Accumulation, surplus, surplus labor after capitalism (Was: Fresh Hot Slavoj)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Thu Apr 13 22:14:07 PDT 2000

Hi Curtiss:

>To put it differently: without the capitalist mode of
>production, what *was* surplus value expropriated by
>the capitalist, by raising the standard of living,
>becomes necessary labor -- so it's quite
>possible that the standard of living rises while the
>length of the working day falls. Good, fine, swell.
>But if man changes his own nature by changing the
>external world, the most I could reasonably
>say about life after the capitalist mode of production
>would be that accumulation and increased productivity
>*would be an option* -- that's it.
>In fine, my criticism of Marx would be that when he
>writes that the end of the capitalist mode of
>production means the end of pre-history,
>he makes the point that increased productivity and
>accumulation becomes optional. But when he lumps
>together the potential scope of activities for
>individuals after the capitalist mode of production
>under the category of labor, he loses or blurs this

The criticism of Marx lumping together all manners of creative & expressive activities is one that Andre Gorz has made. Lumping them together & blurring the distinction between labor and what we now experience as "art," "hobbies," "sports," "socializing," etc. doesn't make sense if labor for the production of necessities will forever remain alienated. Marx, however, thinks of working to satisfy needs _under communism_ as creative & desirable, as making art can be. Under the capitalist division of labor, most intellectual aspects of labor are taken away from workers through the ever-increasing separation of mental from manual labor for the majority of humanity; however, communism, for Marx, offers a possibility to integrate intellectual powers in all forms of labor. The idea that work can be a liberating activity is a central theme in many of Marx's writings, especially those from his left-Hegelian days, hence his early emphasis on the criticism of the division of labor. As Sean Sayers notes, however, Marx's remarks on work are not free from ambiguities: "In particular, in a well-known passage, Marx describes labour as activity in the realm of necessity, and he contrasts it with the true realm of freedom, which 'begins only where labour which is determined by necessity...ceases' (Marx, _Capital_, Vol. 3)" (Sayers, _Marxism and Human Nature_ 61). To quote from _Capital_ itself at length: "the realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production....Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with the realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite." Here, Marx makes a clear distinction between freedom (creative acts as ends in themselves) and necessity (production to satisfy mundane needs).


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