Exploitation and all that...

Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters quilty at philos.umass.edu
Sat Nov 12 20:08:01 MST 1994


Justin Schwartz again:
|My reading of exploitation, both in Marx and analytically, is that it is a
|matter of forced surplus transfer (as I have said, and indeed argued
|before). So there is a quantitative element: we have to be able to
|distinguish between what's necessary for reproduction of the producers and
|what is surplus.

But what's surplus outside of commodity production?  If I work three
days for myself, then three for the landowner, there's a surplus
there obviously.  But if the landowner also gives me something in
exchange (i.e. imported goods), it's only insofar as these inputs
are commodities, and the outputs are sold as commodities, that I
know which has a greater "value".

|No. We can measure lots of quantities: how many calories are produced over
|thoswe consumed in production, or how much corn, or indeed, how much time
|is spent in reproduction versus total production.

Hmmm...  are you suggesting "caloric exploitation" then? :-)  Some
people produce more consumable calories in their productive activity
than they consume in their maintenence (i.e. farmers), while others
produce less (i.e. most others... although food-preparers are
ambiguous here).

|I am interested in the first question too. The answer to the second
|question is obvious. In my terminology, a surplus (here labor) is forcibly
|extracted from women, just as a surplus (value) is forcibly extracted from
|workers in capitalist exploitation.

Hmmm...  I guess this gets a bit closer to Schwartz' *general* notion of
exploitation.  It seems to be that he wishes to leave money out of
the quantitative comparisons, and do it all with labor-hours.  I
think it's the deletiae where Schwartz mentions Mendel's proposal on
doing so.  The problem, IMO, is that labor-hours aren't very good
because the don't capture SNALT.  SNALT is closer to money-measure
in general.  The problem seems to be illustrated with a gedanken
experiment about substituting commodities.  If I decide to buy a $20
hand-woven sweater from Guatamala perhaps I buy an item
incorporating 30 hours of labor-time.  If I buy a very similar item
(i.e.  same price and usefulness) machine-woven in the USA, perhaps
it only incorporates 1 hour of labor.  Does Schwartz' notion suggest
that whether I am exploited at my job is determined by my choice
between these two sweaters (along with a range of similar consumed
items)?  It seems that I might manage to stop being exploited in
Schwartian terms (i.e.  work fewer hours than the labor-time I
consume) simply by choosing to buy all my consumables from low-wage
sources.

|> I guess the relevant "general definition" will have to show the
|> (broad definitional) equivalence of productive and unproductive
|> labor.

|I guess not, if unproductive labor is by definition nonsurplus-producing.
|But then my notion of a surplus is rather broader than that involved in
|surplus value, so many workers or producers who don't produce surplus
|value do produce surplus on my account, whether s-product or s-labor.

Schwartz' suggested definition of "productive" is certainly
heterodox.  At the least, a traditional notion sees productive labor
as producing commodities, while Schwartz defines this feature away.
If productive is *defined* by Schwartzian exploitation then, sure,
the two are tautologously the same.


---------* The sqabbling over tone follows below *-----------------

|> Exploitation is not a description of working
|> conditions or wages, as many -- Schwartz seemingly included (despite
|> his so-and-so many years of studying and teaching Marx)

|Lulu, are you trying to make me angry? Have I insulted you beyond calling
|your post tedious, for which I apologized? This is neither comradely nor
|scholarly. In fact it is rude.

Sorry, I'm at a loss to figure out what might make you angry in my
above remarks.  Perhaps I haven't quoted enough of them.  If you do
not think "exploitation is a description of working conditions", so
much the better.  You said that in a bit I deleted in this latest.
I think your earlier posts gave the appearance of such a belief
(apparently to others than myself from what I can discern on this
list).  If it just makes you angry that anyone might misunderstand
your intentions in posting, then I would think striving for clarity
would be the main thing.  Beyond that, though, I'm afraid you're
doomed (along with everyone else) to be sometimes misunderstood.  I
mean, I kinda suspected that's not what you really think, but I
thought it relevant that your previous posts *sounded* as if you
meant that.

| Lulu, do you talk like this to your colleagues? If you will be so kind as
| to read what I have written here and elsewhere in previous posts on this
| net, you will find that I have done so [stated general definition of
| 'exploitation'].

If I understand the general notion here, it's just a question of
talking only about tallying all the total labor-hours which everyone
does, plus all their consumption.  At a practical level this seems
rather daunting, but I guess it makes perfectly good theoretical
sense.  I have not seen such a general statement in any previous
posts from Schwartz... although it's possible I overlooked a post
or two which he made.  The condescending tone throughout this post
by Schwartz is hardly very condusive to conversation though.  For
what (little) it's worth, I've also been reading and teaching Marx
for a good while, though a bit less than Schwartz mentions he has (I
suppose *reading* about as long, teaching less long being a
[currently unemployed] grad student).  Do *you* talk that way to
*your* colleagues, Dr. Schwartz?

|Shall we try again to raise the level of civility on the net? I apologize
|for lapses on my part.

Ummm...  I thought that has been what I was doing.  I think you are
perhaps confusing *disagreement* with lack of civility.  For someone
so consistently combative and dismissive (in the last few weeks on
this list, at least...  which is all I know), these seem like odd
allegations...  especially given that there was narry a shadow of a
flame in anything I wrote.  Oh well.

Yours, Lulu...


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