Lenin & Accounting-Reply to L. Proyect

Howie Chodos howie at magi.com
Thu Jul 13 09:32:23 MDT 1995

I'd like to pursue the question of specialisation/expertise a bit. Maxine
Vincent wrote:

>It is also the case that once education becomes real education and not a
>way of crippling the potential of millions and billions of working class
>people everywhere, certain skills such as computer programming and
>accounting will be skills available to ALL.

Even if these skills become accessible to all, I see no reason why everyone
will actually master them to the same degree. The question of
specialisation, division of labour is an important one. It seems to me,
again as a non-economist, that the level of productivity depends (in part at
least) on the degree of specialisation. (Of course, there is specialisation
and specialisation: a car factory specialises in making cars even if the
workforce that does the producing is organised in work teams that are less
specialised than in the cases of classic fordist assembly line production.)

There are a number of underlying issues here that relate to the social
organisatioon of the division of labour. First, does everyone have equal
choice in deciding which area to specialise in (more generally in deciding
on how to organise their lives)? Second, does everyone retain democratic
input into decision-making regardless of their area of specialisation?
Third, are the benefits of socially-coordinated specialisation distributed
in a just fashion? Working out the social arrangements which give us the
best possibility of maximising along all three of these dimensions is not
easy, and the answers we come up with will have to specify what we mean by
terms such as equality, democracy and justice. As I said in an earlier post,
I am still inclined to see Marx's formulation of the motto that communist
society will be able to inscribe on its banner ("from everyone according to
their ability, to everyone according to their needs") as a touchstone in
giving substance to these concepts.

Howie Chodos

PS: Welcome aboard Maxine and I look forward to further conversations.

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