Answers to Questions for Review, Chap's 7-10

Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 7: Answers

1. Labor is what a human does when working, the labor process includes: the human working, the tools used and the raw material worked up. The labor process is thus a broader category and one which is repeatedly transformed within capitalist development and in turn alters the character of labor itself. In capitalism, the capitalist owns/controls the tools and raw materials, and hence the product, and is therefore in a position to also control what the worker does. As Marx points out in the second section of Chapter 7 the most basic thing done with that control is to make the worker work longer so that capital is valorized.

2. Connection between Chap 7 and Chap.1, sec. 2.? Sec 2 is concerned with the distinction between useful labor and abstract labor, chapter 7 is divided in two sections the first, on the labor process, is basically about useful labor while the second, on valorization, is basically about labor under capitalism or abstract labor —which turns out to not only be labor-as-command but surplus labor to boot.

8. Labor as fulfilling "spontaneous, free activity"? As a rule this is most likely to happen where labor is not used as a means of social control and exploitation. If it is imposed it is not free; if workers are told what to do and how to do it, it is hardly spontaneous. It can only have these qualities when it is the completion of autonomous acts by self-determining subjects. However, it does happen that workers are able to wrench control over their own activity away from their employers, at least for short periods and in limited spaces, and pursue their own ends. They thus may create temporal and spatial islands of self-valorizing work.

13. Alienation? 1. alienation of the workers from their work —when the capitalist imposes controls the kind, methods, tempos and content of work processes; 2. alienation of the workers from their products —when the capitalists rather than the workers own/control the products and are able to use them against their producers (to force them to work, to manipulate their desires, etc); 3. alienation of workers from each other —occurs as the capitalist division of labor is manipulated to divide and conquer the working class by pitting workers against each other; 4. alienation from species being —occurs as workers are prevented from collectively exercising their will and self-determination which makes them human (in Marx and Hegel’s view) and find themselves mere cogs in a larger machine, objects rather than subjects. There is also the feeling of alienation, the distaste of workers for work because of the various kinds of alienation that characterizes it under capitalism.

14. Capital as Vampire? Capital is a particular form of social relations, a particular way of organizing social life; that form and that way changes only marginally through time, metamorphosing (from human to bat) rather than mutating and becoming something truly different. At the center of that way of organizing social life is the imposition of work, the more work imposed (labor sucked) the more that way of life "thrives", expands, grows (by englobing more people), thus surplus labor, or surplus value, is both the means (via investment) and the index of the "live" of the Vampire.

Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 8: Answers

1. By "creating" value Marx seems to mean working productively within the context of capitalism, i.e., producing a new commodity which can be sold for a profit (the new value created being V+S). Living labor "creates" value if it produces something with a use-value and with exchange-value but to be viable in capitalism that exchange value must be such as to generate an average S. As for "preserving" value, this seems to mean the preservation of the value productivity of previously completed work, e.g. the work that created the value of machines or of raw materials. The new labor "preserves" the old value if it results in a new product (C’) to which the old labor can be seen to have contributed at one step removed. Various disagreements are possible, the point is to present a reasoned argument.

4. Repairing constant capital and repairing variable capital? Machines have to be repaired, i.e., more labor done to keep them running and productive; so too does labor power have to be repaired daily at least through cooking/serving/eating/dishes and washing sheets/bed making/sleeping/coffee making/caffine intake but often also through psychological repair as well as physical repair. That the similarity is more than an analogy can be seen in the neoclassical theory of "human capital" where labor power is treated as a kind of capital and in the comments of capitalists who see their workers as productive parts of their factories. Marx’s undertreatment of this work may reflect (as Cleaver has suggested) the fact that virtually everyone was being drafted into the factory in the mid-19th C but it may also be a reflection of his own gender habits and the fact that Jenny (his wife) did his housework!

6. Counterparts? Constant capital: home, school, TV, computer, dishwasher, books, cars, brothels, beds, etc. Variable capital: the labor of houseworkers, school workers, of children discipling themselves, of spouces (still mostly mothers) raising a new generation of workers or repairing their spouses, of teachers imposing homework and tests, and so on.

Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 9: Answers

1. Rate of exploitation measures proportion of work (life) given up to capital to work done for self (understood broadly); rate of profit measures life acquired in relation to investment (C + V). The former is a reasonable measure for workers because it is their live that is being given up (S + V, every day) and it would seem logical that they would be interested in how much of it is not done for themselves but for the boss. Whereas the capitalist measures the amount of work extracted for business expansion (S) against the total amount of capital laid out. V is of interest to the capitalist but only as one cost among others.

2. Necessary labor is that labor which is necessary for the reproduction of labor power that goes into the production of those means of subsistence which are purchased as commodities with the wage (or other forms of payment for labor power). This capitalist accounting clearly excludes housework, schoolwork, therapy, recreation etc for which a wage is not paid but is "necessary" for "consumption" of those means of subsistence. Thus we know there is much more "necessary" labor required than appears in the wage. Marx juxtaposes necessary to surplus labor (V to S) seeing surplus labor primarily in terms of the labor which produces the means of production purchased by the capitalists with their profits. But if we take into account that increases in consumption require the creation of new means of production ahead of time, then at least some of the "surplus" labor would appear to be "necessary" for future reproduction. In this case the relation between necessary and surplus must be reconceptualized in terms of the subordination of the one to the other, i.e., if surplus today is only aimed at increased consumption tomorrow then it can be viewed as necessary, but if consumption is subordinated to surplus (to finance the endless imposition of work) then that surplus is by no means "necessary" from the point of view of the workers.

5. Senior argues loping off last hour will wipe out profits by dividing working day into hours that pay for costs and hours that provide profit in such a way that only one hour does the latter. The fallacy lies in the way he relates hours worked to costs: he ignores that constant capital is employed (and used up, i.e., value transfered to product) during each hour and that a reduction in hours will reduce C as well as S. To avoid the confusion, ignore C and focus on V + S. Relevant today? No more today than before, the logical error is timeless.

Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 10: Answers

3. The argument that the "working day" includes activities of reproduction is based on the analysis that much of what workers do off the job is functional to what they do on the job, i.e., it is the work of preparing for work, recuperating from work, rebuilding ones labor power. The idea here is that much of life is subordinated to work, that people literally live to work rather than work to live. Therefore, much of what is commonly called "free" is not really free; workers have neither energy nor opportunity to be self-determining because there is so much they must do in order to continue to be workers. Judging whether such free-time or leisure-time activities are simply reproducing life as labor power or are constitutive of something more requires not only an analysis of what one does during such times but the relation to other times, especially formal work times. If "self-activity" merely gives you energy to work it would seem to be functional to it. If it takes energy away from work and becomes an end in itself then it may constitute another way of being. Mostly, since people do go on working, the best we can hope for is that "free-time" activity is at least to some degree self-valorizing rather than capital valorizing and with time the power to constitute real alternatives to the capitalist subordination of life to work grows but undercutting capital and creating new ways of being.

4. "Between equal rights force decides"; collective capital versus collective labor. The argument is that we can observe, historically, antagonistic conflict over the direction social development in which the antagonists assert their rights against each other. In the context of chapter 10, the right to the use of labor power versus the right to live beyond work. Moreover, the argument asserts that the conflicts, however, diverse are in some sense bipolar: between two classes even if neither class is monolithic. This analysis derives principally from the argument that we can recognize and analyse capitalism as a particular kind of social order for which some fight and against which others struggle, some more at some times, others more at other times, but the commonality of their anatagonism derives from their resistance to the imposition of one particular, capitalist, order.

5. What did capitalism invent? It invented the endlessness of surplus labor. The relation to the form of value is the endlessness of the expanded, general and money forms which express this quality of the social relations of capitalist imposed work. The relation to primitive accumulation is the transformation of the imposition of work from one geared primarily to the creation of use-values for the ruling classes (luxuries, castles, cathedrals, pyrimids, etc) to one geared to the creation of exchange value and the accuulation of money both of which are but mechanisms in an endless putting of people to work as a form of social control and domination irrespectively of the quantity or quality of use-values produced. Valorization is just the path of this endless process. The relation to our understanding of labor in the dynamic sense is the endlessness can be expressed in terms of the subordination of life (necessary labor) to endless work(surplus labor used to impose more work). What needs to be transformed is this relation: the transcendance of capitalism must involve demoting work to a means of life instead of subordinting life to endless work.

7. Nibbling and Cribbling? In Marx’s discussion these are the processes through which the capitalist constantly, or at least repeatedly, seek to extend the length of the working day by adding on a few minutes here, a few minutes there, cutting lunch times, starting early, ending the working day late and so on. The kinds of practices which led to workers demands for public clocks whose tolling could be heard by all and thus such capitalist cheating could be undercut. To Marx’s discussion we need to add two things: first, the extension of such nibbling and cribbling to the informal working day, i.e., work outside the official waged time, and second, the inverse struggle of workers to reduce their work load on the margin. In the first case, we can see such practices as Motorola asking its employees to listen to tapes while driving to and from work, teachers assigning more homework to students, the business school upping its required GPA —all such practices increase the work people have to do for capital. In the second case, although Marx ignores it, workers also struggle to reduce the amount of work they do in a myriad of ways: stopping work before the official end of the day, starting late (thus the punch-in time clock), skipping classes, long coffee breaks, chatting about non-work issues on the job, etc.

9. Day and night work? The logic as Marx presents it mainly concerns the reduced costs associated with continuing operation of many kinds of machinery and industrial processes. The start-up or shutdown costs may be substantial and avoidable if production is kept going 24 hours a day, e.g. blast furnaces are extremely expensive and time consuming to start up or shut down. There is also the costs of set-up by workers (who nibble and cribble) in the morning and shut-down at the end of the day which can be avoided if workers just step into the shoes of another at an on-going process. In the case of reproduction where there may be little fixed capital involved the push for long hours, night work may just be geared to absorbing everyone’s time and energy independently of their other obligations, a kind of capitalist flex-time exploitation, e.g. 24 hour library hours leave students no excuse for not completing research projects etc regardless of their time schedules. With reference to the age hierarchy? I don’t remember what I had in mind. What do you think?

10. Pattern of struggle: at first the capitalists were successful in extending the length of the working day (by dictating longer hours, by paying wages so low that workers sought longer hours, etc) , later worker struggles succeeded in block further extension and then in reducing the working day (by organizing themselves and striking against employers, by making political demands at the level of parliament so that laws were passed, and implemented).Thus in the long haul there has been a fundamental shift of class power in favor of workers —this despite the short or medium term successes capital may have had in forcing longer hours. In the 20th Century the general movement, thanks to workers continued struggles, has been toward fewer hours, arriving at about 40hr/week in the U.S. in the 1940s, although in recent years the Reagan-Bush counterattack on the working class has succeed in lower wages such that many workers now seek as much "overtime" as possible to sustain their income, plus the shift of factories to the Third World has also resulted in longer hours on a world scale. Moreover there has been a push for longer hours/days/weeks in some work of reproduction, e.g. schools (longer school year). On the other hand, the success of workers in reducing the official working day also led to capitalist colonization of the unofficial working day, e.g. through schools, so that much of what appeared as "free time" has not really been free but subordinated to the reproduction of labor power. The trends here are more favorable to capital although in the 1960s the student revolt certainly undercut the amount of such work and created freer times and spaces for students to do what they wanted that did not contributed to capitalist reproduction, e.g. study Marxist economics or their own racial, ethnic or gender backgrounds and history. The long run historical trends are less clear in this area because their are far fewer statistics.

13. LTV and struggle over working day: the struggle over the length of the working day is clearly a struggle over the degree to which people’s lives will be subordinated to capital through work, thus the degree to which a labor theory of value will be useful in clarifying the social antagonisms at play in society. To the degree that the struggle succeeds and people are able to escape the subordination of their lives to capitalist work, the relevance of the LTV is undermined and we need some other theoretical tools to understand the spaces of self-valorization.

14. Motives: on the one hand the same motives that have always spurred workers: the desire for freedom to self-construct their own lives, on the other hand, the post-war growth of working class income may have led to growing demands for more time in which to enjoy the material fruits of labor, i.e., the things growing wages could buy. There is not much point in having many consumer goods if they cannot be consumed, consumption takes time, consumption can become self-valorization and the struggle for less official work time the struggle for more time of self-valorization. The pressures on the EC derived, probably, primarily from trade unions who had increasingly been putting shorter hours on the agenda of its negotiations with employers. Business opposes such changes because at the level of the firm it raises costs (shorter hours with the same wages, plus increased costs of more shifts as people come and go in the work process, etc.) while at the level of society as a whole it undercuts the fundamental mechanism of capitalist social control: work on the job and off.

15. If workers succeed in reducing hours in one country, but not in others, and it conditions are such that capitalists (via multinational corporations) can invest readily in those countries where workers have failed, then plants and production processes may be shifted from those areas where workers are stronger (Detroit) to areas where workers are weaker (Mexico). Thus undercuts the power of the higher waged, better organized workers while increasing demand for workers in the countries with longer hours —which ceteris paribus should increase their power, thus the frequency in which we find harsh, even brutal state power being exercised to prevent them from taking advantage of their increased bargaining power. Thus the defeat of American workers requires the brutality of the Mexican (or South Korean, or Indonesian, etc) state. The implication of course, for workers, is that they must organize themselves internationally to meet the international strategy of capital.