The Property Theory & Labour

The State is the exercise of political power. One cannot imagine power without the State, nor the State without power.

One cannot conceive of divided society without the presence of the State any more than conceive of undivided society without the absence of the State; and speculation on the origins of inequality, social division, classes, and domination, is speculation in the field of politics, power, and the State, and not in the field of economy, production, etc. Economy is begot from politics, production relations come from power relations, and classes are engendered by the State.

Primitive society is undivided because it does not have a separate organ of political power.

Primitive society functions precisely as a machine of anti-production. (Specialists in primitive economy) have shown that the domestic mode of production always operates beneath its possibilities and that there are no production relations because there is no production, this latter being a source of little worry to primitive society.

When we see one part of society exercising power over the rest, we stand before a divided society, a State society (even if the [tyranny] of the Despot is not very large). Social division into dominating and dominated is potitical through and through, for it splits people into Masters of power and Subjects of power.

Post-Marxian marxism has not only become a dominant ideology in the workers’ movement, but has become its principal enemy as well, and has set itself up as the most arrogant form of the nineteenth century’s worst stupidity: scientism. In other words, contemporary marxism institutes itself as the scientific outlook on history and society, as an outlook setting forth laws of historical movement, laws for the transformation of societies — one society begetting another. Thus marxism can have something to say about every type of society because it is acquainted with each one’s operating principles beforehand; furthermore, marxism must have something to say about every type of possible or real society, because the universality of the laws that marxism discovers will stand for no exceptions. Otherwise, the doctrine, in its entirety, crashes to the ground. Consequently, in order to maintain the coherence and the very existence of marxism, it is imperative for marxists to formulate the marxist conception of primitive society, to establish a marxist anthropology. Without this, the marxist theory of history would only be the analysis of a particular society (nineteenth-century capitalism), elaborated by someone named Marx.
– Pierre Clastres

Suppose John Locke got it backwards when he declared that property is generated from labour (and from which were derived economic theories by both Adam Smith and Karl Marx, each of whom went on to talk about the labour theory of value in the same cause-effect chain)? Then concerning labour as rather a resultant of property, suppose Marx had made a more forceful, species dis­tinction between creativity and productivity rather than subsuming or intuitively (crassly?) merging the both under one cate­gory, much as "nation" and "culture" are often forced in our language, a spurious interchange creating a lot of political confusion and miscommunication? As it is, we tend to see them as either synonym or in opposition requiring a transformation of state. The same can be said of use- and exchange-value: we've been taught to think of them as discrete categorical or taxonomic alternatives, where they might rather be different perspectives of a single behavioural process or even provisional utterances regarding a variably shifting semantic context.

Doesn't productivity also measure creativity? To say "she was a productive artist" is essentially an arithmetic value judgement, isn't it? Productivity here doesn't contain creativity, but quantifies it, as if that was a desirable characteristic were she employed as a painter. But then, as a 'professional' painter, she would have to leave out all the frills and whirlyquews. Just as fecundity must always outnumber fertility ("Only one sperm cell may enter this production facility! Go way!"), use-value inherent in the pragmatic denies the cosmetic whose "function" cannot be determined, like an invited guest who finds no empty chair waiting at the dinner table.

This is not to dichotomize them: productivity is creativity coopted and then constrained and effectively reduced. That her art is "more or less creative" is also a value judgement, but is a qualitative rather than quantitative measure. It may be based on originality or many other qualitative criteria. Perhaps it is inspiring, and "produces" incentive in me to give it a try? But is this "product" a result of her creativity or my vicarity? Can vicarity be a creative process? Obviously, interpretation or reinterpretation necessitates some degree of imagination else Mozart would have to be called up from the dead every time the band plays one of his tunes. A performance by the London Symphony would be just another seance.

There is another sense of value, and that is "esteem" or what Jorn described as the "aesthetic" relation. It seems reasonable to me that production alien­ates one from unconstrained creativity, and in fact, much of what we consider is personally creative is just an illusion born of commodity fetishism, so the two (productivity & creativity) can neither be semantically equated nor ontologically opposed. Otherwise Marx would not have proposed an ATR (After the Revolution) world where we are free to create rather than enslaved to the labour of production. Marx' label, "commodity fetishism" might be post-modernized by Baudrillard's "simulacrum".

What then would become of the idea of the development of productive forces be­yond the notion that progress will save us, in which case liberation or revolution are al­ways confined to the future? Was Marx thinking "creative forces" and marxians thinking "productive forces"? Thinking of food production alone – since food is very likely more necessary than flat-screen tv's – if the technocrats had ever considered other people, there would be no one hungry. I'm not trying to resurrect Marx because I think his view of human nature is particularly civilized – his "species-being" is not a theory of human nature, but of the civilized, or as Cammatte would say, demonstrates the nature of "domestication". To the defense of Marx, he avoid­ed the problem by cleverly acknowledging that human nature is the nature of who we are at the time in which we are being human. But I'm thinking of this quote by G.A. Cohen:

Production in the historical anthropology is not identical with production in the theory of history. According to the anthropology, people flourish in the cultivation and exercise of their manifold powers, and are especially produc­tive - which in this instance means creative - in the condition of freedom con­ferred by material plenty. But, in the production of interests to the theory of history, people produce not freely but because they have to, since nature does not otherwise supply their wants; and the development in history of the productive power of man (that is, of man as such, of man as a species) oc­curs at the expense of the creative capacity of the men who are agents and victims of that development.
– from wikipedia.org

Furthermore, it seems to me that property a priori accompanies the imposition of scarci­ty (rather than scarcity being an immanent quality of "nature" – an idea from Hobbes, Malthus & Spencer – that populations 'naturally' grow and are limited only through com­petition). The institution of property grants the owner authority. Institutionalized (central or otherwise) authority creates property through appropriative behavior or exclusion. One must appease the owner's "good favours" to gain access. One could as easily say authority (the behavior) and property (the reification) birth one another. I have said property and authority are two words for the same process – "bi-nominalized reification". If we willingly accomodate or 'give in' to authorities, we have authorised them. Force or wrath can there-after be held in reserve. Another word for re-ification is sanctity. Labour itself becomes sanctified.

The "dictatorship of the proletariat" is merely the return of ownership to the author. One might be surprised to find Marx' reticence to embrace Stirner's "Egoism", and in fact, his demonstrated hostility (obvious in Saint Max). Both would maintain property in one form or another. This is why I do not distinguish politics from economics beyond that, in the context of production, it is the former which is the forceful means to maintain the lat­ter. The end is the regulation of scarcity to maintain the status of the property owner. The resulting behavior is seen in systems of exchange (developing out of bribery) and work/services performed in exchange for the crumbs of existence. Thus we are called "wage slaves" for a reason. (In a truly spectacular society like that imagined by multinational corpo­rations and their advertising executives, government could be completely abolished with no perceptible change to our daily lives. There is also a theory that we already experience this and that the government is only another corporation interested only in maintaining its brand name).

Proudhon and Stirner both had a critique of property yet both are claimed as heroes of the [american] libertarian and anarcho-capitalist cause which maintains property – possession maintained by "might" or "right". What's the difference? Such thinking is commodity fetishism – more concerned with commodity than community, more focussed on subsistence (as in the sub-existence of "just getting by") than sustenance, or alternately, competetive accumulation rather than mutual aid. Our culture requires this lead to labour fetishism and is reinforced by increasing levels of debt: the perceived need to preserve 'jobs', as the products of labour are seen as the only means of survival (even after a successful revolution). The conclusion is that as property is freedom, we should all want more. The double-bind of vicious cycle is rationalized into a win-win scenario.

Could we conclude that productive labour (opposed to aesthetic cre­ativity) can only derive from property? Then value (seen as anything other than the simple measurement of the perpetuation of cruelty – the stress level of domination) derived from labour would be absurd. Property and exchange value are the same thing, and the sequestering into labour, placing a body on one side of an equation with property on the other is only the means by which we are allowed to acquire it and hence measure ourselves.

It's generally considered that laziness is the opposite of hard work – labour. It appears to me that laziness would provide excellent personal motivation to call for a slave society. It seems we have yet again two definitions for a single term, labour: 1) the job we go to (or disagreeable job, as a less disagreeable one euphemisticly warrants a new term – "career", "profession", "calling", "pursuit"), and 2) any physical exertion. Creativity and play can be extremely physical. The usual comment about its productive potential is concerned with how useful it is to someone else: in a fit of rationalization, it is called "altruistic". Productivity demands a mariage between use-value and exchange value to the point that they merge. Engaged to labour, one's body is only another commodity or product.

Henceforth, all relations are really productive relations with property. In school, play is abolished in favour of productive games. We now have an option between mind-games and body-games, always mediated by the accumulation of education. In the full poetic sense, all educational institutions are just disguised brokerage firms. With a firm hand, all beasts of burden are broken before they can enter into the distribution network.

I suppose the lazy ap­proach to sex would be artificial insemination, something neither too exhilarating nor pleasurable. Passion & physical desire are rendered academic. We are only con­cerned with a product. Institutionalized sex, whether at the chapel, sperm bank or whore house, metamorphoses pleasure and desire into commodity, just as publishing houses commodify communication and the telling of tall tales, just as institutionalized sport transforms physical pleasure into laboured use-value.

Some take the high road, proclaiming they'd "never stoop to manual labor". In their leisure time, they play extreme basketball, jog in place atop a mechanical treadmill or roto-till the yard for a garden which never seems to appear. After all, payment received for physical labour indicates a low social position – mental labour requires a positive quality which that other kind of worker dare not possess: "intelligence"! Sports celebrities counter this law by commanding exorbitant salaries which render all other considerations moot. The value of a "celebrity's" product is "entertainment value", commodified pleasure through vicarity. Like the theatre-goer, sports fans are all peeping toms at the window if they are not prisoners peering out through the bars. We are coming to understand that intelligence is merely the ability to conceal one's own hypocrisy or file away contradiction in a dark mental archive.

On the low road, contempt for hypocrisy is intensifying. Clearly the abolition of work does not imply the end of physical activity, and just as clearly, the preferable solution is not volunteerism. The technological solution has always attempted to end physical activity, with the hopes of constructing another slave-based society where ma­chines are at our beck and call, ready to do our bidding. Now they even do our thinking for us, stripping intelligence of it's own commodity value.

Technology

I do think a discussion of technology is relevant here, as it is still the main product of labour in industrial as well as post-industrial society, even though today it is only a digitized miniature of what was before grand and scarce, or it is a technological (virtual) replacement for everyday life. Please allow me to ramble a bit, as technologists have been making the same promises of liberation through advances in tech­nology since Johaan Vander-Ploughman invented the plow.

My neighbor came across a hydraulic log splitter and we are sharing it around the area. One can split a cord of wood in no time at all. However, all that bending, stooping and lifting involved in operat­ing it, not to mention pulling the start cord, nearly killed my already ailing back. I'm back to swinging my trusty old maul ten minutes a day (I split wood for two households). Still, five guys with a case of beer could out do the gizmo with little exertion and less time spent. What's the hurry? The reason such "labour-saving" devices were invented in the first place was to increase produc­tion with a decrease in labour cost (that is, the number of employees to be paid), by someone in an engineering firm who only remembered the toil when the old man said "Do the chores or else!" or perhaps would never stoop to swinging an axe to see the fun it might provide and creative uses it might take on, like hacking out your sweetie's ini­tials in an old stump, like sculpting a totem pole. So we're back to the question "But how productive is that shit!?" Often the prior knowledge of the "labour-saving quality" helps to sell miniaturization of industrial machinery for "home use". Productivity in this sense is only concerned with creating property, not practicality and it is the "job" of the advertiser to create a desire for it. Desire is in fact the product of the salesman, for the sales pitch is the machinery of commodification.

I worked in a highly automated dairy and another which utilized archaic (almost medieval) machine works which served to negate the extreme effects of gravity on the worker. I can tell you that the new technology actually increased both physical and "mental" labour. Modern technological solutions serve to decrease the number of employees (labour saving) but all those an­cillary tasks are now imposed upon one person, and anxiety levels skyrocket in the name of efficiency. Unfortunately, quality of product also decreases due to the necessity to cut corners for the same reason. In our culture, efficiency wins hands down over quality every time. There is also the problem that the more automation tries to eliminate the "disagreeable" aspects of labour, the more mundane, boring, and unimportant is our perception of our work and in fact, of ourselves. Increased detachment replaces pleasure.

The argument is always presented, "there will always be disagreeable chores". One needn't expect to get all orgasmic from every activity. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish chore from play, other times a distinction is appropriate. Splitting wood is enjoyable to me. Doing it eight hours a day would be murder. Doing it in a blizzard at 30 below is particularly offensive. You'll notice that in the latter two cases, it is not the wood-chopping which is objectionable, but the conditions which surround it – employ­ment and bad weather.

It might also be argued that a sense of ownership is all that protects product quality, giving us an additional sense of personal responsibility. Own­ership implying taking on responsibility only means you are alone: you made your bed, now you have to lie in it! For those attracted to ownership of the means of production, I'd remind them of the rationale behind the old Gypsy curse, "Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it". The curse ensures that you do; it's a no-brainer. No one will come to your aid if you fuck up. I'd also remind that, together with the tools of the trade, workers are the means of production. Fortunately, many radicals today oriented toward "workplace struggle" are more concerned with taking back their lives through the expropriation of their livelihood (the workplace) than the ownership of their product. Their utopian futures center around ideas of distribution rather than accumulation.

An important distinction underlying a creation-production dialectic is that between property and possession. Possession is what you have here and now without proprietary considerations. The only things which might be considered "owned" or more-or-less permanently held (like my shirt or pocket knife) are those things which should be available to all or reproducible with ease. We can appre­ciate this in our own language with phrases like "he'd steal the shirt off your back" or "he'd dig out his mother's gold fillings in her sleep" to describe antisocial characters. Sharing those harder to get items reduces the need for mass production and eliminates commodification. There are many other things (like waste and pollution) sharing reduces. Obviously, personal prosthetics like dental fillings are less amenable to sharing.

Relationships based on production and it's property are not social relations in the strict sense (beyond the mechanical notion of society being nothing but an assemblage of component individuals). Social relations entail giving or sharing. I don't think Stirner went far enough in his critique of property. His solution was possession through might. Sorry, but this is how property was created in the first place – either appropriation from others through force or exclusion of others through force. Persuasive force and force of habit offer no immunity to the law. Above, I didn't get the difference between possession-through-might and property, and therefore, Stirner's solution was no solution at all. Mark Twain and Guy Debord illustrated how illusion and deception can replace the need for constant force, to the point that some of us freely give up our own children (for example, to the military) and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, as if our children are something which is owned by way of the responsibility we take in having them. Parenting becomes nothing more than a duty. Children are production units molded and shaped for the market. As Tina Turner said, "What's love got to do with it?"

Finally, to paraphrase Chesterton, I'm not against having technology. I'm against it having me. Technology is absolutely not neutral! This does not mean we should abandon all technology! That would hardly be possible. We need to be able to rein it in from time to time. The highly mechanized dairy I mentioned had to step back and bring in some old methods. A breakdown in any area meant the cows did­n't get fed because the system was too highly integrated. The institution of redundant systems only made navigation more cumbersome. Human (muscle) backup was impossible because most of the staff had been laid off in the mechanization process, the big bosses couldn't stoop to pitch in and wander from their job descriptions, and there was too much work involved anyway because the dysfunctional machines were just simply in the way. You'll find that in the long run, mechanical slaves end up enslaving us be­cause we grow too dependent on them. In fact, without a class system of have-mores and have-lesses only possible with the imposition of property, (and this is applicable to any proprietary system serving to regulate scarcity, not just capitalism), most of the so-called labour saving gizmos would in fact be unnecessary.

But that's another story. I'd like to rephrase my original thesis. Property historically precedes production (a euphamism for forced labour). If property derives from exclusivity, then there is no liberation by transforming pri­vate property into communal property nor exchange-value into use-value (both conceptions of value can only conceive/birth production and property). I think the abolition of work must entail the aboli­tion of all forms of property. I don't see that property is a necessary concept at all. If community autonomy is desired, the very idea of "community property" reduces the word "property" to a meaningless linguistic appendage. If property and work are maintained, what is the objective of the revolution? If the objective is only the end of capitalism, we are companions to many who would maintain the state. If we are anti-state, we are in league with corporatists who see government as a hindrance to their business of accu­mulating even more capital. This is a misunderstanding, since corporatism is just an­other state, and global corporatism is in fact the final goal of the bourgeois revolution.

There is a certain attrac­tion toward nihilists who want to "destroy the totality, liberate desire", but then that's only a slogan. It begs the question, "what is the totality?" To put all this another way, while most see alienation as the direct outcome of capitalism, that it was given birth by capitalism, could it be that alienation sets us up to become capitalistic in our relations? If, along the lines of Cammatte, alienation is rather the result of our own domestication, then it is the civi­lizing process itself proceeding from the creation of property which gives birth to alien­ation, and the anti-capitalist approach to Nirvana falls short of the anti-civ perspective (which must, of course, also include the former).

In other words, capitalism is a problem, no doubt. But it is not THE problem. It is only one among many methods of exploitation states have utilized. Clearly, the state is a problem. But it is not THE problem. There have been systems of class exploitation without the state political organization. Economic class division is a problem. But it is not THE problem. Individuals exploit (capitalize) each other on a daily basis regardless of class composition of the one or the other. Civilization itself is a poorly defined category signifying a different idea within a large territory of meaning by every user of the term. It is a syndrome, not a disease. But the relation which underlies all these problems is property. What is property but a way we treat each other? We withold favors. We buy and sell our lives (or rent them out). We play games of one-upmanship won or lost according to how much we accumulate. We compete and name our prize "property". We whore ourselves to accumulate more (or even enough!). We kill each other to protect property belonging to another who considers us his own. All this is opposed to sharing, cooperation, mutual aid and reciprocity, practices which annihilate that which is owned as much as do subversive acts of vandalism. Is there a difference?

Non-neutrality & Technological Solutions

Neutrality as to space (/time): Neutrality is said to be neither here nor there. That leaves two options for our little cartography. It is either placed somewhere between here and there, or it is nowhere at all. If it is in between, then when I move to that middle spot, it now becomes here and neutrality must instantaneously move or cease to exist. It moves to nowhere and our two options disappear. This is backed up by Heisenberg's principle of indeterminacy.

Neutrality as to objects in space (/time): Neutrality ultimately suggests a state of detachment without consequence or implica­tion – the neutral one adheres to objects on neither side. Neutrality always stands alone. It follows that if all objects are connected, which is to say that changing the conditions of existence concerning one has effects upon everything it is connected to (that is, everything) as chaos theory and just about every other line of thinking outside of aristotelean, "enlightened" discourse suggests, then neutrality as a quality of existence is pure absurdity.

Therefore, the question of the neutrality of technology is also pure absurdity and should be treated as such. The posers of such questions are exposed as either disin­genuous sophists or inebriated by massive opiates, which may also be said, are reli­giously dogmatic.

Doesn't it seem so many problems which we ask technology to solve are often unin­tentional ramifications of earlier technologies, and we're always asked in return for pa­tience: "We just need to work out a few more bugs and ..."? This is the trap which pro­duces an escalating positive feedback cycle, kind of like the self-replicating patterns of child abuse.

There is a freudian argument suggesting we should be mean parents so that our children will be reactionary and perhaps change the world. Of course, this is bullshit. What do you suppose creates psychopaths in high places in the first place? There was a similar thought that the daily threat (back in the day) of nuclear annihilation would produce enough outrage (and that it did!) that the technology would be discarded. In­stead, the media simply stopped talking about it and now we are all "no worries". The threat has not diminished. In fact, technological progress has made the "War Games" scenario (in that old Mathew Broderic movie) even more likely.

It is, however, very impressive that some technologists are looking toward sharing and gifting their creations, but this is to the credit of the creator, not the fault of the technology. I'd hope that ending motives of profit and accumulation with generalized gifting/sharing might reverse this effect (runaway technology). We do need a different level of thinking. In the mean time there is sabotage and property destruc­tion – excess, that which can not circulate, the toy no one wants to play with, is returned to the earth. Meanwhile, the authentically living are kept in that condition as much as is feasable.

This attitude doesn't mean the nihilistic end to all technology1 by any means, but we need to be able to side-step the persuasions of the advertisers, taking charge (which is to say, 'becoming aware') of our own desires/interest/aesthetics rather than having them inflicted upon us. In fact, sharing (which is implied in circulation and reciprocity) is an improvement over the gift, which suggests a point of origin and a terminus, even an in­vestment and a return – the machinic laws of tit and tat.

The idea of creation itself is often perceived as a point-of-origin to terminus linear process starting with the "creator", or alternately, "producer" and ending with a product passed on to the distribution network. This is the result of the illusory separation, the detachment we feel from the rest of the world. Everything is connected! But that is a secret. Instead, we are offered truth: a serene but disconnected landscape visible only from the basement of an ivory tower.

Not to be confused with invention or discovery of the novel and unique, modern technology is craft and its aesthetic is coopted, de-personalized and fragmented. Technological invention has historically been the result of accident (for example, photographic processing) or a long process of trial and error. Technological progress is the systematic production of new ways to do the same old things. A bullet is a glorified ar­row or spear point with an explosive energy driving the projectile replacing muscle pow­er and whose use-value is only measured by mortal efficiency and the distance between the killer and the victim). A backhoe is a glorified mechanical pick & shovel. Obviously, the glorified versions require more in the way of miners, oil riggers, food producers, transport workers, man­agers, bureaucrats, all providing services, all who's lives and relationships are focused on production which then produces even more of the same. And that is the point. Change & obsolescence in technological product is ever required, and we are told that this is not only natural evolution (always invoked to suggest the inevitability of progress), but that we can eliminate all the 'bad' conditions which go into producing technological progress and go on producing new and improved machines which are said to save us from labour and property. After all, technology is neutral. My ass! Unsurprisingly, we look at the distributive aspects of "the productive relation" in the same way.

In the context of my original interpretation, product (or commodity) can only be the result of providing a service for others in exchange (and in fact, only and necessarily in exchange) for (or "as") the means to survive. "The means of production" is thereafter called survival! In our system, this survival-product is itself a commodity, and in fact, the laborer is also a commodity. "Workers rights" is only a veneer which, at first glance, puts limits on the owner, but on closer in­spection, only demonstrates to the worker that this is a "civil" process and in fact, keeps labour "voluntary" and abundant.

Mr. Strawman: "Okay, but what about barter! We will need to estab­lish some sort of trade networks in order to distribute needed goods!"

The idea of a distribution network (outside of an ethnographic picture of existing social institutions) often presumes some kind of pre-existing system of exchange. In other words, as distribution implies a functional role for the distributor, that distributor is in fact a labourer – there is a service not only rendered but institutionalized. As to exchange or trade, many people across the world quite adept at distributing need­ed goods have offered the sentiment, "trade is what we do with our enemies!"

Revolutionary Politics

just as (with Marx’s projected narrative) the development of productive forces encounters the fetter of capitalist production as ‘socialisation’ of production and communist society becomes possible so the theory of revolutionary workers’ councils encounters the fetter of a belief in objective historical development.

... If the workers’ councils that establish themselves within the crisis of capital are to aid the objective formation of conditions favourable to communism they will have to understand two crucial elements of their position: (1) they are not a communist formation but only a (potentially) for-communist formation, in fact they express the crisis of capitalism in terms of mataining the coherence of production; (2) As they attempt to organise the lived activity of society as an end in itself they should not forget that the technology they are deploying in the attempt to realise this end is also moving but in the opposite direction as it seeks to re-establish the economic relation, the rhythms, the cybernetics, the exchanges, most appropriate to its functioning – the return to capitalism is always undertaken for ‘practicality’s’ sake. For both of these reasons the lived activity directed by the workers’ councils should be engaged as much in the decommissioning of inherited technologies and instituted relations as it is in the realisation (and realignment) of productive forces.
– Frere Dupont

Two other premises seem to me underlying not only councilism, but most of the solutions we come up with.

The first and most important is restated as "The people will need to be fed!". From here, we arrive at "What must be done?" and "Who will feed them?" Our own ego-involvement suggests WE come up with a plan. Our own helplessness suggests SOMEBODY OUGHT TO DO SOMETHING! This is the birth of the politicisation of revolution.

The problem, of course, is that "the people" are not "children". For that matter, children are not children from this perspective. The new-born infant is an accomplished eater at between two minutes and twelve hours, depending on the ease or difficulty of birthing.

Just thinking of food production, the "socialization of production" is doomed from the get go. I'll try to explain with a scenario of possibility. Councils are set up as philanthropic institutions. With all the best intentions, we have already divided society (it is already divided) into producers (collectors or farmers, in this case) and management (emitters or councilors). A major function of the councils will be to coordinate distribution so that everyone's nutritional needs are met – farmer, trucker, assembly-person, everyone. The goal is equality of access and opportunity. Even though needs are dictated "from the bottom up", they are satisfied from the top down. The "people" now achieve guaranteed survival through dependence on the system. The theoreticians are, of course, the system-designers of an autonomous self managing provider class. Class has in no way been abolished, it has been automated. The system becomes rigid and specialized. Interdependence is forced in the name of egalitarianism. This is not a society but a machine. The state is a machine. The state thrives even if capitalism is relegated into the shadows. This is not communism even if drudgery is minimized to three hours a day and everyone is fed. It is still a prison, but this time without wardens and guards. Personal agency has given way to dependence for one and all. The people will die from boredom and kill from a sense of stiflement. We will need a police force and better drugs from the "People's Revolutionary Pharmacy". Well, maybe direct democracy with recallable delegates can rectify this little matter, but then again ...

What if we changed this first premise to the more realistic "People need to eat"? Duh! Kropotkin in fact phrased it somewhat similarly: "The revolution will need bread", and concluded that anything folks do in satisfying this requirement will be preferable to what "hide-bound theorists" come up with simply because it is a matter of spontaneous self-organization. This is what is meant by freedom: the capacity for spontaneous acts. The premise is now able to transform into "Some people will need more help than others in satisfying their needs". What this amounts to is the setting up of mutual aid societies. This is in fact the guts of First Nations Warrior Societies (cf., Taiaiake Alfred and Lana Lowe), folks who can help search out those who need it. There's an old Chinese proverb which goes something like this: "Folks who are given fish become hungry when the river changes course or when the giver goes away. Folks taught to fish will follow the river and cause the giver to go elsewhere". The sentiment is antistatic, as it is motion which is encouraged. The state does not wither, it melts.

The second premise concerns the function of the revolution itself. This is thought by many the transformation of exchange-value into use-value. Both of these are forced juxtapositions so joined in order to give birth to economic manipulation. If we were to separate them back into their original territories, we come up with three independent (but not isolated) fairly harmless notions: exchange, use and value. Let's look at "value". Value has only two basic senses: measurement and emotional attachment. One can, it's true, be fond of measurement (the value of the sum of two and three is five...wow!), but it is very hard to quantify emotional attachment. The best we can come up with is "a bunch" and "hardly at all", more or less. Our attempts at quantification pigeon-hole this into "love", "hate" and "apathy". Exactitude is as illusionary as any other fixed position, just another fixation: the deceptive power of appearances.

Use-value tied to needs or desires seems to me a matter of estimation only as it refers to esteem, not actually measurement. We use things because we are fond of them or the other things which they help to bring about. For example, I love my guitar probably more than the product of my interaction with it (I'm not very good), yet I still love the interaction as well. There are many other things I love as well, some I detest. The revolution says "these are personal matters I am not concerned with ... this is liberty. The revolution is only concerned with the production and equal distribution of food, shelter, medicine and such". The revolution will only interfere in personal life if it's function of coordinating production and distribution in the philanthropic interest of "the people" is hindered. My question is how "interference" comes to be measured and how far it will be allowed to extend.

Yes, this is only a possible scenario, but it does have some historical precedence. By all means let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. Communication is essential. Authentic communication (dialogue rather than debate) is the basis of community and therefore of communism as well. If those words are deemed too strong, think of the superssession of conversion by conversation following the suppression of manipulative meddlement or reversal of a mutation.

The Labour Theory of Power

Our cul­ture as superego tells us that nothing is ever good enough, there's always room for improvement. We are presented with the biggest problem of all (that we must work toward self-improvement), and technology and politics are always ready to give us a solu­tion. This is equally not to suggest that technology is the root cause of all our problems, but that it is a mutually influenced interplay of the state, industry, capitalism, class struc­ture, etc. in a perpetual positive feedback spiral. Accelerate any function, and the whole also accelerates. We need to get out of the spin cycle of promises from each sector that the beast can be tamed with a tweak here and an twist there.

The negative critique is not toward all technology, but toward political and technological (particularly modern, high tech) solutions to what are invariably social problems. Certainly, even primitivists are not against all technology, which would, as you know, include a carved stick to dig roots from the earth (but see note 1). The anti-tech position has always been directed at modern, industrial technology and all those ancilllary tech­niques (and their tools) which require a class society of workers and "the priveleged". The redefinition of the word to refer only to the modern world we experience does not change the relation or our objection to it. Dictionaries may disguise, but do not negate history nor prevent its recurrence in the future.

How can dead labour, machinery, reassert its domination over lived activity within conditions where lived activity is institutionalised as the aim and means of communist society?

Many technologies that work for capital do not work for communism. They do not work because bound up in their coding is a reliance on conditions in which they dominate lived activity – the worker under communism feels the same sense of boredom, alienation and exploitation as he does under capitalism, because the activity that is demanded by the machine he's operating is exactly the same...

Once a barrier to development is defined by activity as a barrier, it is ‘overcome’ and that is the end of it... there is no ‘going back’. But even the latest of Marx’s writings were written 30 years before Freud’s theories of the ‘return of the repressed’. There is no anticipation in this narrative of productive overcoming that ‘objective labour’ materialised within the capitalist social relation might be capable of biting back against a move towards communism. And yet regression to capitalist forms within communist terranes has occurred within all revolutionary attempts.
– Frere Dupont

There would be a large consensus that technology is the primary product of labor in a linear relationship. It was premature to suggest that property precedes labor, because I see them as two sides of the same process of exchange backed by force, threat of force, or blind accomodation to spectacular force, which are all other ways of saying "involuntary deprivation". I'm here forced to supply opera­tional definitions of both property and labor in relation to the element of force itself, and of both product and technology as results of this process. All product is property when others are prevented access to it, whether it is held by an individual or community. Many here are against the idea of individual (private) property. I would be among them. But this is not entirely what we experience. Our system is in fact also one of community property, (how else would one describe corporate assets, property taxes or insurance premiums?) but we generally think of this in terms of class struggle and have coined a plethora of names to describe the two ends of a spectrum of haves and have-nots and of course, the mysterious middle, al­ways uncertain as to which side they are on or on who's side they would take in a crisis.

For the have-nots to have anything, they must provide services to the have-mores in a highly imbalanced exchange. The more unbalanced, the more we are likely to call the situation "capitalist" rather than "barter", but of course, capitalism is not necessary to labour and the pro­duction of property the situation entails. Slavery is the condition with no concern for "balance" whatsoever, yet the slave still needs housed and fed, even more so than the wage-earner. This is not an exchange – it is purely one-directional. By "labour" then, it should be obvious I'm not thinking of chopping wood for the home fire-place here, but chopping another's wood so the latter doesn't get dirt under his fingernails and so that one's self & family can eat. Neither am I thinking of chopping wood for your old granny because her arthritis and brittle bones prevent her from doing it herself nor by chopping wood for a friend who seems busy changing the spark plugs in your car. There is no force or fear of deprivation nor even exchange ne­cessitated by these examples. By product, I wasn't thinking of the particular feelings which are 'produced' in me when I think of an old high school sweetheart nor the fine clay figurine I might mold in her honor. I shouldn't have to do this, but those using sophistry and deceptive rhetoric utilize any ambiguity in the language and demonstrate a lack of understanding for such topics as evolution or physics, yet go on to proclaim the "laws of science" (or "nature") to meet the challenge of a threat to their notions of progress and the neutrality of the technology which allows them more and ever "improved" sparkling and shiny toys. Luster was once a distraction away from the realities of the world of work, it is now paradoxically invoked to bring down the world of work rather than reclaimed and returned to its original field of aesthetics.

I think some of the resentment over post-modernism concerns the mistaken idea that it brings on the death of cosmetics. This is only its historical, architectural aspect, which I don't see as anything beyond very-modernism. I want my gargoyles, and I want to watch them piss on passersby below when it rains! Although that is a function, a valued use, the death of gargoyles is the victory of use-value. Interesting how much modern buildings resemble modern headstones -- monolithic, cubist slabs possibly erected to simulate a defiant stand against gravity (that is to say, "nature"2), but for the most part carrying the message "Nothing to see here, go about your business"!

I get the suspicious feeling that ever since the situs began with their critique of the spectacle, radicals everywhere have become frightened of making anything look aesthetically pleasing, have become frightened of putting time and effort into that -- gasp -- spectacular element of the product, as if we shouldn't be allowed to focus on this element of pleasure until we reach utopia. It's a superficial concern
– anomynous
.

Is it always necessary to distinguish intention and discovery, to separate learning from instinct, rigid organization from spontaneity, especially considering the common dictum on "the best laid plans"?.Should we persist in our mistakes, should we not learn from chance happenings? The pursuit of predictability in the world is at the same time the elimination of chance. An impossible project as such, if it could be carried through, this would only culminate in the end of surprise, the end of aesthetics, and in fact, the end of science itself. As the situationists said, "we will all die of boredom".

Productive & Unproductive Labour

The initial problem or contradiction might be the adjunction of "production" and "labour" as having some sort of qualitative relationship (in an adjective phrase) instead of an identity.

Productive labour is a redundancy if production and labour are synonyms. The produce of any production, that is, it's object or "product" is functional value: prestige and entitlement for authorities, objects or contrivances for consumers (expendable trade items), services to enable more production from other producers (or less for managers), and finally, more production (labour) for future generations. Authorities themselves produce more options for production from potential producers (they "create opportunities"). In other words, labour only produces value, which takes on a different connotation depending on where you're at in the system.

Unproductive labour is a pure, self-negating oxymoron – it transforms into something like "play" or "sabotage". I happen to like unproductive labour. When movement is facilitated or encouraged, that is, when it moves in a direction we claim "attractive", we don't call it labour, and its productivity ("use-value") is beside the point. Sabotage facilitates play, labour denies it. A parodox? Play is only rarely destructive; work nearly always so.

I think Battaille's "unproductive expenditure" is a better formulation all around to describe labour. This is the destruction of excess ("surplus value which can not be realized, not now and not later" – R.H.). Like bullets, bombs and perishable food sent to the dumpster (or turned into an epicurean luxury & photographed to become "still life" on the wall prior to its new residence among the compost), this "destruction" does enable renewal, whereby the whole system reproduces itself. It keeps production productive and producers at their jobs. Warfare is just the confusion between producer and product (commodity), and always kills two birds with one clusterfuck (or stone). In other words, what is actually reproduced on the front line or the assembly line is labour itself. Life not only goes on, but accelerates to dangerous speeds, when even the hit-and-run or drive-by shooting provides profits to insurance brokers.

"... capitalist society itself produces many scales of object usefulness or rationality"

Nice equation: OU = R. One might as easily say "object usefulness" is a rationalization keeping everything in a nice, simple aristotellian perspective, disguising the increasingly common situation, that rationalisation even justifies useless objects as necessities. Far from philosophical materialism, property is a theory devised by economists to justify or cover up cold-heartedness. Tired of routine sado-masochism? Try Symbiotica™. Now comes in assorted flavours!

Appendix: Redundancy & Contradiction, or Prolific Proletarian Facts

prolific 1650, from Fr. prolifique, from M.L. prolificus, from L. proles "offspring" + root of facere "to make" (see factitious). L. proles is from PIE *pro-al-, from *pro- "forth" + *al- "to grow, nourish, bend."

proletarian 1658 (n.), 1663 (adj.), from L. proletarius "citizen of the lowest class," in ancient Rome, propertyless people, exempted from taxes and military service, who served the state only by having children; from proles "offspring, progeny" (see prolific). Proletariat is first recorded 1853, from French. Back formation prole is attested from 1887; popularized by George Orwell's 1949 novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

fact 1539, "action," especially "evil deed," from L. factum "event, occurrence," lit. "thing done," from neut. pp. of facere "to do" (see factitious). Usual modern sense of "thing known to be true" appeared 1632, from notion of "something that has actually occurred." Facts of life "harsh realities" is from 1854; specific sense of "human sexual functions" first recorded 1913.

factitious: 'insecure, artificial, contrived, not real', a détournement of the modern connotation of fact; and from whose stem we also get face ("appearance, form, figure" and "visage, vis": from PIE base *weid- "to know, to see"); factory, fake, facsist, facility originally had the connotation "to put", "to do", and then "to make". Hence, we derive the Culture Industry and the Spectacle as "the monopoly of appearances". Then there is the connection to facilitate, from M.Fr. facile "easy," from L. facilis "easy to do" and, of persons, "pliant, courteous" and finally, facticity: the indeterminant context, not opposed to the complex of contingencies of everyday life, and in some contexts, everyday life, not opposed to mere life. Not to be confused with :

fiction, 1398, "something invented," from L. fictionem (nom. fictio) "a fashioning or feigning," from fingere "to shape, form, devise, feign," originally "to knead, form out of clay," from PIE *dheigh- (cf. O.E. dag "dough").
– somewhat adapted from Etymology On-line
.

 


Notes:

1.   I use the archaic sense of technology as the modification of a "natural resource" for a special (or even general) use or purpose. Ethologists include finding a purpose for an object even if it is unmodified, such as the chimp's use of a stick to get bugs out of a log. I think of technology as what one does with tools, or even the fact that one uses tools in the first place. The 'anti-tech' "tools"-"technology" dialectic is equivalent to my "technology"-"modern/industrial technology" distinction. What I find puzzling is their prohibition against pottery. Pottery does not imply agriculture or a division of labor (for that matter, neither does melting a piece of ore picked up off the ground in the peat campfire and proceeding to shape it into a pretty or useful design before it cools). The oldest known pottery dates from paleolithic Japan, with a largely gathering type "economy". Would basketry present a problem, since it is a much more complex creative process? Or are some anti-techs merely misinformed on their archaeology? Clearly, the problem is "a particular set of social relations arranged for production ... directed at modern industrial technology, but critique of technics certainly doesn't exhaust the merely modern". – Zerzan

2.  This is not to suggest that Victorian architecture, or even Gothic cathedrals bear any superficial resemblance to "natural" phenomena. The point is in the so-called "aesthetics of absence", that use-value is the only value. It is actually the absence of aesthetics. If there is any other semiotic intended or inferred, it is the picture of a dead and buried world.

 


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