Home > political-economy > Unemployment: Job Creation or Liberation?

Unemployment: Job Creation or Liberation?

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.” – Aristotle

I find it amazing that people will demand Washington create work, but will not demand freedom from unnecessary work created by Washington. The fixation on work is the principal lever of the fascist state. But, the fixation on work is only a reflex of the role fascist state issued currency plays as the mediator of the means of life. The very same means the fascist state employs to satisfy the demand for jobs, currency issue, increases the demand for jobs.

Money, in its function as medium of exchange, acts as mediator between a human need and its satisfaction. Fascist state issued ex nihilo currency takes over this role as mediator, displacing money and its token currency. Unlike state issued token currency, or even inconvertible token, this ex nihilo currency has no definite relation with commodity money. Having no definite relation with money, the ex nihilo currency has no definite relation with commodities in general.

Moreover, since commodities express their value as exchange value, i.e., as a definite sum of money their value is no longer expressed in an exchange involving ex nihilo currency. Value can only be expressed as exchange value; it cannot be expressed directly. If there is no medium for the expression of the value of a commodity in an exchange — an expression that requires the medium itself have a definite value — it is as if it doesn’t exist. Which is to say, in an ex nihilo currency regime value plays no role in the exchange of commodities.

Value, however, is created in the act of production, not exchange — which presents us with a conundrum: If value is created in the act of production, but not expressed in the act of exchange, how do we know it exists? In a commodity money system value created in the act of production imposed itself on capitals after the fact, during the act of exchange. This is because the capitalist has no way of knowing the value of his commodity until he takes it to the market and sells it. The imposition of value on production is only retroactively enforced during the act of exchange as socially necessary labor time.

If value plays no role in the exchange of commodities how can socially necessary labor time play role in the production of the commodities?

Here is a further perplexing problem: in Marx’s theory socially necessary labor time in production is also the term he employs to define the portion of the working day during which the worker produces her own wages. So, at base, when the laws of value regulates capitalist production, capital is indirectly being regulated by the wages of the working class. It follows from this that newly produced surplus value has to seek out new sources of labor power.

If the exchange of commodities is no longer determined by the law of value, the production of commodities is no longer determined by socially necessary labor time; and, the capitalist mode of production is no longer regulated by the consumption of the working class. All of this makes it appear as though the laws of the capitalist mode of production has been abolished under an ex nihilo currency regime.

In fact, this appearance is misleading. While capital is the ceaseless production of surplus value, or socially necessary labor time in its surplus form, and, therefore, the constant diminution of necessary labor time as a percentage of the working time of the laborer, it also requires the conversion of this newly created surplus labor time into necessary labor time — the constant expansion of socially necessary labor time. Even as socially necessary labor time in one form is diminished, so it is expanded in another form.

Marx argued, “the transformation of what was previously superfluous into what is necessary, as a historically created necessity.– is the tendency of capital.” The capitalist mode of production necessarily involves the “…transfer of its conditions of production outside itself…” At first, this involves merely expansion of markets, the creation of new needs in addition to existing needs, etc.

However, over time, the drive for ever greater profits leads to the expansion of activity that cannot be realized as value, as socially necessary labor time — that is entirely superfluous to society under any given existing basis of production and exchange. This is the necessary consequence of the profit motive itself. Moreover the expansion of entirely superfluous labor increasingly looms over all economic activity as the absolute condition for the realization of surplus value as profit itself. Eventually, capital runs into the limits of even these methods transfers outside itself; and, actually turns on the limits imposed by the law of value itself.

The first of those limits, it seems to me, is that imposed by the two-fold character of the commodity: to have value, a commodity must also be useful object to someone other than the producer. Which is to say, it must be the product of a particular useful expenditure of human labor. If the commodity is not useful, the labor is wasted. Even a commodity that has a use in the abstract (a pair of shoes) but is not presently needed by anyone falls into this category. A product that serves some need, but that is not presently required, is no more a commodity than one that is defective beyond repair.

But, here too, there is a distinction to be made: a product may be needed by someone else, but not in its capitalistic form: which is to say, it is useful as an article to be consumed, but has no use to the capitalist as a means of producing a profit. Just as value and use value are pulled apart, so use value itself has two entirely contradictory expressions: as an object needed for human consumption, and as a means of capital’s self-expansion. While human need can be satisfied by the useful qualities of a commodity, the needs of capital may not necessarily be satisfied by it. And vice versa: there is no law that says what is useful to capital as means of self-expansion must be useful from the standpoint of society. To be a commodity within the capitalist mode of production, the commodity must simultaneously meet both requirements — it must satisfy a definite human need, and it must satisfy capital’s need for constant self-expansion.

During periods of capitalist expansion these two follow as a matter of course, but not during periods of crisis. They follow so seamlessly during expansions, in fact, that it is not entirely obvious Marx had two distinct conceptions of usefulness — one based in the natural qualities of the commodity and another based in its social quality as a value. But, while the capitalist mode of production imposes its own unique expression of usefulness on the preexisting natural usefulness, the distinction between the two is not erased. While the natural usefulness of a commodity are the properties inherent in the object that satisfy some definite human need, the properties of the object that satisfy the needs of capital are general, and non-particular — but, I think, emphatically not abstract: the exchange value of the object is, for the capital, simply a use value employed to expand itself.

The electricity powering my laptop simultaneously must be useful to me as a consumption item, and to the capitalist as capital, as a means of creating profit. And, the exchange between the capitalist and me has to realize both expressions of usefulness at the same time. The fact that both of these things are accomplished in one act of exchange conceals the reality that two forms of usefulness are satisfied.

In normal (simple) commodity exchange value and use value confront each other in the form of buyer and seller. Value and use value appears as polar opposites that change position in the act of exchange. But, in this exchange use value appears on both sides of the exchange: the money, which is the expression of value in the exchange, is no more than a use value for the capitalist, an object to be employed in the expansion of his capital. The capitalistic use value of the money has simply changed form in the process of its self-expansion.

This fundamental alteration of the conditions of commodity exchange does not announce itself to the participants. The money does not jump up and down screaming, “I’m not just value; I am also a use value in capitalist production.” Money is living something of a schizophrenic existence: appearing in simple commodity exchange as value, and in capitalist commodity exchange as use value. This is the difficulty gold-bugs and their critics get into: money is not the aim of capitalist production — not even “more money”. The aim of capitalist production is itself, and money — gold — is only a means to this end.

In the capitalist mode of production money is just another use value, whose specific usefulness is it capacity to assume the form of any other use value. What is, for the mass of society, a condition of its existence and mediator of its necessary interchange with nature, is for capital, just another use value beside all the rest: condoms, trident missile submarines, farm tractors. Each is measured by the same standard: its particular usefulness to capital as means of self-expansion – it is indifferent to them as things.

Moreover, it is indifferent to the activities by which these things come into existence, are produced by particular human activity. It is indifferent as well to the needs of the human beings who produce them. Finally, it is indifferent even to the owner of the capital — who is merely its momentary personification.

The transfer of the conditions of production outside capital is the negation of those conditions of production within capital proper; that is, the negation of the law of value within the capital, as well as that of property relations generally. It seems to me goods circulate within the capital solely as use values, not as values. In the exchange between two capitals, money appears only as a use value on both sides of the exchange, and exchange simply is exchange of use values. However, between capital and worker, money appears on the capitalist’s side as a mere use value, while, on the worker’s side, it appears as exchange value, i.e., as a definite quantity of socially necessary labor time.

This obviously has implications when money is replaced by ex nihilo currency: it effectively annuls the exchange value of the worker’s labor power, while having no effect on the usefulness of this labor power in the operation of capital. The value of the worker’s wage no longer has an independent expression in the form of a money commodity. The worker is a simple commodity seller, and, like all simple commodity sellers, no longer has any idea of the value of her commodity. Far cry from the typical pap spread by Marxists, the abolition of the gold standard was a world historical defeat of the working classes of all countries — a defeat, I think, from which there is no possibility of a recovery within the capitalist mode of production.

Fascist state fiscal and monetary policy, which was enabled by debasing the currency, cannot be anything other than a weapon for beating working people into senseless submission. But, the implications of debasement are far more insidious. According to Nelson, very early in their writings Marx and Engels observed if a thing can’t be sold for money, it is not private property:

…money is ‘the most general form of property’. Money typifies the commodity as an exchangeable product. If it can’t be sold a personal possession is not private property, write Marx and Engels.

One way in which this is obviously true: legally I cannot sell myself into slavery. In view of the law, I am not my own property which ownership can be transferred to another in a monetary exchange. However, in the historical phase of ex nihilo currency this observation has another entirely contrary meaning: I am the common property of the capital class. The absence of a commodity money standard does not do away with property, however. Ex nihilo currency implies not just that I do not own myself, but also that I am owned by the fascist state, acting as manager of the total social capital. Having first been shorn of any independent means of life and now any independent means to express the value of my labor power, I am no more than an object held in common to be employed as necessary in the capitalist production process. Not simply my capacities and talents, but also my wants and desires are no more than the raw materials of the capitalist production process.

These needs, wants and desires have no form through which they might be expressed as an independent power in the act of exchange. Money is the universal commodity, i.e., the universal possibility of inherent in all use values — it is at once, all use values and capable of being converted into any and all use values, limited only by its quantity. The replacement of money by ex nihilo currency, therefore, replaces this universal form with a form fully adapted solely to the use to which it is put by capital. As mediator of the relation between the needs of individuals and nature, the needs of the individual can only be expressed through ex nihilo currency in this capitalistic form.

This is expressed mostly clearly and obviously in the demand for ever more job creation, and the incessant shrill demands for ever more fascist state expenditures. The worker exists only for capital. She is its special product and this product demands constant care and feeding. As a worker, she is fully and completely adapted to the logic of capital, which is the logic of unending wage slavery. She doesn’t demand this or that particular job — a hairdresser or office manager — but JOB itself; i.e., slavery abstracted from any need but that of capital. Her own real palpable human needs play no role in this unceasing whining for state generated employment.

Without the daily and detestable drudgery of labor, she has no existence at all. Merely by degrading the purchasing power of the worthless currency in her bank account, she can be compelled to throw herself into longer hours of work, at the expense of her own health, sanity, and family. In the end, she has been reduced to nothing more than another capitalist use value that eats, shits and reproduces its own kind. In the words of Marx, all the things that make her unique as social being have been transferred outside the conditions of production itself, while she remains a slave trapped inside.

Several things stand out from this argument:

  1. The problem is not economic policies but the fascist state itself
  2. The problem is not unemployment and job creation, but labor itself.
  3. The problem is not income inequality, but money itself.

The problem, in other words, is not the corruption of politics, but the corruption of what it means to be a human being.

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  1. Threecrow
    November 27, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Let us agree that the Ancient Greek world had its flaws.
    Even so, while the rest of the Ancient World, much more blessed in terms of fertile river vally’s, were building monuments to death, The Greek’s were celebrating life in a manner never seen before or since. As Edith Hamilton points out: “The Greeks were the first people in the world to play, and they played on a great scale. All over Greece there were games, all sort of games…races…contests in music, dancing.” They celebrated the written word in plays and poetry and the athletic achievements in the Olympics and other Greco gathering contests. Something they called, “The God Peace,” was declared during these various celebrations of life, which meant that no war could exist during these times of contest. And the victorious of these various games of athletic and literary games were rewarded not with riches but with an crown of wild olive.
    “To rejoice in life, to find the world beautiful and delightful to live in, was [the] mark of the Greek spirit which distinguished it from all that had gone before. The joy of life is weitten upon everything the Greeks left behind…[least we think them naive]…The Greeks were keenly aware, terribly aware, of life’s uncertainty and the imminence of death. Over and over they emphasize the brevity and the failure of all human endevor, the swift passing of all that is beautiful and joyful. To Pindar, even as he glorifies the victor in the games, life is ‘a shadow’s dream.’ But never, not in their darkest moments, do they lose their taste for life. [Life] is always a wonder and a delight, the world a place of beauty, and they themselves rejoicing to be alive in it.”
    I write this comment only to say and remind that that once was could be again. And in the context of this question of jobs and capital and the work-week, (see Ancient Egypt) there exists an alternative. Joy in living. I mean, if one needs to have an organizing principle…why not?

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