Re: general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström

From: Wolff-Michael Roth (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 14:54:33 PDT

Marx, Leont'ev and others would tell you that praxis (work, labor) is
before rationality, we engaged in division of labor before we were
aware of it. I am not beginning with the question IF they are useful,
rather, their very existence produces use-value.
        I think we might do ourselves a favor if we avoided the term
"activity" in a school context where the word is laden with a history
that allowed anything where someone is active to be called activity.
Otherwise you produce theoretical muddle because you use the term to
denote different things, with all the problems that are associated.
        If I am forced into doing something rather than choosing this or that
(even under the constraint that I need to make money to be able to buy
food and clothing) I am doing something different. People do what they
do oriented towards higher emotional valence--in school most students
most of the time avoid punishment (pace Holzkamp) rather than engaging
in learning because it promises greater room to maneuver (and therefore
greater emotional valence). Even an "unmotivated" worker gets paid, and
with this money purchases what he needs. Lower emotional valence--doing
what you don't feel doing--is taken into account because of long-term
higher emotional valence--having to eat and clothing to keep you warm.

On 13-Oct-04, at 2:36 PM, Michael Glassman wrote:

> But aren't human beings rational? And if we are rational (again in
> the broad sense) isn't pretty much every activity we engage in that is
> not habit rational? And didn't we actually start engaging in
> activities that became habit because they were at one time rational?
> Then isn't the key not trying to find out whether some activities are
> useful and others are not, but in finding out why people do activities
> (and don't do activities) on the assumption that there is some problem
> solving basis when we engage in activities, but perhaps more
> important, especially for school settings, that when people don't
> engage in activities it is because they see no problem solving basis?
> Michael
> ________________________________
> From: Wolff-Michael Roth []
> Sent: Wed 10/13/2004 4:59 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström
> Steve,
> I think I am using the term activity only when it something done is
> useful and can be exchanged--I garden but do not farm; farming
> presupposes the exchange situation.
> here directly from Grundrisse--English translation
> Production by an isolated individual outside society-a rare exception
> which may well occur when a civilized person in whom the social forces
> are already dynamically present is cast by accident into the
> wilderness-is as much of an absurdity as is the development of
> language without individuals living together and talking to each
> other. There is no point in dwelling on this any longer.
> And from Kapital, English translation Chapter 1 , section on fetishism
> As a general rule, articles of utility become commodities, only
> because they are products of the labour of private individuals or
> groups of individuals who carry on their work independently of each
> other. The sum total of the labour of all these private individuals
> forms the aggregate labour of society. Since the producers do not come
> into social contact with each other until they exchange their
> products, the specific social character of each producer's labour does
> not show itself except in the act of exchange. In other words, the
> labour of the individual asserts itself as a part of the labour of
> society, only by means of the relations which the act of exchange
> establishes directly between the products, and indirectly, through
> them, between the producers. To the latter, therefore, the relations
> connecting the labour of one individual with that of the rest appear,
> not as direct social relations between individuals at work, but as
> what they really are, material relations between persons and social
> relations between things. It is only by being exchanged that the
> products of labour acquire, as values, one uniform social status,
> distinct from their varied forms of existence as objects of utility.
> This division of a product into a useful thing and a value becomes
> practically important, only when exchange has acquired such an
> extension that useful articles are produced for the purpose of being
> exchanged, and their character as values has therefore to be taken
> into account, beforehand, during production. From this moment the
> labour of the individual producer acquires socially a two-fold
> character. On the one hand, it must, as a definite useful kind of
> labour, satisfy a definite social want, and thus hold its place as
> part and parcel of the collective labour of all, as a branch of a
> social division of labour that has sprung up spontaneously. On the
> other hand, it can satisfy the manifold wants of the individual
> producer himself, only in so far as the mutual exchangeability of all
> kinds of useful private labour is an established social fact, and
> therefore the private useful labour of each producer ranks on an
> equality with that of all others. The equalisation of the most
> different kinds of labour can be the result only of an abstraction
> from their inequalities, or of reducing them to their common
> denominator, viz. expenditure of human labour-power or human labour in
> the abstract. The two-fold social character of the labour of the
> individual appears to him, when reflected in his brain, only under
> those forms which are impressed upon that labour in every-day practice
> by the exchange of products. In this way, the character that his own
> labour possesses of being socially useful takes the form of the
> condition, that the product must be not only useful, but useful for
> others, and the social character that his particular labour has of
> being the equal of all other particular kinds of labour, takes the
> form that all the physically different articles that are the products
> of labour. have one common quality, viz., that of having value.
> On 13-Oct-04, at 1:14 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
> Michael, I would like to please return to the post you opened this
> thread with, where you discuss Engeström and Marx. Your statement
> that "Marx clearly says that all activity implies the exchange
> situation ..." perplexes me. I found the p88 quote you mention below
> - its on p84 of the Progress MECW volume 35 I have - but I am still
> working on understanding what you mean by "the exchange situation" -
> and why you say Marx claims that "all activity" implies it. So far I
> am not seeing this in Marx. Certainly, Marx explains that all
> exchange originates in the creation of commodities through labor
> activity. In this sense, the opposite idea can be attributed to Marx
> - that all exchange implies the labor activity situation - but I am
> not grasping what you actually say, that all activity implies the
> exchange situation.
> Best,
> - Steve
> At 08:45 AM 10/13/2004 -0700, you wrote:
> Steve,
> I am referring to chapter 1 in the German edition--
> Marx says :
> (p.55) that production for your own needs produces use-value but not
> commodity
> (p.57) in the use-value of each commodity there is a certain
> purposeful activity or useful labor
> (p.61) All labor ... produces value (of commodity)
> (p.88) The two-fold social character of the labour of the individual
> appears to him, when reflected in his brain, only under those forms
> which are impressed upon that labour in every-day practice by the
> exchange of products. In this way, the character that his own labour
> possesses of being socially useful takes the form of the condition,
> that the product must be not only useful, but useful for others,
> ((THis translation was taken from the English version on
> The product of labor must be useful, importantly, for others...
> So labor already implies the usefulness of the product for others...
> Marx is not interested in production for my own needs, like my labor
> of running an organic garden and eating my own vegetables year round.
> On a final note, the English translation is atrocious. Marx wanted a
> readable work, and was proud that commentators described the Kapital
> as readable, even by non-academics. The English translation does not,
> in my view, do justice to the original, and leaves out many of the
> important shades of meaning... tradutore traditore
> Michael
> On 13-Oct-04, at 1:09 AM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
> Michael, where does Marx say this?
> "Marx clearly says that all activity implies the exchange situation
> ..."
> Thanks,
> ~ Steve
> </blockquote></x-html>
> <winmail.dat>

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