``Michael P's CWIIA along with his Transcending the Economy [which I speed read today at UW library] point to an issue which is dear to public choice theorists and goes back to at least Adam Smith's Lectures on Jurisprudence--the phenomenon of rent seeking behavior. One could easily argue that all property rights are transfers accomplished under the aegis of the state and the appropriation of communal knowledge by the few is what gives the lie to any libertarian theory of market economies. The `firm' is just a legalized predatory structure to appropriate knowledge that emerges from relatively free flowing speech acts and `tacit knowledge' on the shop floor [or lab...]. Workers are free to contribute knowledge to lower unit costs via skills sharing but god forbid they use their knowledge to challenge the property and contractual structure that makes the appropriation of their knowledge `legal'.''
No, joke. It's one thing to consider this as a position or interpretation of the social relations of work. It is another to actually see it take place and worse be part of it, and realize only later what had just happened and what you had done.
Twenty years ago, I was pretty ignorant of management and the nasty ways of capital. I had read some Marx in college, but not much, and sure didn't understand it in the concrete. I didn't realize while I was rearranging shop schedules and duties, setting up work stations and space, setting up outside vendor accounts, writing out job descriptions, defining and categorizing required work skills, and doing the usual sorts of floor level management duties, what I was actually doing.
How I saw it was by accident. Another manager in the supplies warehouse had organized the stocking system for these twenty foot tall three tiered shelving units used for the bulk inventory. It was a real accomplishment. He was expecting a raise or a promotion or something. He got a `thank you Scot' in a manager meeting, and a lunch, after he made his presentation. This had taken about three months of work and a lot of knowledge of inventory flow to figure out. It saved a lot of time all over the operation from the shipping counter to the delivery van docks. This guy looked at me and raised his eye brows, with a forced smile. I thought, that's right Scot, you just got fucked.
It took a while to figure out I was fucking myself and the people I worked with the same way. I was manipulating a shop crew into the position of being completely expropriated into a production system in which any Body could probably fill with a minimum of training, who was a lot less qualified, had less experience, and therefore would cost less. In other words, I was a junior predator. Of course it was sold as efficiency and getting better at what `we' do, and so forth. If you're not paying attention, it just creeps up on you. You or rather I just didn't see it.
Once it hit me, of course I started to inflate the job duties and skills required, started looking for the absolutely best and highest priced vendors, insisted on air tools, even though we didn't need them, and did as much as possible to erase the damage I had done. I even started clocking in one of guys who was routinely late. In the end it didn't matter. The company was bought and sold twice in about three years and over expanded, then collapsed almost as fast--this was during the mid-late Eighties when the price tag came in for Reagonomics.
``The nice thing about Michael's books is that he lays it out with stories rather than econospeak.''
Yes. And the other nice thing, is he sets up each section in advance with a little note on its relation to what section you just finished and where you'll go next, something like a lecture that points back over last week's and next week's topic. That teacher stuff shows, and that's good.