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Value Price and Profit + The Repr. of Daily Life | Reading Group #2 Anonymous 01/10/2020 (Fri) 19:36:09 No. 207846
HERE WE GO AGAIN Last week's thread >>193881 You guys know the drill. 1. Read This week we're doing two texts. The first is Value Price and Profit by Karl Marx. (html version: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-profit/ ) The second is The Reproduction of Daily Life by Fredy Perlman (html: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/perlman-fredy/1969/misc/reproduction-daily-life.htm ). If you prefer there are pdf versions as well. >Do I have to read both? I'm not your mom, so I can't force you, but you should read both because they were chosen as a pair to get both a marxist and anarchist perspective on the subject. 2. Respond Make a post replying to the texts. Things you could do include: >ask questions of other anons >clarify or reword certain points >find disagreements with the texts >Compare the two texts. >contextualize, either with Marx & Engels' body of work, history, or the present day >generate some original ideas (don't have to be any good) for us to discuss >distill an idea to a slogan or talking point for normies Respond however you think would be productive 3. Discuss Build a collective understanding of the work. Read the posts by other anons and respond to those as well. Answer questions. Argue over interpretation or conclusions. Come up with questions that might be answered with further reading, research, or experience. This one can help inspire further threads. 4. Save Screencap and save good effortposts. Upload those to the booru. https://lefty.booru.org/ Let's also discuss where we can upload text versions of posts anons make. 5. Recommend Suggest texts that either you've read or want to read for possible future readings. Keep in mind that we want to limit the total page count to ~50-60 as a reasonable amount to read, digest, and discuss in a week. As such we're probably going to start with shorter works (pamphlets, speeches, etc.) and then once we have momentum move on to books, doing a chapter or two at a time. Note that I'm not the OP of the original thread, but since it's been a week and nobody's posted the new one yet, I just went ahead and did it myself.
bump. will give my thought tomorrow.
Sections 1 to 5: The question being addressed in this work is basically whether or not fighting for higher wages is a waste of time. John Weston argued that fighting for increased wages wouldn't lead to any benefits for workers since the capitalists would simply raise prices. Marx argued that wage increases could lead to improvements for the working class. This debate is still relevant today. The most common argument against fighting for higher minimum wages, for example, is that businesses will just raise prices and the entire effort will have failed. Marx seems to answer this in two ways: first, by arguing that wage increases can't be compensated for by raised prices overall, and ultimately compete against the distribution of total value between wages and profits in society as a whole. That is, you can look at society as a whole as being composed of value distributed between wages, profits, luxury goods, etc. A rise in wages means that the relative distribution changes. Marx's second answer to Weston involves the simple historical fact that wage increases, even large ones, often coincide with an overall drop in prices which provides empirical proof that Weston's argument, even if logically consistent, simply doesn't hold true.
A third argument that Marx makes is that the increase in wages could also lead to an increase in supply of the goods they buy. So, for example, instead of assuming that more dollars or pounds will chase after the same number of goods, the price may stay the same while production increases. This is the real goal of wage increases - allowing people to buy more of what they need.
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Bump. Gonna leave my response post a bit later.
>>209957 I think this was recently covered by Richard Wolff on his regular updates. The short version is that you can just make it illegal to raise prices (including rent) in response to rising wages. That's a good reason to push for socdem government while also organizing labor and revolutionaries.
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I didn't participate in the last one but this is a good initiative. I'll read these tomorrow and make a post with my thoughts.
Bump, I plan on reading tomorrow and wednesday. Post later this week.
>>209953 >>209957 So to sum this up: could we say that increasing wages is simply a matter of changing the distribution of newly produced value, and that if Weston's proposition was true, then new value has to be created to accommodate this rise in prices that supposedly happens as wages increase?
Read this over the last 2 days. A lot of it I already knew or instinctively grasped I think. But I have some questions. How does the concept of socially necessary labour time and average time correspond to differences in speed of working among workers? If one works fast but the rest work slow, does this affect the time needed and therefore its value? How does the labour theory of value things like art and books which do not have socially necessary labour contained in them for survival? Did/do socialist states use the labour theory of value mechanism to plan the economy? I presume the USSR had a surplus produced by people working 8 hours a day. How was this surplus used?
>>215030 We can't really reason about consequences starting from if Weston's proposition was true… because it leads to total incoherence. That any wage increase will be eaten by exactly corresponding rise in prices or that some other workers will be poorer by exactly the same amount or something like that is what the ruling class is constantly alluding to. Though they can't make it too explicit, otherwise people start to wonder: Should I tell my boss to stop wasting his time trying to lower wages, since after all, what workers get in hte end is naturally fixed⸮ It amounts to stating that your ingoing and outgoing money flows have no effect on how rich you are. The point of Marx in Value Price and Profit is that wages aren't technically determined by the system. What share labor gets depends on how much we organize. Also how big the total wealth pie is and the proportion of the things within it are variable issues that we struggle over. (One can reason in abstractions that assume workers as fully atomized individuals and society as a machine, and Marx does some of that too in other places – this gives you just one extreme position within a bigger coordinate system for thinking about society. Those who see this machine model as the real thing and see fault Marx for not being totally committing to that are just trying to cope with their own isolation.)
>>215030 Marx seems to argue in the hypothetical that there is not change in production, since the argument Weston puts forward would demand it. Just that the ratio of what gets paid as wages vs profits changes, and how that effects different industries, leading to a decrease in the rate of profit generalized over all industry after capital reinvestment takes place.
>>216616 Value in the labor theory of value is taken in a generalized form, essentially an aggregate of all the differing labor times would be averaged into the value of something. The differences in the rate of labor can effect prices, but because of the market, all capitalists try to discipline and make more efficient their labor, so as not to be the loser in the market place. In another thread, an anon described the value as a "center of gravity" for prices, and I thought that was a really good metaphor. They all try and get that sweet spot of value. As for art and books, socially necessary, and necessary for survival are different things, and if there is a demand for art and books, there's going to be a supply, but these aren't really things that are made by capital, but made by artisans, unless they are mass produced, in which case they follow the laws of commodities, where the value comes from how much labor is needed to make enough of them to meet the demand. I would imagine they'd fill a role like the luxuries in V.P.P. All societies that have a division of labor must make a surplus of things, since all things are not accounted for by yourself. I don't know how the USSR used this surplus though, sorry. There is a good YouTube series, called The Law of Value. It is, I think, pretty good at explaining things like this. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3F695D99C91FC6F7
bump
reading club didn't take ? try again ?
>>209953 >The most common argument against fighting for higher minimum wages, for example, is that businesses will just raise prices and the entire effort will have failed. I see many posters on this board make that very argument against UBI.
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>>209953 >Marx's second answer to Weston involves the simple historical fact that wage increases, even large ones, often coincide with an overall drop in prices which provides empirical proof that Weston's argument, even if logically consistent, simply doesn't hold true. Because of economies of scale.
>>246875 But UBI is still will work against workers. Realistically it will not exceed amount needed to buy food, water and electricity, while, simultaneously, stigmatize movement as "lazy people who want even more free stuff".
>>246924 >But UBI is still will work against workers. Realistically it will not exceed amount needed to buy food, water and electricity, while, simultaneously, stigmatize movement as "lazy people who want even more free stuff". All subsidies are a subsidy I don't even understand what your argument is. >stigmatize movement as "lazy people who want even more free stuff". So basically your whole argument is based on emotional trauma from facebook boomers who say things like "communists like red because it reminds them of Santa Claus hurr hurr" Fuck them. I don't let facebook boomers and poltards live rent free in my head like that.
im tryin so fuckin hard 2 not be a theorylet but i dont understand shit
>>246830 OP of the original here. I haven't had time to sit down and reread these and respond (yet - working on it). This January I've only had the time/energy to shitpost and mild effortpost based on opinions I already have. I'm working through VPP right now looking for important things to highlight, so I may post in the next day or two if I can finish it. Reading and discussing proper theory takes more effort than just typing an opinion I already have in response to some liberal on this website. I'll make a new thread for the next books in a while if there are suggestions ITT. So reply to this post with suggestions. Maybe we should put an "anchor" post at the top of these threads for suggestions on the next reading, so people can easily see what's being discussed.
>>246968 Do you have questions? I have a pretty good grasp of this material, even if it's been a while since reading it.
>>247022 >OP of the original here. I haven't had time to sit down and reread these and respond (yet - working on it) How's that coming along?
>>259803 I was too distracted with the primary shit giving me anxiety, but now that Sanders is crushing it regardless and the democrats are getting fucking owned, I'm gonna focus on this. I'm partway through VPP. Might go ahead and do tRoDL in a sec since it's very brief.
>>246875 wage increase (paid by employer) is not at all the same as a government subsidy (paid mostly by workers themselves) >ultimately compete against the distribution of total value between wages and profits in society as a whole UBI doesn't do this. If you want to give more share of the value to workers you should fight for wage increases, not UBI.
>>246968 You need to calm your mind before you can read. Consider meditation for a couple of minutes before reading? Or perhaps try writing down what you're reading (not notes, verbatim), that helps some people too.
>>246875 UBI is bad for other reasons too (like replacing other forms of aid), but it raises prices because (A) it's not porky paying for it like >>259965 says and (B) since it's coming from the government it is effectively printing money and therefore causes inflation and (C) Raising wages is not universally predictable whereas giving everybody 1k means every landlord can expect tenants to have an extra 1k to spend and raise rents appropriately. >>259969 >>246968 I sometimes read out loud if I'm having trouble focusing.
>>259965 >UBI doesn't do this. If you want to give more share of the value to workers you should fight for wage increases, not UBI. How does progressive taxation not do that?
>>259981 >since it's coming from the government it is effectively printing money and therefore causes inflation and See: <Marx's second answer to Weston involves the simple historical fact that wage increases, even large ones, often coincide with an overall drop in prices which provides empirical proof that Weston's argument, even if logically consistent, simply doesn't hold true. You're making Weston's argument >Raising wages is not universally predictable whereas giving everybody 1k means every landlord can expect tenants to have an extra 1k to spend and raise rents appropriately. This makes literally no sense.
Anybody have the names (and preferably PDFs) of the books from the last reading group?
Here comes the big post dump. Alienation of Living Activity The criticism of certain Marxists as quasi-religious in accurate if banal. It’s not really a necessary point to make here, and it plays into the hands of anti-communists who often extend the criticism to the far left as a whole. It would be sufficient to state that certain ideas are too vague or are underdeveloped in Marx’s writing. It’s not necessary to bring vulgar marxists into it. Not even Marx himself liked them. <If it is held that man is "by nature" an uninventive tribesman and an inventive businessman, a submissive slave and a proud craftsman an independent hunter and a dependent wage-worker, then either man's "nature" is an empty concept, or man's "nature" depends on material and historical conditions, and is in fact a response to those conditions. Important quote. <In capitalist society, creative activity takes the form of commodity production, namely production of marketable goods, and the results of human activity take the form of commodities. Marketability or saleability is the universal characteristic of all practical activity and all products. This is a better criterion than utility or use-value because all that matters to porky is that he can convince you to buy shit. He’s happy to scam you if he can get away with it. >If a large number of men accept the legitimacy of these conventions, if they accept the convention that commodities are a prerequisite for money, and that money is a prerequisite for survival, then they find themselves locked into a vicious circle. This is dangerously close to “bro if we all stop paying taxes the government can’t do anything!” It’s simpler and preferable to porky to enforce capitalism ideologically, but porky is prepared to enforce it physically as well. Not to say resistance is futile, but it’s critical to understand resistance goes beyond the ideological. <The sale of living activity brings about another reversal. Through sale, the labor of an individual becomes the "property" of another, it is appropriated by another, it comes under the control of another. In other words, a person's activity becomes the activity of another, the activity of its owner; it becomes alien to the person who performs it. Thus one's life, the accomplishments of an individual in the world, the difference which his life makes in the life of humanity, are not only transformed into labor, a painful condition for survival; they are transformed into alien activity, activity performed by the buyer of that labor. In capitalist society, the architects, the engineers, the laborers, are not builders; the man who buys their labor is the builder; their projects, calculations and motions are alien to them; their living activity, their accomplishments, are his. Another useful quote. Use this argument when someone talks about job creators or why porky is necessary for society to function. I like the different approach to alienated labor here. In contrast with Marx, Perlman is more focused on the difference in nature between what workers produce and consume. It’s not just a question of amount of value, but kind. Workers must give up the value they can create through labor, something that is open-ended and otherwise free. In exchange they get the opportunity to purchase particular commodities, whose form and function are crystallized according to the will of the capitalists. This is a qualitative exploitation rather than a quantitative one (surplus value extraction per Marx). Both of these are significant, both for our “inernal” purposes vis-a-vis theory and praxis, and for the purposes of sparking class consciousness. Different people will more readily relate to different analyses according to personal quirks and experiences. The Fetishism of Commodities The discussion of fetishism here works well the Stirnerite spook concept. If you get people who have a pomo bent or are already critical of social constructs, you can use that to bridge the gap to class consciousness via commodity fetishism. Workers (and capitalists) think they obey the logic of these commodities, things which have no life or will unto themselves. Commodities are a social construct or a spook, so why do people act according to them and what does the alternative look like? Finding hooks like this is a useful propaganda tool if you know your audience. There’s also a conclusion here about people’s agency that’s relatively absent from Marx. If your conditions are being reproduced by your actions, that means changing your actions can change your conditions. It may seem cringey, but the “self help” mentality is useful to us in that it provides a basis for agitation and motivating action. If workers have the power to unconsciously reproduce capitalist society, what is our capacity if we apply our power consciously? There is a broad emotional appeal here that we shouldn’t ignore. >It is people's disposition to continue selling their labor, and not the things for which they sell it, that makes the alienation of living activity necessary for the preservation of life. This is somewhat idealist (as is the piece as a whole), but in order to recognize that the workers have a choice to engage in class struggle, we must recognize that workers (consciously or not) make the choice to go along reproducing capitalism currently.
Transformation of Living Activity into Capital >For example, when an industrial worker runs an electric lathe, he uses products of the labor of generations of physicists, inventors, electrical engineers, lathe makers. He is obviously more productive than a craftsman who carves the same object by hand. But it is in no sense the "Capital" at the disposal of the industrial worker which is more "productive" than the "Capital" of the craftsman. If generations of intellectual and manual activity had not been embodied in the electric lathe, if the industrial worker had to invent the lathe, electricity, and the electric lathe, then it would take him numerous lifetimes to turn a single object on an electric lathe, and no amount of Capital could raise his productivity above that of the craftsman who carves the object by hand. I think this raises an important distinction between abstract labor and concrete labor. The value embodied in an individual tool tells you actually very little about how much labor was required to produce it, except in the most abstract sense. Before even getting into surplus extraction, Perlman is making the case for abolishing the law of value. For a lot of people this is a more intuitive and accessible argument than one involving abstract labor time. If you can get the essence across first you create the motivation to find out how to abolish the LoV and that leads to understanding how it works. The rest of the section proceeds to explain this. This is a great summary of how unemployment works: <It was not any worker's aim to produce more goods than he was paid for. His aim was to get a wage which was as large as possible. However, the existence of workers who got no wage at all, and whose conception of a large wage was consequently more modest than that of an employed worker, made it possible for the capitalist to hire labor at a lower wage. In fact, the existence of unemployed workers made it possible for the capitalist to pay the lowest wage that workers were willing to work for. Thus the result of the collective daily activity of the workers, each striving individually for the largest possible wage, was to lower the wages of all; the effect of the competition of each against all was that all got the smallest possible wage, and the capitalist got the largest possible surplus. The necessity of unemployment in capitalism doesn’t get enough attention IMO. People think of it in terms of high or low, but tend not to question why it exists in the first place, or don’t question the excuses given by capitalism – laziness, lack of jobs due to high taxes, etc. <And in the different material conditions of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, workers (and peasants) replaced the capitalist class with a state bureaucracy that purchases alienated labor and accumulates Capital in the name of Marx. <The unionized worker no longer settles the terms of his alienation; union functionaries do this for him. The terms on which the worker's activity is alienated are no longer guided by the individual worker's need to accept what is available; they are now guided by the union bureaucrat's need to maintain his position as pimp between the sellers of labor and the buyers. I think this is a key point about the ideological conditions. Organized and even revolutionary workers can fall into the same pattern if they lack the consciousness to understand their role in the system. It’s not enough simply to “fix” things and be done. The revolution has to be a continuous conscious process, lest it be taken over by someone who would exploit unconscious participation.
Storage and Accumulation of Human Activity The spring illustration is kind of wanting and the sort of thing that would draw criticism of us as idealistic. Particularly this bit is troublesome: >with the expenditure of relatively little energy, the people of this imaginary society will be able to harness the springs to most of their necessary tasks, and also to the task of winding new springs for coming generations. I realize this is an abstraction and not meant to illustrate conservation of energy, but this does sound a bit like a utopian thinking technology will allow us to violate conservation of energy. It’s a simple fix – just include something about drawing energy from the earth or the sun. Not a huge point but this is exactly the kind of pedantic thing anti-communists will seize on and repeat despite being debunked (much like people confusing what “dictatorship of the proletariat” means). The basic attitude exemplified here of optimism has largely come under attack by anti-communism and isn’t all that relatable to today’s proles anyway. It’s probably more useful for us to take a pragmatic attitude and talk about real material changes that can be made and point toward historical successes. If anything we should attack utopianism and idealism, as those have become associated with neoliberal capitalism. “Innovation will deliver us from systemic problems” is the (empty) promise of capitalism. >However, if people did not dispose of their own lives, if their working activity were not their own, if their practical activity consisted of forced labor, then human activity might well be harnessed to the task of winding springs, the task of storing surplus working time in material receptacles. The historical role of Capitalism, a role which was performed by people who accepted the legitimacy of others to dispose of their lives, consisted precisely of storing human activity in material receptacles by means of forced labor. This bit is just problematic. Societies all over the world accumulated wealth without capitalism, and probably without even class. Humans have a hoarding instinct to begin with, and if accumulating wealth for future generations becomes a common practice, people would continue it for the sake of their children. Societies that do this more effectively increase their chances of success, so from an evolutionary perspective, this behavior should be expected to spread and be maintained. Coercion through class merely makes the process more efficient, which incidentally is why revolution must be global. >The power of Capital does not reside in money, since money is a social convention which has no more "power" than men are willing to grant it; when men refuse to sell their labor, money cannot perform even the simplest tasks, because money does not "work." This bit really comes across like “dude if nobody paid taxes, the government would collapse!” It’s almost complete, but it needs one last bit. It’s not enough for men to refuse selling their labor. They must also “regard the product of labor as theirs and enjoy it,” (Pic related). On top of that, they must co-operate to do labor for one another as peers instead of for an employer as subordinates. If workers simply stopped selling their labor, they might deprive capital of the value they would create, but they do not gain for themselves a replacement for the wage that sustains them. Workers who only cease to work for an employer are soon coerced back into doing so or else become destitute. The workers must not merely cease selling labor, but labor for each other outside the realm of money. This is true whether you are starting a co-op, organizing a revolutionary force, or engaging in communization. <Buyers for old and new products are created by any and all available means, and new means are constantly discovered. "Open markets" and "open doors" are established by force and fraud. If people lack the means to buy the capitalists' products, they are hired by capitalists and are paid for producing the goods they wish to buy; if local craftsmen already produce what the capitalists have to sell, the craftsmen are ruined or bought-out; if laws or traditions ban the use of certain products, the laws and the traditions are destroyed; if people lack the objects on which to use the capitalists' products, they are taught to buy these objects; if people run out of physical or biological wants, then capitalists "satisfy" their "spiritual wants" and hire psychologists to create them; if people are so satiated with the products of capitalists that they can no longer use new objects, they are taught to buy objects and spectacles which have no use but can simply be observed and admired. Good quote to illustrate the all-encompassing nature of commodification, best combined with an explanation of capital accumulation. The bit preceding paragraphs do that, but in an overly general way. Perlman does an ok job of explaining the concept, but I think you need to illustrate it with math a la Marx to drive the point home. Another element that would work well here is that commodifying everything isn’t just a tendency but an inevitability. Capitalism creates monopolies, and once you are one, you have to find something else to expand into. Even if you vertically and horizontally integrate to the fullest extent, you still have an incentive to grow and accumulate capital. At a certain point it becomes easier to invent new and useless products than it is to take over existing market share, and businesses compete over whose crap the proles waste their disposable income on. >Poor people are found in pre-agrarian and agrarian societies on every continent; if they are not poor enough to be willing to sell their labor when the capitalists arrive, they are impoverished by the activities of the capitalists themselves. The lands of hunters gradually become the "private property" of "owners" who use state violence to restrict the hunters to "reservations" which do not contain enough food to keep them alive. [etc] This clashes a bit with the earlier point: >Capital is neither a natural force nor a man-made monster which was created sometime in the past and which dominated human life ever since. The synthesis of these ideas would perhaps be that a market or a business is a monster created at a particular time that forces laborers to submit themselves to the purpose of sustaining it. Describing capitalism as actively reproduced by daily life’s labor is empowering to workers because it gives them the consciousness that their actions build the world, and could possibly build a different sort of world. But given that capitalism did and does have an inception here or there, understanding it as something imposed rather than voluntarily made is a useful concept as well. This analysis runs into problems when dealing with imperialism. Within the core, it may be reasonably within the power of the workers to withhold labor from capitalists for the benefit of themselves and other laborers. In the colonies, this is more readily met with conquest, coups, and so on. Workers in e.g. the United States may be violently suppressed when trying to organize, but if ground is gained (political footholds especially) it’s more difficult for the empire to upend that than if it were happening in the third world. A socdem president in Latin America may be targeted by a coup with some ease (since the fallout and instability threatens the CIA somewhere between very little and not at all), whereas attempting a coup domestically if Sanders won the election would cause political turmoil that very directly threatened the empire and organs like the CIA. Although it’s hard to fault Perlman for the oversight considering this was written in 1969 and those coups didn’t really kick off until the 1970s. There’s some very useful stuff here, but pretty serious limitations that need to be worked with. Something that really jumped out at me about this was how many lines are useful to anti-communists, and the importance of composing our material with opposing ideologies (and their counterarguments) in mind.

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