Answers to Review Questions for Chapters 13-15

Chapter 13

6. The sources of the new social productive power that Marx associates with co-operation primarily concern the outcome of people working together as opposed to working separately. The complementarity of co-operation makes the productivity of the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Not only are there economies of scale in the use of physical capital, but there is a "social force that is developed when many hands cooperate in the same undivided operation" which results in the "creation of a new productive power, which is intrinsically a collective one." (p.443) Mere social contact, Marx argues, begets "a rivalry and a stimulation of the ‘animal spirits’ which heightens the efficiency of each individual worker." Moreover, the "combined working day" as he puts it, "heightens the mechanical force of labor", "impresses on the similar operations . . . the stamp of continuity and manysideness." (p. 447) All of these things, along with those previously mentioned has the result that "When the individual worker co-operates in a planned way with others, he strips off the fetters of his individuality and develops the capabilities of his species." (p.447). In all cases, Marx argues, this social power is one that flows to and is appropriated by the capitalist gratis.

9. Working class resistance? As in "As the number of the co-operating workers increases, so too does their resistance to the domination of capital." p. 449. When we imagine workers herded into sweatshops and forced to work long hours for low wages, the image of the resistance to a dominating force seems realistic. On the other hand, with the development of large scale production and expanded cooperation has gone a development, a political recomposition of the working class which has moved it from a merely reactive or reistant power to an active and aggressive one. As we saw in the discussion of absolute surplus value the struggle over work time has shifted over the long run in favor of labor. It is labor which has aggressively fought for less work and capital which has resisted the reduction of working time. Thus the emergence of the working class as an autonomous force able to initiate struggle beyond mere reaction.

12. Co-operation in schooling? Very little. Mostly students are managed so as to compete with each other on an individualistic basis and they work separately, take tests separately and so on. Even in classes where students are brought together in large numbers, the habit of individual work is so strong that there is often resistance to hearing other students speak and "waste" class time that could be spent on individual contemplation of what the professor said or wants! Sometimes there are group projects, group papers, group test taking in which students are organized to work cooperatively such that their individual efforts are linked and they may achieve a higher level of productivity than they might alone. But this is rare in the formal organization of the school. Of course, it is also true that students also, often, intentionally breakdown this isolatin and cooperate with each other in studying or even in test taking (cheating) in order to raise their productivity despite the formal organization of the classroom. Supervision? Certainly, this is the job of the professor and/or TA. Unavoidable antagonism? Certainly so between the students and the professor for the one makes the others work and hands out grades. Also, frequently between students as they compete for position in the hierarchy. Working class struggle? From time to time students are able to break through their isolation and cooperate in either covert (cheating?) or overt (rebellion) cooperative struggle against the norms and practices of schooling. Despotism? Certainly in many classrooms where there is no flexibility, no room for individual variation or initiative and only the despotic plan of the syllabus.

Chapter 14

6. The "collective worker" is the personification of all the workers working together cooperatively. The collective worker, Marx argues, is "formed out of the combination of a number of individual speciallized workers". It is "the item of machinery specifically characteristic of the manufacturing period." (p. 468) Marx calls the collective worker an "item of machinery" because he is arguing that not only does the capitalist use and treat workers as such but with the development of the organization of collective labor the group of workers as a whole increasingly function like parts of a machine, each working with the others, the whole functioning like a machine. In the next chapter on machinery and modern industry he will elaborate on this theme and argue that the collective worker in fact becomes more an more a mere mechanistic part in a larger automated machine system.

12. The source of workers power was their ability to control the labor process --their "handicraft skill". They not only wielded tools but sometimes even constructed their own tools and designed the labor process. Their control over the labor process gave them power vis a vis management which could not do with them literally anything it wanted. Capital was "constantly compelled to wrestle with the insubordination of the workers" mostly because they constantly reasserted their subjectivity, their humanity and refused, as often and as much as possible, to behave like the machines they were supposed to emulate. Thus Marx quotes Ure "the more skillful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become. . . " (p.490)

Chapter 15

11. Free science? It depends on who pays for it. To the degree that business invests surplus value in research and development (R&D) then certainly they do not get it "free" —except in the usual sense of the exploitation of workers who get paid far less than the value of their product. On the other hand, a great deal of R&D is financed out of the public purse which is primarily paid for by income taxes on the middle class, i.e. the working class. The results of such R&D could well be seen as a free good stolen from the working class. Moreover, today, as pharmaceutical companies tap the traditional knowledge of Third World peoples and then patent it, they are certainly getting "free science" and those who generated the knowledge are being ripped off. (See a recent issue of Cultural Surival Quarterly devoted to this process.)

22. The displacement of labor by machinery, which results from the productivity raising strategies of relative surplus value, might be called an "immanent contradiction" in the sense that the capitalists need to raise c/v in order to maintain control but by displacing labor they are, at least potentially, undercutting their ability to impose work. The offsetting tendency of business is to constantly invest in the development of new industries which can absorb the displaced labor —or the labor force entrants who can not be absorbed by the old, high c/v industries. Thus the dramatic increase in c/v and automation in the manufacturing sector of the U.S. in the late 1950s which led to much "structural unemployment" and worries about the future ability of capitalism to put people to work was "compensated for" by the rise of the service sector which provided a much more rapid growth in employment possibilities.

23. The economic paradox is that while rising c/v and the associated rising productivity creates the potential for reducing work for everyone, the potential to realize Aristotle’s dreams of doing away with the need for slaves and servants, under capitalism these developments lead to more work rather than less. More work in the sense that capitalists make more profits and thus have more resources to put more people to work; more work in the direct sense that they fiercely resist any reduction in the working day and use increased automation to intensify labor, i.e., making people burn up more of their available life’s energy in the time on the job.

26. Machinery facilitates an increase in the intensity of labor because the machine is used by the capitalist to regulate the rhythm of work, to eliminate the "pores" in the working day, and eventually the control over the speed of the machine provides indirect control over the speed of the workers. Marx argues that the success of the workers efforts to reduce working hours squeezed capitalist surplus value by reducing s/v provoking increased investment to raise c/v by utilizing more constant, fixed capital (machinery) and less labor. The speedup imposed by the capitalists utilizing the potential in machinery sapped more energy from workers —much as longer hours do— so it is not surprising that such speedup would lead to a renewal of the struggle for fewer hours, i.e. less work.

36. Machinery constitues a weapon for surpressing strikes simply by providing a substitute for pesky, uncooperative workers some of whom are thrown into the streets and the rest are terrorized by the possibility of following them into unemployment and destitution. As our analysis of class "decomposition" has shown, moreover, the introduction of new machinery also is used to break up workers’ shopfloor organization through the reorganization of work thus undercutting their ability to generate strikes and other forms of struggle.

37. Same answer as question 22. Different answers possible to question of current cycle of increased automation. I have argued that the problem of compensating for the ejection of labor in one industry through the development of other industries has become more acute lately because there has been accelerating mechanization even in the services which, since the 1960s, provided most of the new jobs. (see special issue of Scientific American on mechanization) See also the problems the Japanese are having finding in house replacement jobs for workers displaced by automation but guaranteed life-time employment. Those life-time contracts are now being broken.

44. Upper limit on the intensity of labor? Presumably set by the biological limits of the human body even when workers social power is so weak as to be unable to set lower limits. As a general rule we might expect that where capital has, or has had historically, the most power over workers it pushed that intensity to the biological limit, and even beyond given the cases of people being worked to death —either quickly, and these are the most notorious cases, or slowly in the sense of shortening workers’ lives. On the other hand, everywhere workers have been able to develop enough organizational force to resist effectively, the upper limit has been socially set and, like the working day, has probably been reduced over the long haul with occasional increases, often during periods of rising c/v and class decomposition. The lower limit? In the short term zero, no work at all. But in the medium term some social average below which capitalist profits sink below normal and they shut down operations.