Re: by way of a common reading

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Sat Jan 10 2004 - 16:59:57 PST

At 03:45 PM 9/01/2004 -0800, you wrote:

I have just finished reading Paul's paper. I hesitate to comment before
Paul has introduced it as Mike suggested, but I am never one to hold back,
I'm afraid.

I welcome the paper a great deal. I have a small beef about the
self-characterisation as "paleo-Marxist" as opposed to "neo-marxist".
Though I share Paul's disdain for what he calls "neo-marxist" it seems to
me that under Paul's criteria, he would have to place Kautsky in the camp
of "neo-marxist", which is somewhat counter-intuitive!

I agree with Paul's assessment of Taylorism. I think maybe that the
experiences of lean production and Toyotism has helped us re-evaluate
Taylorism as a development in the division of labour and a step in the
socialisation of the labour process, as opposed to the view often wrongly
associated with Marxism, of seeing it as "de-skilling", and consequently of
contributing to the polarisation of society in the way envisaged by Kautsky.

My main disagreement with Paul would be this: I think the conception of
capitalism in terms of the "capital relation" (and valorisation) on one
side and the "wage relation" (and production) on the other is
unsustainable. I go with Marx's sketches in the early chapters of the
Grundrisse which point to the concepts of (for example) production and
exchange as historically constructed dichotomies which are essentially a
unity. In other words, one can only provisionally distinguish between
production/consumption and exchange/distribution. Commerce itself is a
method and force of production just as much as vice versa.

The result of this is that we cannot simply talk about socialisation on one
hand and competition on the other (with interaction between the two). What
form has socialisation taken in this period? It seems to me that the
predominant and essential form of socialisation is commodification. Not
only a wider net of social relations, but relations of a specific kind.

Many people are very impressed with the high level of development of
cooperation in modern manufacturing firms, between workers in teams,
between the various arms/sections of such firms and between them and their
suppliers and clients. However, I see this process as one of the merging of
the relation of customer/service provider with that of collaboration. We
have collaboration by means of customer/service provider relationships and
purchase and sale by means of collaborative relationships. Codification of
work practices for example, as powerful a work-organisation tool as it is,
essentially casts the relation between workers as contractual one, complete
with 6 shelf-feet of documentation on the terms of contract, and is
inseparable from the processes of out-sourcing, one-line budgeting,
corporatisation and so on.

Overall I think Paul's paper is very good. My criticism is really of the
kind of just saying that Paul should "go further".

I would be interested in what others think. I hope people take the trouble
to read the paper.


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