New Work and Old Time Labour

After reading last week about the labour struggle to define and control the working day, I’ve found everything I’ve read this week raises questions over what had been fought for.

There is good and bad work, and just as some people are using the rights gained from that struggle to deliver less of what they “owe”, others are seeking fulfilment in more of it.

Love or hate work, what underpins it is consumerism. But consumerism too has changed. As always, there’s the choice of quantity or quality. However, as work becomes increasingly abstract, it gets increasingly difficult to distinguish between them.

The pleasures of progress are dulled as what was a choice becomes an acceptance.

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The length of the working day

Reading Marx’s Capital – Volume 1 Class 6

“Moments are elements of profit” (page 353)

The history of labour is one of exploitation. The attempt to capture other people’s time as surplus value and the attempt to get as much of it as possible for as little as possible is the essence of capitalism. essential to capitalism.

But though capitalism might want limitlessness (and to some extent, capitalists are victims of this as much as they are drivers), people have limits and can only be worked so hard and for so long. Ironically, it’s the successful attempt to limit the working day that might have stopped capital from destroying itself. Continue reading

Labour power

Reading Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, Class 5

Labour is the Only Thing

There are a lot of inputs into the creation of a product, but they can be broken down into two categories:

  • constant – the materials and tools of production; the value of these is the same at the beginning and end of the process.
  • variable – or labour, which is the catalyst for creating value in the process and tied tightly to time.

The usual framework for capitalism is to throw these two together to give a  profit ratio, but pulling them apart leads to some uncomfortable insights.

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Commodifying labour

Reading Marx’s Capital – Vol 1, Class 4

Commodifying Labour

In its earliest form, exchange of goods does not produce an increase in value.

Both of the people in the exchange can come away with a benefit, because they have achieved an increase in use values, by exchanging, they have ended up with qualitatively different things.

But under capitalism, transactions start and end in money, and money is qualitatively the same, so needs to be differentiated by quantity.

But if standard exchange does not produce an increase in quantity, something must be added to a commodity in between purchase and sale, something that can create surplus value, something called labour.

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Money is the only commodity

Reading Marx’s Capital – Vol 1, Class 3

Money is the Only Commodity

When you listen to an introduction that says nearly everyone who gave up Capital gave up in Chapter 3 and Chapter 3 is the current topic, it doesn’t bode well, but here goes.

In the last lesson, we ended with money as the matrix, the concealing form that disguised the underlying labour and moved us away from the reality of production.

In this chapter, things go even deeper, and money is not only something that moves us away from the producers, but, as it takes on new roles, money is no longer a helper in the exchange of commodities, it is the only commodity.

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The illusions of capitalism

Reading Marx’s Capital – Vol 1, Class 2

Entering the Matrix

The first lecture had about 830k views, this one has around 136k, so by getting this far, I guess I’m in the top 16% of the class.

The video goes over chapters 1 and 2 of Capital, which is hard and painful reading. From what I read today, this is a good thing as this will help me on the road to superaging, which means you need to do things that make you feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated.

Kind of sums up my Marx experience so far, like The Matrix, this session challenged me to try and see what underlies the “socially valid” experience of the world

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