- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Lots of class; all low.

Posted by: David ( USA ) on November 04, 1999 at 19:04:09:

In Reply to: We've been over this before posted by Samuel Day Fassbinder on November 03, 1999 at 16:49:40:

: : Aha, the spectre of classism has haunted this board before! I disagree, class is an arbitrary construct, it is simply a way to group together similar components. In this case, these components are humans, and class is the nomenclature of our set of groups in which we lump them accordingly.

: SDF: Please do read this post, just as Stoller said. Class is a useful way of understanding the notion of "making a living" and its relation to the system of exchange. And, as I implied here, any attempt to deny the reality of classes is a regression BENEATH the writings of Adam Smith, who certainly did not deny their existence.

: : Obviously defining groups of people in terms of class has its benefits, such as comparing socio-economic status and the like.

: SDF: This is the sort of "class analysis" that one can find in Samuelson's ECONOMICS. Such an arbitrary grouping of human beings is useless in telling us why the process of capital accumulation results in disparities in wealth; only telling us that such disparities exist, which is something a ground-floor social-science researcher could tell us. To be useful, class must tell us not only "do people have money" but "where did they get the money," did they get it through work or investment, which is why I recommend the model of class linked above.

I read the two posts and they are both a mouthful to respond to. I will do my best however.

: 1) Use-value -- this is when a human being relates to a material object in a way that pertains to his relation to the natural world. One might use a hammer to pound nails, to make artistic works, to recycle its contents, as a weapon etc., and these uses are what defines the use-values of a hammer. The use-value of a hammer is the relation of the hammer (etc., for example) to the human using it.


:2) Exchange-value -- This is a concept that Marx uses as very close to "price," although he uses the word "exchange-value" to indicate that all exchange-values need not be indicated in relation to money, that for instance even in barter we have exchange values (that so many baseball cards are worth a toy car that two children might trade with each other, for instance). At any rate, if one goes into your local convenience store, one will find that everything has a price, and that that price of each particular thing defines the present-moment exchange-value of that thing, as it is listed on the attached price-tag. Exchange-values, furthermore, define things as COMMODITIES, a word which will be very useful to theory, as we shall see.

Agreed. (So far, so good)

[Part two of point two]
:Exchange value is the human relation to an object pertaining NOT GENERALLY to the natural world encompassing the human being and the object, but MORE SPECIFICALLY exchange value is the human relation to an object pertaining MERELY to the distribution of objects amongst human beings. One might buy or sell or trade hammers, all activities implicating the exchange-value of a hammer.

:Exchange value also implies a certain set of relations between the exchanging human beings. Most important among these relations is PROPERTY -- according to the relation of property, the world of nature is carved up into individual material things which individual people then own -- and ownership is defined as the absolute dominion of a person over a thing. You can't exchange a thing unless it is owned. A secondary relation between human beings as implied by exchange is the acceptance of MONEY as a GENERAL SIGNIFIER OF WEALTH -- if monetary exchanges are to become the primary mode of distributing objects, then people must accept money as having more than a "natural" use value. I might, for instance, weave a sweater out of dollar bills to keep myself warm in the winter (they are, after all, made of cloth!), but this use of money would not express the relation between people implicit in the common public use of dollar bills. One needs the concept of the conventional signifier of wealth to explain economic social rituals involving money, therefore.

Another point to add on to that is that money needs to have some objective value behind it. The money we use now is merely a promissory note from the government to tax it's citizens in the future and pay you from that.
Precious metals are often used as a standard for money as they are divisible, homogenous, and are generally rare.

3) there are two different social ritual of exchange, different in their physical manifestations as phenomena, that characterize capitalist exchange, and this is all related by Marx in CAPITAL:

:3a) There is the exchange-ritual Marx called C-M-C, commodity-money-commodity, which is the ritual of the working classes, who sell their commodity, labor, for money, which they then spend upon another commodity, the expropriated produce of other workers, as a means of subsistence. The material indicators of C-M-C are that the first C in C-M-C is always LABOR-POWER (the physical energy coming out of the laborer himself), and that the last C is the use of commodities not for further trade, but rather for the relationship of the consumer to the natural world. I might trade a popsicle, but within the model of 3a) I buy a popsicle in order to eat it. C-M-C is an expression of the production and consumption of use-values by the working class.

I disagree with you when you say that labor-power is the first thing in the C-M-C relationship. I would argue that before there can be the C in C-M-C, there must be a need for C, an inventor of C, a means of manufacturing C, etc... Even that is simplified at best. There are also other considerations to take into account when you get into complex industrial processes.
The other point that I disagree with is when you say that in the C-M-C diagram, the last C is always a commodity that is not for further trade. A person can always save up their surplus income in order to buy a computer to start programming on, or purchase tools to sell their repair skills to people. Another example I can think of would be earning enough to buy a lawnmower, and then mowing peoples lawns for money. Obviously these are quite short term, simplified diagrams, but I believe they express the point clearly enough.

:3b) There is also the exchange-ritual that Marx calls M-C-M, money-commodity-money, the ritual of the capitalist classes, who use money to buy two commodities called "labor-power" and "capital" (as defined below), which are then used to produce a line of commodities, which then are used to fetch money from the buying public. In this ritual it is important to remember that the middle C always includes an element of capital, defined as the system of physical entities (factories, work teams, raw materials, stores, markets) needed by capitalists in order to make monetary profits. All of which PHYSICALLY EXISTS as something one can POINT TO. The expression "M-C-M" expresses a use of material things so that capitalists can make monetary profits off of the exchange values of things as they are understood within the capitalist money-system.

The flaw I see in the M-C-M system is that money has no value if there is nothing to buy. The value of money can be described in terms of its purchasing power. If there is nothing to buy, money is useless.
However, assuming that the M-C-M system exists in an economic system in which there are already commodities to which we can ascribe value to money, then I would agree with your M-C-M system.

:4) The two basic social classes, expressed in abbreviated form as "labor" and "capital," exist EMPIRICALLY insofar as one can point to the OBSERVABLE PERFORMANCE of the above rituals, respectively, 3a) and 3b). In most capitalist societies, one class of people is responsible for enacting C-M-C, and another class of people is responsible for enacting M-C-M, although this second class may also enact C-M-C.

Just as a thought, would it be possible to have a system in which after you complete the C-M-C cycle and save your surplus money be able to begin an M-C-M system? I think that, were the two systems correct (I am not versed well enough in economics to prove it either way, I can only go on what I know), this would compensate for social mobility.

: You cannot, however, just dismiss something as "bourgeois morals."
: : It's a double edged sword, now I have to get rid of my "proletariat logic" maneuver.

: SDF: Bourgeois morals are morals which assume that entrepreneurs must invest if anyone is to work.

I would say that it is not so much a moral as it is a theory.

SDF:The right to work should not be dependent upon elites who move money around.

I do not consider work a right, simply because it effects other individuals rights to free association. If working were a right, than I could say that anyone who refused to hire me for any reason was infringing on my right.

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