- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Same environment different conclusions?

Posted by: Gee ( si ) on January 24, 19100 at 16:15:39:

In Reply to: I certainly question the 'great man of history' theory posted by Barry Stoller on January 23, 19100 at 11:49:40:

: More generally speaking, however, workers are not AT ALL responsible for the disparities owing to differing organic compositions of capital

Differentiating between that productivity which is individual ability and that which is borne by the aids to production makes the concept 'according to work' clear, though not its practical application. How does one measure personal ability v machine ability when the latter requires the former to even be active? This would be a contentious issue under such a first stage communist arrangement.

: Only if workers controlled the means of production and (subsequently) controlled the conditions of their employment would they be COMPLETELY responsible for the labor they contribute

Indeed, though the example of two workers is still valid - as the decision has been made by the many, the effect upon the two workers is similar to having it made for them by the previous capitalist owner, their participation not necessarily indicating approval, consent or agreement.

: Wages, I believe, are determined, not by 'supply and demand'---some 'invisible hand'

The 'invisable hand' is often mistaken for actual invisability, or having some life of its own. It is many visible hands and corresponding effective demand (as previously discussed) which forms the resultant demand and supply.

: The socially determined needs of the laborer are also, I hasten to add, determined by the active struggle between capital and labor (in the streets)...

Its interesting to note the flexibility given to the concept of wages being enough to replicate. Where once that means food shelter and a few surviving offspring, 'subsistence' for the western worker now seems to include modern housing, a car, annual holiday, ready supply of (evidently) fattening foods etc. Is this raising of abundance the return sought by 'pleasant mary' as we'll come to below?

: Further, mentioned here, I believe that, ultimately, 'supply' (capital) determines 'demand' (consumption by workers).

If taken as sum I can appreciate your argument, I refer to the different successes of 'capital' in the context of supply in reaching the demand.

: And when I say wages are arbitrary, I mean wages between various workers determined largely by various investment decisions that determine the level of tools that workers access (and therefore productivity).

On wages we can invoke the rare skills / abundant skills models - I think I would adress the issue as still being subject to 'market forces' but that the investment decisions help determin at what level the whol wage scale is positioned. I would add that the base rate skills are climbing ever higher, not sinking. Where once the ability to read and write and do math was 'privilaged' it is now a base requisite, indeed the ability to use IT tools is fast becoming a base requisite in office based roles. The foundations are rising not sinking, it is necessary to learn more from birth to 18 in order to work, than it ever was.

: Yes. And that machine, let us not forget, is MORE than the 'ability' of the 'genius' who invented it

(whatever more it is, it can only occur after and because of its inventor though, hence my pre occupation with that role)

:; that machine (reducing worker's skills and, therefore, wages)

See my argument on general skills requirements above, and also that wages may drop as proportion to wealth produced per man/machine combo, but not in terms of material wealth the worker can acquire - which increases in absolute terms because productivity per head has increased.


: Now, this might offend procapitalist thinking, but: that's why it would not only be unfair to apply equal rights to workers possessing unequal abilities, but it would be unfair to apply equal rights to workers having unequal needs.

Have you ever studied psychological 'equity theory'*? Often applied to business it does have broader implication - there are two main points

1) Individuals compare their job inputs and outcomes with those of others and then respond so as to eliminate any inequities.

So the worker who gets less because he has no children may downgrade his work relative to his family man colleague in order to feel as if he is receiving outcome in proportion to his input. He adjusts until the 'equity ratio' is the same.

2) Equity theory recognizes that individuals are concerned not only with the absolute amount of rewards for their efforts, but also with the relationship of this amount to what others receive.

Incidently, here we have a good argument as to the envy felt by hard working poeple when seeing a lazy inheritor, but not felt toward the hard working entreprenuer (or sports star, as seems so popular in the US). The perception of what constitutes hard work is key - a man who works hard physically may perceive inequity regarding the apparently sedentary office worker because he has no comprehension of the kind of work done nor how hard it is - the occasional rift between 'blue' and 'white' collar workers. This can also be behind the the inequity felt about 'managers' in general.

: the principle which informs the 'first phase of communist society' ('according to work')---a principle Marx explicitly claims is flawed---is even more flawed than originally presented by Marx.

It seems inconsistent with marxist intent to me. It appears more as a meritocracy (which is what capitalism tries to become)

: Please resist the temptation to counter that 'consumers' (i.e.workers) already determine what gets produced and what doesn't (through the 'impartial' mechanism of 'supply and demand,' no doubt).

Consumers do determin through their choices which uses of capital are successful or not relative to one another.

: Government is capital's next best (and least discriminating) customer.

I'm note sure on what quantitative basis you prioritised those three but on the above - they appear un discriminating because they don't try and choose the best product, but choose via a convoluted politicsl process which includes appeasing power groups, pressure groups, media image, politicians' ambitions etc etc.

: We do not choose our environment, we can only impact it as we find it.

It is the impact of that choosing which has driven our history - not the environment as total cause (as per RD's apparent determinism) but as framework within which a chaotic un determinable future plays out from the near infinite possible events (and changes the environment along the way). This seems close to what Engels is saying.

: And some of us find it not to our liking!


: If I own lots of ability (useful to capitalists) and nothing else, then my ability (-power) will be sold to the capitalists, on their terms, and then they will own my ability (-power).

By you defintion they will rent it, the distinction is an important one.

: Whether or not I'll accumulate capital myself will be as much determined by capital as my ability...

So the greater you ability the greater self determination you shall have, the greater capital can be built up to undo any shortage.

: For example, a Marxist accepts that if Marx had not discovered the materialist conception of history, someone else would have;

This seems strange though - Marx was not the next person and the next person was not Marx. It is as if to suggest that killing Marx would result in another Marx and so on until all but one person lived. As it cannot be so then I doubt the validity of the principle.

: You see the individual influencing history and you see the conscious acts of individuals affecting the (ensuing) mode of production. I see history influencing the individual and I see the mode of production affecting the (ensuing) consciousness of individuals.

: I expect we can never resolve these differences, just as we cannot resolve the differences that come from our partisan positions regarding the LTV and the STV.

Perhaps not. Its interesting, then, considering both viewpoints, how we would have developed to holding opposing views. I am beginning to think the argument between socialism and the free market, or collectivism and individualism, is essentially an argument over causality (or at least the 'weight' of one cause or the other) extended to the field of human relations.

: Hmmm, I've heard some people talk about capital as a 'natural' relation between people; capital as an economic order which 'waited' to be unfettered from a barbarian and feudal past; I?ve even heard it said that since capital is the 'inevitable' apotheosis of human interaction, history has 'ended.'

: Have you heard this talk?

I have

: Do you believe that talk?

No, I think it was chosen and driven by individuals' wills. History does not end until time 'ends'. As people drive new discoveries which change the way humankind can (potentially) interact with eachother and their environments so history changes (be fanciful, imagine endless production from nanotechnology using any raw materials - and its effects of social relations). If I were to believe capitalism is an inevitable end form of social interaction (gosh arent we lucky to just so happen to have it in *our* generation) then I might be tempted to believe other 'end of history' nonsense.

I add that what people choose is not *just* culturally determined, that the environment of evolution (and, indeed, of 'everything') and the apparently undetermined nature of human development has been overlooked by (many) socialists.

: Yet you bestow upon 'people's minds and wills' the very same 'natural' force that you reject

I deny its inevitability as some 'natural force' which lies pre written in one's future.

:: No, my grammar was off, I did mean that the 'private possession' of an individual (in society characterized by social production) is socially determined.

Will you make room for variation in the form of genetic identity and a 'chaos' factor which has a multitude of choices make for outcomes which cannot be wholly attributed to social determination?

: Perhaps pleasant Mary next door, performing the primary productive work that sustains society (agriculture, fuel extraction, construction, etc., etc.) which materially supports a class of individuals consequently freed from participating in the primary productive work of society deserves a return on her 'capital'?

Perhaps Mary gets her return in the form of the technologies which enhance her life of which she could have no conception - whether it a handy calculator or a heart machine in her hospital. Perhaps her return is the greatest of all - the use of those tools without the requisite conceptual ability to create them (nor the capacity for it, more over). That may sound elitist or harsh to modern people's well trained PC ears but I mean it seriously - perhaps their return is far more than we generally consider.

: And if pleasant Mary had a monopoly on the means of production (as the capitalists do), then those who invent the computers might have to repay Mary WITH the property rights to that computer. Their 'natural' capital would then become her material capital.

As the owners can and do change (they are not a static aristocratic class - even they werent static) and as wealth is not fixed then those inventors can still become capitalists themselves - and as we discussed before this motivation might be a strong one for them. The only time I can imagine the above scenario resulting in the outcomes you've described is if Mary were an all powerful single dictator or an overwhelming majority - and both used direct force (not implicit force as the force you decribe being exerted by capitalists) upon them.

: Only if the inventor has provided for him / herself the food, housing, and heat that went into realizing the invention---only then the inventor would be truly able to claim the invention as unsocialized property. Only then could it REALLY be private property.

Do you mean inventors who are not supported by government grants? Most inventors do support themselves during the process of invention, often in very 'ordinary' conditions. I recognise that you would consider someone aided by a salary or private credit to be existing on exploited workers, and as stated I doubt we will reach common ground on that.

: society?s class of brain workers who are consequently freed from participating in that work.

Are they? What is it that their inventions become? Participants in that work. They are involved, at a different stage, that which causes the changes down the line.

: No, I insist that the growth of wealth, originally a function of ability which becomes alienated from its natural owner BY capital, becomes simply a function of capital.

I hold that at no point under capitalism does ability become its inevitable wage dependant - there always being the option for ability to become capital as per the original function of ability in creating wealth.

: Because there are so few openings available for professional ball players, few people receive much encouragement to pursue professional baseball. On the other hand, because so many teaching positions need to be filled, many people receive encouragement to become teachers.

It is my understanid that the ratio of potential sports applicants to actual positions is far higher than with teachers - that whatever wise words are offered many many people times the number of positions still pursue sports just as Hollywood is littered with actor wannabe's when the amount Studios take in is tiny.

: I also add that the ruling class has an intuitive interest in paying large sums of money and status to small groups of individuals who demonstrate to society at large that class ascension is possible (if only with lottery odds).

Or exceptional ability?

: Is this a 'conspiracy theory'? Precedent: Gladiatorial (slave) combatants throughout the Roman Empire?s reign were offered unconditional manumission as incentive to fight well (and survive).

Bread and Circuses? In Rome I could see how a class of rulers concentrated in a broadly dictatorial monarchy of sorts could orchestrate such a 'conspiracy'. I don't really buy the same with a globally diffused and changeable group of business owners, even when grouped and focussed within their political leadersships. I think a more likely explanation is that people like the ballgame and that any one who claims to be orchestrating circusses for the masses is way over estimating his/her power and influence. Indeed, I think Romans liked the entertainment - and the leaders patted themselves on the backs for being so clever without realising that, well, they weren't.

* "Equity Theory - Psychological and Sociological Perspectives"
Edited by David M. Messick and Karen S. Cook
(I'm told this is the right reference for the theory!)

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