Use Value (and not really Aesthetics)

Kevin T. Mahoney ktmahone at mailbox.syr.edu
Fri Mar 31 10:46:00 MST 1995


i think that howie raises some important issues here in terms of how to
situate domestic labour--what is beig referred to here as the "domestic
mode of production."  i think howie is right to suggest that domestic
labor does indeed produce commodities, namely labor power.  however, what
is important about this is that the production of labor power is
predominatly unpaid labor.  the important part about this is that we can
see how capitalism needs "other" systems of production along side itself
to appropriate and exploit and ultimately submit to the logic of
commodity production.  this is to suggest that while capitalism is
clearly the dominant mode of production, there are parallel systems of
production that are present, yet incorporated into the "logic" of
capitalist production.  In other words, these "other" systems of
production are not "outside" capitalism in the sense that they offer
alternative possibilities for resistance, they are fully integrated into
the system of production that is capitalism, it is just that they are not
organized in the same manner.  they contribute to capitalism even as they
are not synonymous with capitalism.

i should mention that some incredible work is being done on
this score by some of the graduate students and faculty of the women
studies program at syracuse university.  i mention this because this is
where my analysis above was cultivated and they have a much more rigorous
theorization of the "sexual division of labor" than i do.


On Thu, 30 Mar 1995, Howie Chodos wrote:

> 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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>


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