Re: real and virtual worlds

From: Oudeyis (
Date: Wed Jan 07 2004 - 02:10:59 PST

Sorry for the delay, but here's my response anyway: see below.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Gabosch" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 4:06 AM
Subject: Re: real and virtual worlds

> Victor has offered a rich set of ideas attempting to update the ideas of
> Marx. A recent post provides a succinct summary of some of his central
> Victor says:
> >>What I was trying to put accross was a collection of observations
> >>the evolution of the proletariat and of the state of class conflict in
> >>the metropolis. Here both the properties of capital and the proletariat
> >>and the relations between them have changed drastically to the point
that we
> >>can already see significant signs of developed proletarian control of
> >>production and of enterprise. The advanced stage of the proletarian
> >>revolution in the metropolis allows us to project the kind of society
> >>proletarian revolution will bring (not socialism in my current view) far
> >>more effectively than did KM (who witnessed and helped to facilitate the
> >>very beginnings of organized proletarian class struggle).
> Capitalist industry and social relations have certainly changed in
> significant ways since Marx's time. I agree with Andy's objection to
> Victor's suggestion that modern capitalism can be characterized in terms
> increasing proletarian control of production. In my opinion, Victor may
> turning the concept of proletarian revolution on its head. He seems to be
> conflating changes in the methods of production with changes in the
> relations of production.

Changes in the mode of production is for Marx an emergent product of
contradictions between changing forces of production and the relations of
production. Any changes in the relations of production are preceeded by
accumulated changes in the forces of production, while changes in the mode
of production are a function of the dynamic interactions of forces and
relations of production.

Now then, a quick examination of current modes of industrial production as
they relate to the three basic components of the forces of production: the
subject of production, the materials transformed into useful objects, the
instruments of production, the tools whose use engenders this
transformation, and labor, the work involved in making useful objects, are
all very different from what they were in the 19th century and even up to
the first 2/3rds of the 20th century. The subjects of production are almost
all, without exception, the products of extensive processing (they are a
very much longer distance from their raw state than ever before) and are
themselves largely industrial products. Instrumentation - involving
extending the use of materia as well as the saving of labor - is a far cry
from being the simple machinery that anyone can use of the 19 k and 1st
2/3rds of the 20 k. Modern machinery is ever more autonomous from human
labor, job specific, and subject to minor and major modification than it was
in the past. And labor? Here the biggest changes have occurred: first,
less human labor is now devoted to machine operation and more to servicing,
second, as human labor is diverted from the execution of easily measured
work - exertion of energy and production of physical order - to that of the
most subtle and hardly measurable activity - the manipulation of
information - it's becoming ever more difficult to measure labor abstractly
(a problem that promises to cause analytical crises for all classical
political economy: Marxist and Non-marxist). The growing difficulty in
measuring abstract labor means that it becomes very difficult if not
impossible to regard labor as a single commodity and hence to manage it
without taking into account factors that are not directly concerned with
work or even production.

So much for the forces of production. Let's look at what has happened to
relations of production. Hegel and Marx's analysis of social relations (the
"politics" of political economy) is pretty faithful to its methodological
origins best exemplified by Aristotle's Politics, the study of civil and
state laws of contemporary communities and states. While this approach
appears to we modern anthropologists as somewhat restrictive and artificial,
it does represent the most consensual and most rational efforts of literate
communities towards presentation of the social relations that comprise the
social entity. Marx, like Hegel, derived their models of social relations -
and relations of production - largely from civil and state law, a fairly
reasonable method in the 19th century when literacy was much more limited
than it is today. In modern superliterate society we have to consider a
plethora of binding, written, regulations in far more sectors than civil and
state law (though civil and state law may give some sort of general legality
to these): organizational regulations such as the "rules of order," ISO
regulations concerning qualities of work and product, binding ethical rules
of many professions and so on. Add to this the fact that today an
overwhelming majority of the proletariat can read and are quite capable of
managing regulatory systems and we have a recipe for the evolution of
massive contradiction and conflict within the body of laws and regulations
that define social order.

So far I've thrown in a lot of detail, without much analysis - which is one
of the reasons that I hesitate to draw hard and fast conclusions concerning
the future of class relations. So let's consider the analysis of other less
timid commentators. If in 1872, Engel's response to the Italian comrades
"regular crusade against the principle of authority" was a short and sharp
article (Engels 1872, On Authority, Almanacco Republicano - also to be found
in MIA on
the necessity for a chain of command for all the then modern industrial
productive processes, Deming (19--), Toffler (19__), Drucker (19__) and a
good many other writers on modern management have been arguing that the
growing dependency of industrial enterprise on information and high skills
is such that management must now depend - nearly if not fully in faith - on
the professionalism of the working staff for formation and effective
execution of production, sales etc. They maintain that long chains of
command are useless because, among other things, the only people who really
know what they're doing are the professionals, and their abilities are
limited to their specialist fields. This is, incidentally, what AB calls
the Toyota management system, and while it does indeed classify what was
once the sacred grounds of executive decision into the secular world of
work, it also demonstrates the helplessness of administrator and investor
alike in the face of new forces of production that have evolved in the last
half of 20k. Now, management manuals are neither civil nor state legal
systems, but they may be even more important than these in the presentation
of very new relations of production; after all they are the working manuals
of administration. How much choice can a capitalist investor make when
he's virtually dependent on experts for every aspect of his enterprise from
investment policy to accessing raw materials, how much responsibility can he
have when the operations of some specialist or specialized sector of the
labor force comes up short, and, and.... And, we haven't even begun to
discuss the effects of mutual funds, of pensions based on investments in the
enterprise, and so on on the nature of 21k capital investment.

> I do agree with many things Victor says, and
> appreciate his deep insights into aspects of the complex evolution of
> modern industry and the world working class and its many social
> layers. For example, the world working classes (essentially, agricultural
> and industrial wage-earners) now constitute about half the total world
> population, a far higher percentage than was the case in the 19th
> Century. However, I don't agree with Victor's judgment that capitalism
> changed so much that Marx's accounting of the capitalist system of labor
> exploitation (the private appropriation of surplus value), and Marx's
> assessment of the historic potential of the working class to create a
> socialist society (a core aspect of proletarian class consciousness), are
> obsolete ideas.

As I wrote earlier and repeated above, my analyses of the current and future
state of class relations is not and cannot be certain. This is especially
true of my evaluation of Socialist political-economy. First of all, I'm
still at the stage of collecting and consolidating the data and of
developing the (historical-material) analytic methods for processing the
data. Second, theoretical consistency and research integrity means to me an
awareness of the restrictions on my analytic capabilities imposed by the
fact that I am as are we all situated in specific social and historical
contexts and that there are limits to imaginative projections of the
conditions of others and to the future course of history. That said, let me
list a few of the preliminary and probably temporary evaluations I've made
concerning Socialist political economies.

1. Marx's assessment of the historic potential of the working class to
create a socialist society was based on his particular social and
historical situation. Industrial systems of his age (I'm relating here
primarily to the Grundrisse and Capital of the mid to 2nd half of the 19k)
were considerably different from recent developments. Some of this I've
discussed above such as the declining ability for measurement of labor as
abstract, others, such as the increasing differentiation of the proletariat
I've discussed in earlier messages, and there are even some issues such as
the contradiction between full compensation for labor and the growing size
of capital investment in production necessary for the sustenance of any
modern enterprise whatever the relations of production that were not
directly relevant to the subjects under discussion here and therefore not
yet presented. In general my impression is that new forces of production and
new relations of production are quickly bringing about the obsolesence of
all "ancient" theory concerning organization of political economy.
2. Socialist political economies, as we know them today, are even more
"inefficient" than oligarchic and monopoly capital. This is as true of
democratic socialist communities as it is of state socialism. They are also
more vulnerable to economic and political upset than are "rootless"
enterprises with little commitments to community or to region.
 By "efficiency." I mean the measure of structurally induced capacity of the
enterprise to survive participation in its particular environment.
Profitability , for example, is only a 2ndary issue: a much more important
issue is the kinds of surpluses engendered by an enterprise, their size, and
what they are used for. An enterprise that recompenses labor "in full' will
find it difficult to research subjects of production and means of
production and even to purchase means of production that keep the prices of
its products at a level at which they are at least equal to those of their
competition. And, if there is no competition - even between publically
owned enterprises - there is not likely to be a reduction in cost of living,
and then it is likely that without some overall system for compensation of
enterprises whose production is less costly (use value) and less prolific
than that of others there will develop great gaps in welfare of workers in
different industrial and regional sectors. We've seen (in the Socialist
Peoples' Republics) just how the diversity of modern production and
consumption render impotent centralized management for production and
distribution of commodities. And this is just the beginning...
Vulnerability is another problem of Socialist political economies. A public
enterprise is committed to its labor force; to its general well-being, its
economic security, and so on. In democratic socialist communities its
general policies and management are usually subject to democratic process.
In the context of the fast-paced changes of modern technological change -
which can only be attributed in part to capitalist competition - and the the
problems of well-informed decision making discussed above, even the best
management and operational staff can make fatal errors, and often. A
rootless enterprise can fold, can move on, and can carry out drastic
reorganization policies based solely upon the demands for production where a
localised socialist enterprise is restricted by its commitments to its labor
force. Also, the growing efficiency of productive systems is now creating a
general crisis in employment policies and economically necessary development
of enterprises committed to a local work force is likely to find itself
disemploying ever larger proportions of its staff. And, these, considering
the problems of effective decision making and large capital overheads for
setting up new enterprises, are not very likely to find gainful employment
3. the weaknesses of Socialist political economies might concievably be
resolved by changes in forces of production were there much unified
commitment to this within the proletariat. On the contrary, the process of
diversification of the proletariat has been extensive and is still growing.
The basic fact that labor can no longer be measured in abstraction suggests
that it can no longer be regarded as an isolable basis for building
community as it was in the past - important both to the formation of both
capitalist and socialist communities. True, there is a very generalized
conflict between the proletariat and capitalist, but it is so abstract that
in its more concrete forms it appears to me an inadequate basis for
proletarian unity. It may play a very limited role at certain critical
moments of the on-going proletarian revolution, but I doubt it will be the
basis for a unified proletarian communalism.

> As for Victor's comment "Mean it? - yes; believe it? - I'm searching, not
> preaching," I appreciate these words very much, as I do the tremendous
> Victor has done in developing his ideas. I too strive for this kind of
> scientific attitude and work to develop my own beliefs, and take
> inspiration from Victor's obvious intellectual accomplishments.
> - Steve

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