Use Value (and not really Aesthetics)

Paul Cockshott wpc at clyder.gn.apc.org
Fri Mar 31 13:01:29 MST 1995


Howie writes:
        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?
What I said about the domestic mode of production is much influenced by
Christine Delphy and her book 'Close to Home', with its analysis of
production realtions in the French peasant household. She uses these
to show that 'housework' is best understood as a remnant form of the
domestic mode of production, which in pre-capitalist agricultural
economies probably involved the greater part of all performed labour.
In this sense it was the dominant mode of production in what we
normally call feudal economies as well as in non-commercial slave
agriculture.

According to her analysis it is a distinct mode of production with its
own mode of extracting the unpaid labour - primarily of women but
also of subordinate male relatives, for the benefit of the pater
familius.
It persists into the capitalist period, and along with it persists
the slavery of women sanctified in marriage.

        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"?

I see the struggle for communism as a struggle for the abolition of
private property, family and the state. But this struggle only has
historical potential to the extent that the tendancies of the capitalist
system lead towards it. The abolition of private property within the
integument of private property with the centralisation of capital is
a well developed theme of marxist theory. The abolition of family as
a political program, is grounded in the tendancy of capital to errode
the domestic economy. As the product of cooking becomes a commodity,
the labour of cooking becomes social labour (unlike home baking).
True, under capitalism this is only indirectly social labour, it requires
sale to validate it, but in the process the labour becomes paid
labour and is recognised by society.

Whilst the slogan of wages for housework is utopian, the transformation
of 'housework' into waged work is not - it is part of the dynamic of
capitalism well documented by Braverman for instance.

I would have said that the vision we should have of socialism is one in
which formerly domestic labour is socialised or at least communalised.
If people no longer lived in bourgeois families but in communes or
Kibbutz type organisations, what was once 'domestic' work can become
social labour paid at the same rate as any other.

Paul


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