Workers movement, valorization, and more (was: Re: [ox-en] Re: compulsion)
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Sun, 24 Mar 2002 14:08:23 +0100
Hi Graham, StefanMz, all!
Last month (35 days ago) Graham Seaman wrote:
Another mammoth email ;-)
I'll pick up just a few points ;-) . Thanks for the structure :-) .
On Thu, 14 Feb 2002, Stefan Meretz wrote:
I'm not good enough in understanding and using english, so I'm not sure
whether I get your points. Please take this into account.
I don't see any signs of that, I think the problem is ideas, not language
Hmm... I'm not absolutely sure about this. There are things which seem
to get lost. I for one have to use a English dictionary all the time
to get the most exact word for the meaning I have in mind - and I'm
not always sure I got it right :-( .
--word innate -----------------------------------------
Sure. But only if you don't take 'innate human character' as a kind of a
special 'behavior' or such. What I mean with 'innate' is the potence to
live in a society by using societal infrastructures. I call this 'the
human is societal by nature'.
OK, but then I think use of the word 'innate' can be a little confusing,
because it is so often used by people arguing that genetics determines
What is a better word? Immanent?
--workers movement ----------------------------------------------------
You don't agree that workers movement helped with(?) establishing
No, this statement still sounds very strange to me, and I don't know
exactly what you mean by it. But it seems to imply that you think
the workers movement is irrelevant to the movement for a gpl-society
(where in both cases the words 'the movement' is just a shorthand for
something quite complex). I would guess the opposite - that at some time
the two will need to merge to be successful. But there are only tiny signs
of this happening so far, and probably both 'movements' will be very
different when it happens.
IMHO the workers movement is just the anti-thesis to the capital
thesis. So they are both needed to bring capitalism forward. I think
they are even antagonistic - in the realm of capitalism.
The problem, however, is, that we need a synthesis and frankly I have
little hope that one side has definitely more to bring in than the
On a more immediate level, I find it hard to relate to your statement
living in a country where the workers' movement was massively defeated
in the 1980s, and where we still feel the consequences in everyday
life (in health services, transport, pensions wages etc) compared with
the way life seems to be in (at least Western) Germany.
I see what you mean. However, I'd interpret this as part of the
decline of capitalism in general. I doesn't see why the decline must
be limited to one side.
The rest of the paragraph I also disagree with, but I know why. You have
collapsed all of life in capitalism into a single level, the 'cybernetic
machine', and therefore lost all of politics, law, tradition etc. This
seriously limits what you can think about doing.
This is due to giving only this simple schematics. In contrary I think,
that you can better analyze politics, law, patriarchy etc. if you don't
make this traditional separation between basis and superstructure
(ueberbau) of traditional marxism. But I cannot point this out here
The 'base/superstructure' separation is really just a metaphor, even
though people tried to treat it as a theory. And I think it's a bad
metaphor - it implies that each 'superstructure' is self-contained. But
I still think something like the law cannot be reduced to economics -
it has its own history, and is own internal logic which has somehow to
be kept coherent, even though.the key parts of the law also have to
defend/enforce the current economic system.
Yet obviously this doesn't apply to you at all. So, if you have this view
of capitalism, I suppose selbstenfaltung HAS to be something innate which
is suppressed by the cybernetic machine, but bursts out when the machine
is taken away.
Not in the sense, that you only have to make changes of the economic
basis, and everything follows (the old basis-superstructure separation).
If you take this picture "cybernetic machine" for the entire mechanisms
of vergesellschaftung, then: yes.
This is the point I was complaining about before: I don't think you can
reduce the whole of vergesellschaftung to the 'cybernetic machine',
whether you call the non-reducible parts the 'superstructure' or something
else. Maybe we should make what you/I understand by the cybernetic machine
For example: investment fund managers have to maximize return on
investments. The value of shares rise normally when two companies merge,
because mergers normally make it possible to reduce the total workforce
Therefore, fund managers will tend to move funds into companies likely
to have this kind of merger (and in general any company thought likely
to be about to sack people). If a fund manager does not do this because
he objects to people being sacked for reasons which have only
a financial motivation, his fund will do less well than others and he is
likely to be demoted or fired. Something which has human effects is
therefore done as if without reference to the humans actually carrying out
the action, as if capital were acting directly in its own interests.
This kind of thing is part of the 'cybernetic machine', which is
self-running and in which people are only functioning parts.
Yes - and it's quite obvious.
Take another area of life: education. You can argue that both the content
and the form of teaching are determined by capitalism, in that they
are designed to produce people to fit into their part in production.
In general: Yes.
However, education has more degrees of freedom than the bare
valorization of money you described above. And even this higher level
of freedom is a immanent feature of capitalism: Because as no other
form of society capitalism needs change to survive. It can't determine
people completely. If it would, this would mean a stand still in the
long run. All the counter movements which have been integrated into
capitalism helping to modernize it are a good example. BTW: Perhaps
that was one of the problems of the countries with so-called
But even if you agree with this, the determination is very distant
and mediated by many other things.
So that a good teacher can have a lot
of impact on students which is totally unrelated to the economic functions
of schools (so can a good educational theorist, or a good education
Sure. However, if the teacher deviates *too* much s/he'll need to find
another job soon - regardless whether this is good for the kids in any
Education may be part of capitalism but I would
not describe it as a 'cybernetic machine' at all.
May be this is just a typo: It is *part of* the `cybernetic machine'.
But if I understood
'vergesellschaftung' correctly, education is definitely part of
Sure. And in capitalism there are different areas with different
degrees of freedom. Can you agree with that?
Selbstverwertung (self-valorisation) is the antagonistic contradiction
-- and not work vs. capital btw.
I think this links back to what you said above. But it is just a
statement on its own here, with no proof. I'd like to know more about why
you say it.
The given form of vergesellschaftung implies that the individual can
only go forward on costs of others, because market economy is organized
that way - see previous mails. On the other side you have to bring your
work force into the cybernetic machine: as producer of value (worker) or
as an organizer realizing produced values on market (capitalist).
Independent of function you have I call this selbstverwertung
(self-varorization?). This is quite obvious in single person
enterprises: both functions - producer and realizer - are embodied in
one single person. However, what you can observe in multi-person
enterprises too, is a diffusion of both functions. The role model is the
self-entrepreneur of own work force. This does not say that workers and
capitalits do not have different interests, but they are not
antagonistic as thought for long time (me too).
Currently value-realization (verwertung) needs more and more of
'selbstentfaltung'. And you can find this in reality. However this
'selbstentfaltung' is limited by the frame 'on costs of others'. It
cannot expand unbounded. This leads me to the conclusion that
selbstentfaltung and selbstverwertung is an antagonistic contradiction.
It shows historical development tendencies, but cannot unfold in the
frame of the given type of vergesellschaftung.
You have two arguments here: one, that self-valorization and
self-unfolding are contradictory. That's fine, I can think of lots of
examples of that from my own experience at work, and your examples of
the problems with kanban etc also seem true from what I have read.
The other argument is that this contradiction is (more important than?
replacing?) a contraction between work and capital ('workers and
capitalists ... have different interests, but they are not
I'd say this is a false question. I think the both contradictions take
place in different areas and are only loosely connected. Well, usually
the workers movement can't grasp the phenomenon of computer people
doing everything voluntary which the workers movement always fighted
to be forced to do.
But who do you think enforces the suppression of
self-unfolding in favour of self-valorization?
The need for valorization.
OK, not capitalists
directly, but the managers who represent capital. This IS part of the
cybernetic machine where the behaviour of the managers by and large
is not determined by what they're like as people, but by their position.
The key aspect to me is the alienation of valorization of anything.
And this sounds like 'without any type of
external force all human would get mixed up like a mass of chaotically
running chickens'. Look at free software. There was nobody telling them
what to do.
Of course not. But even with the small scale of free software (compared
with the huge scale of an entire society) social mechanisms emerged.
It isn't only a question of individuals thinking 'I feel like writing
program x today'; there are also social mechanisms.
Sure. I really can't see the argument here.
1. If maintaining a package used by many others, you should not just
abandon it one day because you feel like working on something else, you
should find someone to pass it on to. This is a combination of tradition
and peer pressure (someone who does this will not be trusted).
2. Large systems need a layered organization, almost always built round
a single individual, but with 'lieutenants' deputising for that individual
to spread the load. The forms of this organization are not the same as
those for developing software in capitalist firms, but driven by the
objective requirements of development based on selbstentfaltung. In
particular, force being replaced by moral and technical authority combined
with good social skills.
3. Well, I'm seeing that I'm just doing a bad repeat of Eric Raymond's
ideas. The point is that free software (and other 'free' things, like
running USENET groups) already have a sociology; there is something
involved more than the individual personalities of the people involved.
Of course. I tend to say that this is mainly a result of the problems
people are trying to solve (and the means they have available of
course). And this is a difference to capitalism where besides the
real-world problems you always have the aspect of valorization which
alienates you away from the real-world problems.
For instance IMHO competition is only in rare instances a useful
instrument. However, competition is forced on the society as a basic
building block because the capitalist society needs competition to
function at all. Same is true for scarcity and so on.
When I am saying that humans are societal by nature, then this does
mean, that humans cannot live without society. All actions are mediated
by societal infrastructures. Individual and society cannot be
conceptualized as opposites. Well, bourgois ideology does it, but we
should not follow in thinking so.
Yes, I agree entirely. In these terms, my question is, 'are there any
societal infrastructures which are necessary or likely in a society based
on self-unfolding'? The answer might be 'no, those infrastructures could
be anything at all, so you will just have to wait and see'. And the answer
will certainly not be 'yes, such a society must be exactly like x, y and
z.' But I would expect the answer will be somewhere between those two
extremes - no guarantees, but some reliable guesses.
I tend to imagine not too much of such a future. At this point I
usually go back to Free Software and look how things work there.
Mit Freien Grüßen