Mental/manual

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sun Jun 4 11:27:45 MDT 1995


On Sun, 4 Jun 1995, Ron Press wrote:

> Justin Schwartz <jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us>:
>
> it, is a useful one in the context of understanding
> exploitation--in particular in the notion of surplus value as a
> qualitative notion. Exploitation is (wrongful) appropriation of a
> surplus produced by labor
>
> The above snippet caught my eye.
>
> I have always wondered at the inability of workers by brain, or
> workers on relatively high salaries to say that they are not
> exploited but that the manual laborers, the low paid are. The
> third world workers are heavily exploited but exploitation is
> eliminated in their own countries, USA UK etc.
>
> If VALUE is thought of as that produced by LABOR and added to this
> is a qualitatively different thing INTELLECTUAL EFFORT, then

Did I say that? (No.)

But the division between mental and manual labor is produced by
capitalism. It is not an ideological error, even if mental labor is
exploited.

>
> 1) it explains to me why workers by brain do not so easily
> understand the marxist politician when they say that intellectuals
> are exploited.
>
Mental laborers are not all intellectuals, as the term is normally used.
Intellectuals are people who live by and for ideas, have a wide range of
learning, and some ability to contribute to learning. Not even all college
professors are intellectuals: in my experience at elite schools, I'd say a
minority--a small minority--qualify. Most professors are narrow
technocrats who mark out a small space in the journals--I should that's
the minority of those who publish. (Most never do, beyond the minimum
necessary to get tenure.) And the resent the hell out of the intellectuals
among the professoriat.

But look: here's a different way to maek the distinction. Lawyers pretty
much all are mental laborers. Only a handful, however, have any interest
in ideas beyond the case law necessary for their work in court. And this
goes for law professors too, whom i suspect are similarly divided between
a minority of scholars (intellectuals) and a majority of technocrats and
time servers. (Scholars can be teachers who don't publish: I'm not being a
snob.)

Likewise with engineers--I suspect even more so.

Some intellectuals do not make a living by ideas at all; others, not by
the ideas that make them intellectuals. Ralph is a good example of the latter.

On a different and perhaps more important point: I think mental laborers
often fail to recognize their work as exploited because its nature and
character meabs that such workers are not subjected to somne of the causes
of exploitation, wuchg as intensive supervision and other domination, and
because such labor involves a measure of self-realization, fullfullment,
and other characteristics of disalienated labor.

On the other hand a good many mental laborers do feel exploited--at
Microsaoft the programmers call themselves "Microserfs." This doresn't
mean that they feel solidarity with exploited manual laborers, often
because of racial, gender, and cultural differences.

> 2) it also leads on to the suggestion that trade unions should
> when talking to brain workers (Managers, programmers, graphic
> artists......) should talk of the expropriation of  INTELLECTUAL
> effort.

Obviously. Though in the U.S. managers cannot be organized as a point of
law. U.S. labor law is pretty retrograde.
>
> C) CONSTITUTIONS
>
> The discussion on the question of constitutions and
> capital/socialism seems to me to have mixed up two things. This is
> perhaps peculiar to the US constitution.
>
> Rights, and structures.

I'm a little unclear on what the mixup is supposed to be. I ran an idle
question about how to amend the U.S. Constitution to institutionalize
socialism, when we get it. The question is idle because we don't have to
worry about this for a while.

Incidentally I made a mistake in my article 2 of the hypothetical
amendment--I should have said that the individual's share in the
collective ownership of property, established in art. 1, counts as fair
compensation satisfying thew due process clauyse of the FIFTH, not the
FOURTH amendment.

> In the USA as I understand it the constitution with it's
> amendments is both a constitution and a bill of rights. These
> apply to a capitalist system.

This is right, although the Bill of Rights strictly so called comprises
the first ten amendendments. The other amendments are not part of the BoR.
This isn't to say that they do not establish rights--au contraire.

> Some of the rights will apply to a socialist system as well but
> socialism must expand the scope of human rights above and beyond
> those at present in the USA.

Sure--that was my point in my hypothetical amendment.

Other amendments might establish a right (even an obligation) to work,
rights to health care, housing, democratic control of production and
investment, etc. The old Soviet constitution embodied some of these rights.

--Justin Schwartz




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