I heard the interview with Ben Reynolds and the comment I like to make is that I don’t see a problem with work but with labor, with its exploitation.
In my experience the problem was not with the actual work but with the relationship required by capital. The subjugation of the worker to capital in order not only to survive but to do what he/she likes doing.
I would agree with you. I think the term ‘wage labor’ is more precise in this context.
Engels (1880) laid out the bourgeoisie revolution here => “Before capitalist production—i.e., in the Middle Ages—the system of petty industry obtained generally, based upon the private property of the laborers in their means of production; in the country, the agriculture of the small peasant, freeman, or serf; in the towns, the handicrafts organized in guilds. The instruments of labor—land, agricultural implements, the workshop, the tool—were the instruments of labor of single individuals, adapted for the use of one worker, and, therefore, of necessity, small, dwarfish, circumscribed. But, for this very reason, they belonged as a rule to the producer himself. To concentrate these scattered, limited means of production, to enlarge them, to turn them into the powerful levers of production of the present day—this was precisely the historic role of capitalist production and of its upholder, the bourgeoisie.”
Marx and Engels (1848) highlight increased production here, either by physical labour or machine or some combination of the two=> “Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”
The anarchist Cafiero (1880) further echoed what Marx and Engels told us here => “Right now, we cannot even begin to imagine this immense growth in production, but we can guess at it by examining the causes that will provoke it. These causes can be summed up in three principles: 1. Harmony of cooperation in the different branches of human activity will replace today’s fighting that translates into competition. 2. Large-scale introduction of all kinds of machines. 3. The considerable conservation of the forces of labor and of raw materials, facilitated by the abolition of harmful or useless production.”
The proletarian or so called working class has had 139 years to figure out its role relative to the historic role of capitalist production.
What is that, you may ask, well, the more you produce, either by physical labour or machine or some combination of the two, the less you have to labour. The practical manifestation of that is to reduce hours of labour.
Reduce the work week by one hour per week for the next forty years and it will be at zero.
#SelfEducate #AbolishSurplusLabour #SolidarityNotCharity
I’m about 10 minutes in and I’m very disappointed. Here is the big problem – the gaffe – in his basic thesis.
Reynolds imagines that a generalized crisis of over-production will arise in more or less every sector of production. At this point, he supposes, there will be a generalized crisis of employment and capital circulation — think the Great Depression 2.0. Given all the gee-whiz technology of small-scale automated production (like “3-D printers” for plastic goods) — perhaps people will choose a deliberate reformation of social relations.
Marx and empirical reality both say otherwise. (I say this as someone who did, for a time, think like Reynolds does.)
1. Capital constantly reproduces both the technical potential for a relatively immediate abolition of Value relations — AND — the social necessity of Value relations. What comprises this “social necessity of Value relations”? It’s an open and big question but we can generally note that Value relations require a disciplined and conformant proletariat that won’t / can’t challenge those relations. That personal conformance and socially imposed constraint is itself a social product, with a definite (if obscure) technology of production (one can suspect educational institutions, law enforcement institutions, medical, cultural, military, etc.). Although the disciplinary order is social product, it is not itself a commodity — it is not realized. As a sector of production that is *not* constrained to directly realize surplus value, it is pure “demand” and can soak up superfluous labor power as needed, without any apparent limit. War and security states are, I think, examples of this.
2. At least as *I* read the “fragment on machines”, a critical concept there — too often missing from popular recitations of the TRPF — is that in an extensively developed capitalist society, expansion of speculative real capital becomes easier because the amount of time speculative real capital can operate without realizing surplus value can grow without apparent limit. Schematically: In a sufficiently wealthy society, government contractors (such as arms manufacturers) can expand as needed without ever actually adding to surplus value. There is ample consumption wealth to maintain a social order. Expansion of non-productive speculative real capital — like arms manufacturers — can soak up arbitrary amounts of superfluous labor, forever.
3. Well, not forever. Not really. Expansion of the disciplinary apparatus (which includes speculative real capital) is a material expansion and requires indefinite, exponential growth of energy consumption and consumption of other natural resources.
In summation: the dominant political revolution is still the bourgeois revolution which, at this stage, is constantly revolutionizing the disciplinary order that reproduces a proletariat class as such. Crises of over-production favor that dominant revolution.
Reynolds is utopian and strategically ruinous with his fixation on the chimera of people walking away from value relations and turning to 3d printers and so on.
In lot to think about in this stylized scenario, Thomas. Although I would replace “can” with “must”, as in “…government contractors (such as arms manufacturers) MUST expand as needed without ever actually adding to surplus value.” Now we have the problem of various factions among the capitalists, who, quite naturally, resist this exponential expansion, since it represents a massive quantity of potential profit. How do you imagine this process ends?
Further, while this sort of response may be possible in the US (and one or two other countries), what happens to the rest of the national capitals? Do they all go bankrupt? And what would that look like if half or two-thirds of the EU (and dozens of lesser countries on five continents) end up collapsing into complete social chaos?
Hey Thomas, I’d encourage you to get your hands on a copy of the book if you can. If necessary, I can always send you a PDF.
My argument is not based on a theory of overproduction, but a theory of capital over-accumulation. This follows from Marx’s arguments about the collapse of commodity production as a result of the expulsion of labor from the production process.
I also do not argue that people will simply choose to abandon capitalism and the wage labor system in favor of distributed production on a communist basis. I instead argue that the communistic tendencies inherent in new forms of production are trapped within the fetters of the old system, much as capitalism’s full flowering required a transformation of the entire society. This is why the recommendation in my book is not for people to buy 3D printers, but to organize for social revolution.
I also extensively cover the role of state debts and expenditures as a sink for excess capital, using the Second World War as a paradigmatic case. The problem with the infinite expansion of debt is that for debt to function as a sink for capital, the state must continue to pay its creditors a guaranteed (if low) profit on their investment. At some point debt has to be paid off with real value appropriated through taxes or confiscation. It is not a limitless ceiling.
I’ve replied to your reading of the Fragment elsewhere (see: https://fetaat.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/notes-on-the-fragment-on-machines/#comment-55). Hope this covers your concerns.
Does Ben Reynolds have a webpage, blog, etc anywhere? I can’t find one. I would like to see what he has to say about reactions to his book. (Not that I’ve found many.)
… Or is fetaat.wordpress.com it? (Which has not had new content since June 29.)
Yes, I noticed that Ben had not posted on his blog since June 2018. I am not sure why. He is on twitter however and can be reached that way @bpreynolds01. I am not on twitter, so I cannot contact him.
I don’t have twitter either. Though I am tempted to become a user, because of him.
Anyway, here is a just-out review of the book:
And also a review of the arguably kind-of-related novel by Doctorow, ‘Walkaway’:
Thanks for this! Very interesting argument by Adam. I am going to respond to him in a post today. I think he may be asking the right question, but the wrong way.
Hey there, were there any issues in particular that you had questions about? I haven’t spent too much time replying to reviews that have their counter-arguments already addressed in the book. Am looking forward to more engagement with it future, though I appreciate those like Jehu and Adam who have already taken the time to read it. (I don’t post often on the blog because it’s a site for odd pieces that wouldn’t fit into other publications.)
No, nothing in particular. Just, as I said, wondering about you have to say about reactions to the book.
In case anyone’d like to discuss with you, don’t know if you’d be interested in making yourself available here — https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/books-ben-reynolds-coming-revolution-capitalism-21st-century-dauv-18012019
— as I see Jehu has already done as of today.
I’d be happy to, will do so in a little bit.
Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:
You are commenting using your WordPress.com account.
( Log Out /
You are commenting using your Google account.
( Log Out /
You are commenting using your Twitter account.
( Log Out /
You are commenting using your Facebook account.
( Log Out /
Connecting to %s
Notify me of new comments via email.
Notify me of new posts via email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.