Use Value (and not really Aesthetics)

Howie Chodos howie at magi.com
Thu Mar 30 21:15:02 MST 1995


I'm not exactly sure how I want to respond to Paul's comments to my earlier
post, largely because of the nature of the subject, value. For the moment I
just want to say that there are elements in Paul's reply that seem to me to
pose as many questions as they answer.

1) Paul says that "the domestic mode of production is non-commodity
producing". This raises two questions. First, what is the "domestic mode of
production"? Did it ever exist as a dominant mode of production? What are
its characteristic social relations? Second, if it is not
commodity-producing, how do we assess the reproduction of the commodity
"labour power"? Labour power, as I understand it, is a special commodity in
that it is capable of producing a greater amount of value than is required
for its own reproduction. But still it must be reproduced, and this
reproduction requires a certain quantity of socially necessary labour, that
is transferred to commodity-producing workers in their off hours, at home.
So, would it not be fair to say that the domestic context does produce
commodities, albeit of a special type, labour power? In fact, this is what I
thought Paul was getting at when he said that:

>From the standpoint of society as a whole, the
>labour performed in the home is part of the social working
>day - more obviously so, the greater of the portion of the
>product that is produced domestically. As such this portion
>of the social working day contributes to the reproduction of
>labour power and is part of its value.

2) Paul raises the prospect at the end of his post that the forward march of
the socialisation of production will increasingly draw an ever greater part
of our lives into commodity forms ("children being taught at school rather
than at home, food been cooked in canteens and burger bars etc,"). As I
understand the thrust of this argument it is that the problem with
capitalism is that it tries to contain social activities within the
straightjacket of private ownership. However, this raises questions as to
the relationship between processes of "socialisation" and of
"commodification". Are certain activities "socialised" under capitalism
because they are "commodified", or does capitalist "commodification" prevent
the "true" socialised nature of certain activities from manifesting itself?
For example, is our vision of socialism a society where all domestic
activities are "socialised"? (BTW, it seems to me that these are issues that
Postone addresses; I have just started to dip into _Time, Labor and Social
Domination_ so I would be interested in hearing from those more familiar
with his stuff whether I have the right impression, and what he would say on
these questions).

Gotta leave it there for now.

Howie Chodos


Paul's post:

>Howies egg question:
>
>This only seems a mystery to us if our vision of production
>is cast in a thoroughly capitalistic form.
>
>In a capitalist society labour is considered productive only
>when it is productive for capital - ie private wage labour.
>But any real capitalist society is a combination of modes
>of production. Capitalist production is combined with
>domestic production in which the product never appears on
>the market. From the standpoint of society as a whole, the
>labour performed in the home is part of the social working
>day - more obviously so, the greater of the portion of the
>product that is produced domestically. As such this portion
>of the social working day contributes to the reproduction of
>labour power and is part of its value.
>
>But, since the domestic mode of production is non-commodity
>producing, this portion of the value of labour power does
>not manifest itself as exchange value and never appears in
>the national accounts.
>
>As the socialisation of production proceeds - children being
>taught at school rather than at home, food been cooked in
>canteens and burger bars etc, this portion of the social
>working day begins to receive commodity form, become subject
>to calculations of efficiency etc and its technical form
>becomes revolutionised.



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