify than the conceptual content of Marx’s original phrase. Moore and Aveling’s extremely influential account of abstract human labor is as follows. Human labor described as having, in effect, a single origin (“homogeneous”), since we cannot see the multitude of its real origins in the commodities that are its products, is frozen in commodities: it is a “congelation,” from the Latin verb congelare, “to freeze together,” and the Latin noun gelum, “frost.” [...] Human labor is abstract when it is frozen: lifeless, cold and immobilized. The important word used in Das Kapital to describe the opposite condition of labor, that is, unabstract, living human labor, must then be flüssig, “flowing,” as when Marx writes that “Menschliche Arbeitskraft im flüssigen Zustand oder menschliche Arbeit bildet Wert, aber ist nicht Wert:” “Human labour-power in motion, or human labour, creates value, but is not itself value,” or “Human labour-power in its fluid state, or human labour, creates value, but is not itself value.” (MEGA II.8: 82; MA: 59; F: 142)

This use of flüssig in Das Kapital is no doubt significant, and it of course is used by Marx to describe the lived experience of labor that is not represented in “abstract human labour.” [...] But whereas “flüssig” is a direct antonym of “congealed” and of “frozen,” “flüssig” is not a direct antonym of the word that Moore and Aveling and Fowkes translate as “mere congelation” and as “congealed quantities.” The word they translate using the abstract noun “congelation” is “Gallerte.” Gallerte is not an abstract noun.

Gallerte is now, and was when Marx used it, the name not of a process like freezing or coagulating, but of a specific commodity. Marx’s German readers will not only have bought Gallerte, they will have eaten it; and in using the name of this particular commodity to describe not “homogeneous” but, on the contrary, “unterschiedslose,” that is, “undifferentiated” human labor, Marx’s intention is not simply to educate his readers but also to disgust them.

The image of human labor reduced to Gallerte is disgusting. Gallerte is not ice, the
natural and primordial, solid and cold mass that can be transformed back into its
original condition by application of (e.g. human) warmth; it is a “halbfeste, zitternde,” that is, a “semisolid, tremulous” comestible mass, inconvertible back into the “meat, bone [and] connective tissue” of the various animals used indifferently to produce it.


Ideology critique is ideology, insofar as it may approvingly be thought of, by its practitioners, as the action of freeing oneself from materially intractable wrongs simply by claiming possession of the right view of them; but ideology critique is ideology, too, in the more difficult sense that it not only does not free us from material wrongs, but it also summons new wrongs into existence through falsely conceiving material wrongs as mere errors of thinking or habits of unreconstructed belief capable of being eradicated by a more enlightened attitude. The eradication in theory of so-called metaphysics, of identity-thinking, of narcissism, or of any of the innumerable varieties of superstition, is, on these terms, never more wrong than when it most completely succeeds.

This will of course be music to the ears of conservative thinkers, for whom the argument that bad thinking is ineradicable by means of ideology critique must be equivalent to a defense of bad thinking as nature. But for the Marxist, these are false alternatives. We are not either free to think well and eradicate superstition or just unalterably superstitious by nature; and it’s precisely because it recognises that these are false alternatives, that Marx’s great work, Das Kapital, can set about satirising the bourgeoisie by making emphatic use of exactly the mystical ideas and language that a “materialist” political economy would be expected to have done away with. The commodity is, not at first sight, but, precisely on further, materialist analysis, a very strange thing: it is, in Marx’s deliberate jargon, as Karen Pinkus has reminded us, a transsubstantiation, a metamorphosis, the salto mortale of value into matter, the transmogrification of an inert material lump into a circus act of pranks and illusions. Marx doesn’t say that this is what a commodity is when we are not really looking at it, or when we look at it with a brain full of dismissible phantoms; nor does he use these words, that come in a flurry of incense and mystery, just as a witty decoration of an otherwise altogether sobre and straightforward political economic exposition. To put it simply, the commodity is a very strange thing because we are very strange things, and it will remain a very strange thing, a salto mortale or metamorphosis, for so long as we remain that very strange thing, the bourgeoisie. Satire in the critique of political economy is not optional, but is compulsory, for Marx, for so long as the class at the helm of polity and of the economy is itself compulsorily grotesque. Any more neutral or unliterary language, purified of the base elements of satire and jargon, would be, not a discontamination of economic thinking, but on the contrary, a positive contamination of economic thinking by the bourgeois ideology of transparency and self-evidence. Objects in the world, said Bertrand Russell, are never themselves unclear; it is only we in our short-sightedness and entrapment in perspective who experience unclarity and mistake it for a quality of objects themselves. Marx, from the entrapped perspective of Das Kapital, volume 1, would regard this insistence on the real unalterable clarity of objects as ideology even if it is also, from its own perspective, true. When philosophers argue for the hypothetical suspension of perspectival experience in arguments about objects and realities, this is usually justified as discontamination, as a way of ridding the real thing of the distorting overbearance of eyes and angles and shadows and fantasies and brains. The project of ontology is in this way inaugurated at the initial start-up cost of devaluing the visual field, among other fields. But this is exactly an instance of ideology-critique being, in fact, ideology. The bracketing out of sensory experience and fantasy does not free us from distortion, but reinvents distortion as a wrong that thinking has the power to subtract from experience.

&& ??

Machine vitality vs. machine subjectivity.
Money ontologically ineradicable (cf. money translated into rhetoric).

How is profit possible? (cf. beavers & deer)

Roundabout vs. surplus value (Robinson Crusoe can producte one fish a day by tomorrow, or ten fish a day by Wednesday, or a hundred fish a day by 1735 etc.)

Relationship between surplus value and profit: supervenience?

Organic composition of capital - relates to proportion of direct and indirect labour embodied

A fish caught with my bare hands embodies less labour than the same fish caught with a trawler??

What if the trawler crashed on its maiden voyage, after catching one fish?

Secrecy and furtiveness surrounds utility & disutility - scarce resources, what is a state of right when we cannot know who enjoys the muffin the more, even be sure that my utility and yours are similar? Cf. Wittgenstein's private language.

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