Chris: If a grandmother makes a birthday cake for her son's daughter (certainly a product of labour) - or gives 3 hours of her time baby-sitting (also a very useful product of labour although it does not have a form embodied in an object) the grandmother loses control of the product. She does it because she lives in a social relationship - in a matrix of interconnections that are part of the collective social life process. These can of course go wrong.
If her son is forced by the turbulent developments of global capitalism to migrate thousands of miles to sell his labour power, she may have little future contact with him or with her grandaughter. When she is old and frail, they may not care for her physical needs. If under the pressure of modern society her son and her daughter in law divorce, she may never see the grandaughter again. Such loss of control over products of labour are not a hall-mark of commodities.
Juan: To begin with, I did not say anything about the historical specificity of commodity-producers arising from their lose of control on their material products, but from their lack of control on the social character of their individual labour, albeit they consciously rule the latter as free persons. It is this lack of control that makes these material products to face their own producers as an autonomous power that domains them. Yet, Chris gives a further step into this inversion, by mixing up the autonomy of commodities with respect to their producers, with the autonomy of human individuals with respect to the social labour that produces the use values they individually consume to produce their own persons. Grandma is the human subject in the process of producing social use values as the cake or baby-sitting, but granddaughter is the human subject in the process of individually appropriating these use values to reproduce herself. Obviously, the most general product of human activity is human life, and therefore, human beings themselves. So anyone is in this sense the product of other's social labour. But only in a society where the general social relation among individuals takes the concrete form of an attribute inherent in the material product itself of social labour, could the result of individual consumption get mixed up with the result of social productive consumption. Not in vain, the individual consumption of the wage labourer is in itself the process of producing the only commodity he owns to sell.
Chris' inversion arises from the actual determinations of commodity production and, more specifically, of capitalist production. Therefore, Chris' characters provide us with a very illustrative reference to get into the question about the extent in which the organisation of social labour through its concrete form of private labour necessarily realises itself by determining the consciousness of individuals as an alienated one, with greater detail.
Let us start at the point Grandma is happily living with her son, and his wife and daughter, and makes her tasty birthday cake. In the first place, she has expended her labour power by performing a productive labour and not a consumptive one, since the material outcome is an external object different from her own person. In the second place, she has performed a social labour, since the product is not for her individual consumption (let us assume that by now Grandma suffers from a little diabetes), but useful for others. Therefore, her cake actually is the materialisation of an expenditure of human brains, muscles, etc., under a concrete particular form; that is to say, Grandma's cake embodies human abstract and concrete social labour. So Grandma has performed what could seem a very difficult task: she has put into action a part of society's total labour power, and consciously applied it under the specific concrete forms needed to make that so desirable cake. How has she managed to solve such a task?
Let us start by considering the individual character of her labour. This is simple: she applied her conscious knowledge about how cakes are made to rule the process of making it. But how she knew she should apply her part in society's total labour power precisely under this socially useful concrete shape. At first sight, Grandma seems to be a free person, not subjected to anyone's personal domination. Yet, she feels tied by her love to her granddaughter over any other circumstance in the whole world. And it is through this direct personal relationship that she keeps with her, and with her parents of course, that her labour power has been applied under the socially useful form of making a cake with no further ado. And since the organisation of the social character of her labour is limited by her personal family ties, the same happens to the social character of her product. It is a condition to take part in the appropriation of the cake's use value (to eat it), being included inside this direct personal relationship. Perhaps Grandma cannot recognise any longer all her relatives coming to the party (memory is sometimes failing her, you know), and does not even know her granddaughter's friends, but she certainly does not make the cake for just any kid walking down the street.
Before letting Grandma rest for a while, let us suppose that she is far more senile than what her family imagined when she announced she was going to make the cake. Unfortunately, she mistakes salt for sugar. Now the cake is uneatable. Therefore, Grandma has spent her part in society's total labour power in a useless way; she has not produced a use value. Although she has not contributed to the social product, next day she will have her place at the family table as always, thus receiving her share in the social product.
Now let us move next door, to the bakery where son rushed to buy a cake after Grandma's disaster. Let us assume it belongs to a baker that works all by himself. Mr. A. Baker is an excellent man, loving father, best husband, who always remembers his clients' tastes so they really feel at home as soon as they go into his shop. Yet, from Mr. A. Baker's social point of view, all his clients have one and the same face, money. Every day he has to solve the question about the concrete form in which he will spend his share in society's total labour power. In addition, he is completely free of any personal bond to decide on what, how, how much, he must produce. He is even freer than Grandma since, in this sense, even his family ties cannot tell him what to do. But this freedom comes at a price. If he makes a mistake of the sort that Grandma did, he will not be able to sell his cakes. Then, he will not get the money he needs to buy meat, vegetables, etc., and the next day his table will be empty. So he needs to exercise the conscious organisation of his individual labour in a far more careful way than that required by any form of submission to a direct personal relationship. Even if a slave makes a mistake, it is in the interest of his owner that he goes on reproducing his labour power (this includes the case where the mutilation or slaughtering of an individual slave actually served as a way for the reproduction of slavery itself). But here it is Mr. A. Baker's business only. Therefore, on looking him, we see the productive powers of isolated individual labour at their best.
Still, the very form in which this individual labour thus develops its powers tells us that Mr. A. Baker lacks all control of the social character of his labour. This character confronts him as a social attribute embodied in the materiality itself of his product. He has to produce a use value able to relate in exchange with the use values he needs, or in other words, he has to produce something valuable in exchange, an exchange value. He is the freest individual in history and, yet, he is the most socially dependent individual in history: his individual consumption does not only depend on what others produce through the social division of labour, but it depends on others' consumption; to buy, one has to sell first.
Then, how is it that Mr. A. Baker decides every day what and how to produce? This is his private affair. Which means everybody else's consciousness and will is excluded from this decision, but, at the same time, that his consciousness and will is excluded from everybody else's respective decision too. He, and the rest involved, face each other as private independent producers. Still, the sum of these private decisions does not just produce chaos, but rather the reproduction of social life. How is it that society solves the question of allocating its total labour power under this one's useful concrete forms through the web of private labours? It does so by determining the products of social labour as commodities. In other words, it does so by representing the portion of the total social labour that is privately expended to produce a commodity as the capacity of the commodity to relate with other commodities as an equivalent in exchange (at the market). In brief, by representing the amount of socially necessary abstract labour privately embodied in a commodity as its value.
At the very moment he privately performs his social labour, Mr. A. Baker, as any other commodity producer, cannot take for granted he is actually performing a socially useful labour and, as such, a labour useful for himself. He can only become positive about it at the very moment he sells his cakes. The social interdependence of the independent private producers thus takes the concrete shape of being an attribute beard, independently of their individual consciousness and will, by the material products of their labour. In other words, their social interdependence faces them as a direct social relationship among the commodities they produce, that when objectively realise this relationship, become able to socially relate their producers.
This fact has decisive consequences on Mr. A. Baker's free consciousness and will (among many other things, for the benefit of Chris' profession). Since Mr. A. Baker is a free man, he becomes determined to consciously apply his full consciousness and will to produce only things that can be sold at their best possible value. The first condition his consciousness and will must satisfy to become socially useful, and only thus useful for himself, is to devote themselves to make products as saleable as possible. They must immediately satisfy every caprice that the value-form of their products tells them to obey.
Funny inversion, isn't it? (in the Spanish sense of the word, of course). Because he is a free man, not subordinated to anyone else's will, Mr. A. Baker needs to behave as the conscious and willing servant of the material products of his own social labour. He, a free person, actually has to behave as the abject personification of an object. However humiliating to free human nature this inversion might seem, let us consider it a little closer. When we do so, the result is a harder slap in the face of the "free nature" of human beings. It is not because Mr. A. Baker is a free man that he comes to such a subordination. It is the other way round. It is because he produces commodities, that the material process of producing his life produces for him the consciousness of a free man. He is a free man only because his consciousness and will are alienated as the social powers of the product of his social labour. He is a free man only because, from the social point of view, he does not count as a person but as a personification. Only provided he has accomplished with the activities that inhere him as a personification, he can satisfy the attributes that inhere him as a person: to be that loving father, first of all he must be able to feed his family, etc. His free consciousness is just the concrete form taken by his alienated consciousness. In his historical nature, above all he is an alienated human being.
Let us consider a last point concerning Mr. A Baker's social labour. After making his cakes, that is, after hopefully having expended his share in society's total labour power producing a use value that embodies the proper amount of socially necessary abstract labour, Mr. Baker has to spend more time in the process of selling his cakes. During this time, he spends another part of his share in society's total labour power. He spends human brains, muscles, etc. under a certain concrete form able to achieve its ends. And, obviously, this expenditure is a condition for the reproduction of social life, given its general mode of organisation. Yet, whether he sells all his cakes in a blink or he has to stay at his shop till night to do so, during the time he spends to sell his commodities he does not add even a bit of use value to the total social mass of use values available at the very moment he finished his productive labour. Hence, during the period in which he is strictly devoted to representing his commodities at the marketplace, that is, while he acts as a pure personification of the commodity-form of his product, he does not add value to it however much labour this activity takes. So, the more he is devoted to selling his commodity, the less he can dispose of his time to produce value.
We have considered the consciousness of the private independent producer, and yet we are still far from reaching the point where we would face again the manner in which social labour is allocated inside the household, to look at the degree of autonomy form the commodity-relation that it could provide to the workers consciousness in capitalist society. Since this will be a long story, let us stop here with the first instalment.
Andy: ... I agreed with everything in your last mail, up until suddenly, in the penultimate paragraph, under the guise of the division of time the propreitor Mr. A. Baker is obliged to make to realise the value of his own labour, you introduce what to me is an arbitrary division in social labour.
Let me put this in the form of continuing the story of Grandma, her son and Mr. Baker:— The family has become so fond of Grandma's cakes that they want to honour her by asking Mr Baker to come around to their house and make the family a whole dinner in their own kitchen. Mr. Baker sends his apprentice Ms. Cook (who is on a wage) who uses all the materials and implements in their kitchen to cook a meal. ...
Andy: ... everything you say about the cook I agree with. I just want to reserve one question. There are financial services which appear to fall squarely into the basket of unproductive labour, and your debt-collecting is an example. For my part I am not convinced that it is still useful to have a special category of "unproductive labour" (well OK, police, military, and probably debt collecting!). If we look at the relation between commerce and production, then we must find that the dichotomy is relative in just the same way that consumption and production are only two aspects of the same. ...
Juan: I am not sure to follow your objection about productive and unproductive labour. To begin with, it does not makes any difference for the unproductiveness of the labour applied to the circulation of commodities that it is performed by an independent direct producer, a capitalist or a wage labourer. What matters is that this sort of labour does not change, neither in quantity nor in quality, the amount of use values that society has at its disposition before and after it is performed. The cook of your example performs a productive labour. She takes some use values and changes their aptitude to satisfy human needs, thus producing a new use value. The corresponding part of the cook's share in society's total labour power is allocated under its concrete form of a cooking service by giving the abstract social necessary labour materialised in the new use value by the performance of this service, the form of a commodity. The way in which the cook and her employer appropriate a share in the value produced by her does not change the determination of this value in the least. Now, suppose that the people that live next door are bad payers, and the baker sends Ms. Cook once and again to collect the bill. However much time she could consume in this task, she would not add another use value to society's total pot and, hence will not produce value. I will get again into the question on considering the development of the circulation of capital as a task that the development of capitalism necessarily puts in the hands of the collective wage labourer.
Let us get back to the subject by assuming that the bakery next to Grandma's home does not belong to an independent producer of commodities, but to a capitalist. Mr. A. Capitalist has enough with managing his business, so he has freed himself from taking any direct part in the process of producing cakes. This is his employees' job. Therefore, we find here some very busy persons making one cake after the other. Let us consider any of them, for instance, Mr. W. Labourer. How is it that Mr. W. Labourer knows that he must apply his share in society's total labour power under the concrete form of producing cakes that are Mr. A. Capitalist's private property?
To begin with, as good as he is at making cakes, Mr. W. Labourer does not own the means to produce them by his own. In fact, he does not own the means of production on which he could apply his productive labour to produce any commodity at all by his own, nor even to produce the use values he and his family daily need to consume to go on with their lives. Therefore, he must buy these means of consumption. But we have seen that, to buy a commodity, one has first to sell another one. And, thus far, to sell a commodity one has to start by producing it. That is, one has to expend a certain part of one's share in society's total labour power to produce something useless for one's own consumption, but useful for others that can buy it, thus confirming that that expenditure has been performed under a socially useful concrete form. And Mr. W. Labourer starts by being excluded from the possibility of doing so in a productive way by his own. Yet, it is precisely what Mr. W. Labourer actually does each time he individually consumes. This consumption reproduces his labour power, which is useless as such for himself since he cannot put it into action by himself, but that, at the same time, can be truly useful for the capitalist who buys it. Therefore, his own labour power becomes the only commodity Mr. W. Labourer can produce as his own private property.
There is a subtle difference between the process that produces any other commodity and that that produces labour power as a commodity. The former involves the productive consumption of human brains, body, etc. privately performed under a certain concrete form, whose social usefulness will be confirmed only with the selling of the commodity. The latter involves exactly the same steps, only that the commodity is not the result of a productive consumption but of an individual consumption. Let us recall that Mr. A. Baker has to start by applying his consciousness and will in the service of his commodities, he has to behave as their personification, to enjoy his attributes as a person, to individually consume together with his family. On the contrary, for Mr. W. Labourer, the immediate process of producing himself as a person actually is the process of producing himself as the personification of his commodity. Therefore, he has to rule his own individual consumption by applying his consciousness and will at the service of the production of his labour power as an object embodying value.
If Mr. A. Baker mistakenly used too much salt in his cakes, he could not sell them and, so, he could not buy those salty chips he enjoys so much. But how salty these chips are, making his blood pressure rise out of control, still remains his own personal affair. On the contrary, if Mr. W. Labourer mistakenly puts to much salt into his food, he deteriorates the quality of the only commodity he owns to sale, lowering its value or directly depleting it of any value at all. Mr. W. Labourer is a free person to choose what he will consume, only because his consciousness and will make him consume what is needed to reproduce his labour power under the moral and material shape needed by capital to exploit it. Of course, this does not mean that capital's only worry is to have a healthy Mr. W. Labourer. For example, the determination of his consciousness and will can include the compulsion of getting drunk each weekend, so he could tolerate the self-denying needed to go on labouring and reproducing his labour power under these conditions that, at the same time that reproduce his natural life, can only do so by mutilating his individual human subjectivity.
It happens that Mr. W. Labourer is not just the same sort of free person as Mr. A. Baker, who was such only because he faced the social character of his own labour as a power belonging to its material product. Mr. W. Labourer does not face only his material product as an alien power, but the material conditions to produce it too. He is a free person in a double sense: he is not subjected to anyone's personal domination and, at the same time, he is socially separated from the means needed to exercise his labour to produce his living by himself.
The value of a commodity is the way in which the socially necessary abstract labour privately expended to produce it, represents itself as the capacity of that commodity to relate with the rest in exchange, thus socially relating its producer. The process of producing one's own labour power does not involve a direct expenditure of social productive labour, but only of individual consumptive labour. Therefore, the value of labour power is determined by the socially necessary abstract labour privately expended to produce the use values consumed by the labourer. That is, it is about a process in which some use values (the means of consumption), that once were socially confirmed as such through their buying by Mr. W. Labourer, are transformed into a new use value (the labour power) through a process of individual consumption, and therefore, the socially necessary abstract labour expended in their production must be confirmed again as still being such under the new material form they have taken.
Now, Mr. W. Labourer does not live alone. Suppose that he lives with his mother, his wife and their daughter too. And his mother enjoys making birthday cakes for her granddaughter as much as our starting Grandma does. To do so, she buys the ingredients with his son's wage and applies her labour power to transform them into the cake. Mr. W. Labourer eats his piece of cake, thus reproducing his labour power in the corresponding proportion (which means both renewing his physical strength and feeling that his happy family is worth the trouble). We have already seen that, by producing the cake, Grandma allocates a portion of society's total labour power under a certain concrete form. Yet, as we have seen too, this allocation is ruled by her direct personal relationships; in this case, her family relationship. Therefore, from society's general point of view, that is, in what concerns Mr. W. Labourer's general social relation, the only part of the total social labour whose allocation under the concrete form of Mr. W. Labourer's renewed labour power has yet to be solved, is that which has been previously allocated under the form of the commodities bought to achieve that reproduction. Let us suppose that Mr. W. Labourer's mother becomes senile too, but her family direct personal relationship enables her to go on and on mistaking salt for sugar (she has always been a dominant woman). The moment will come in which Mr. W. Labourer's wage has been spent in a useless way from society's general point of view, that is, without reproducing his labour power with the attributes that capital demands from it. On losing its use value for its buyer, Mr. W. Labourer's labour power loses its value. Then, Mr. W. Labourer and his family lose the very possibility of reproducing their natural lives. Therefore, however ruled by the consciousness and will that correspond to the family direct personal relations, and however freed from the necessity of creating value by itself, the productive social labour performed in the household has to subordinate itself to the value-form of the labour power the household produces to be sold. Those consciousness and will are determined themselves as a personification of this commodity. The example given by Chris just shows how the necessity of this subordination of family direct relationships to the production of labour power as a commodity carries in itself the necessity of their complete breaking up.
Let us go back to those happy days, before Grandma's senility. The reproduction of Mr. W. Labourer's labour power requires Grandma's labour producing cakes and, moreover, his wife's full-time labour inside the household. And both women need to consume commodities to reproduce themselves. Since this consumption of labour power inside the household is needed to produce Mr. W. Labourer's own labour power under a sellable shape, the value of all the commodities needed to reproduce the labour power expended in the household is a part of the value of Mr. W. Labourer's labour power. At the same time, the value of Mr. W. Labourer's labour power includes the value of the commodities needed to produce the labour power of his daughter. In due time, she will replace her mother and her grandmother in the process of producing in the household the labour power needed at that time by capital, or become herself a seller of labour power, or both things together. (By the way, the reference to this family structure does not obey to some sort of male chauvinism, but to the fact that we have not seen yet the emergence of the material conditions inside the general process of production that transform feminine labour power into a commodity itself, thus determining women's consciousness and will as a direct personification of this commodity)
It is time to leave behind the production of Mr. W. Labourer's labour power inside his household, to face the general social content of the process in which this labour power is productively consumed for the sake of capital accumulation. Inside his household, Mr. W. Labourer could even look as the master of the universe to some troglodyte: everything gravitated around the production of his labour power, and he was the only one to carry in his pocket the general social relation of all the other members of his family, money. But inside the capitalist production process, it becomes apparent that he is just a forced labourer. Under the appearance of his possibility of changing the individual capital he works for, he cannot escape from selling once and again his labour power just to be able to reproduce it. He is the forced labourer of the collection of the individual capitals existing in society, or, of total social capital. And being the forced labourer of capital does not only mean that he must sell his labour power just to reproduce it. It means that he has to sell it for more time than that needed to produce the commodities he needs to buy to achieve that reproduction. It happens that, from capital's point of view, being a productive labourer does not involve producing value, but producing surplus value. Yet, there is more. Mr. W. Labourer is not only the forced labourer of capital, which means working beyond the time socially needed to reproduce his labour power for free, but capital pays him his labour power with the product of his own unpaid surplus labour.
Capital does not need to use any direct coercion on Mr. W. Labourer to achieve such a result. On the contrary, Mr. W. Labourer himself is the first one willing to sell his labour power under these conditions that sentence him to be a lifetime forced labourer, to work daily for more time that he is paid for, and to receive in payment the very product of his unpaid labour. What kind of an idiot or a masochist is he to be so anxious of being cheated so? None. He is just a person as free as, and rather freer than, any other owner of a commodity is. As we have seen, the free consciousness and will of the owners of commodities are the necessary concrete forms taken by the alienation of the powers of their social labour as the social powers of the material product of this labour. In addition, even Mr. W. Labourer's individual consumption has shown to be the realization of a social power of the material product of his unpaid labour, capital. Capital, his materialized general social relation that has determined itself as the concrete subject of social life to the extreme of producing human beings for itself, provides Mr. W. Labourer with a free consciousness and will as the necessary concrete form in which his alienation realizes itself.
Still, what does capital get from Mr. W. Labourer's forced labour by giving it the concrete form of being an attribute of a consciousness and will that sees itself as a free one? We have already seen that, as an individual freed from any personal subjection, Mr. W. Labourer has to take care for himself of the process of daily reproducing his own labour power. If he fails on doing so, the loss for capital does not go beyond the effort needed to look for another free labourer sufficiently aware of his own responsibilities for himself and, therefore, for capital itself. On the contrary, a slave's lack of interest in reproducing his own labour power means a direct patrimonial loss for his owner. Still, the secret of capital's necessity of alienation taking the concrete form of a free consciousness and will lies in what it gets from the latter inside the production process.
Since Mr. A. Capitalist has bought Mr. W. Labourer's labour power for the day, the first thing that the latter has to do inside the workshop is to subordinate his free consciousness and will to the direct authority of the former. It is an attribute of the capitalist's consciousness and will to tell him what, how and how much to produce. Does it mean that Mr. W. Labourer has to leave at the bakery's door the productive powers given to his individual labour by his commodity-owner free consciousness and will? Quite the opposite. He has to apply those individual productive powers to fulfil Mr. A. Capitalist commands. When Mr. A. Baker, the independent producer of commodities, mistook salt for sugar, the market remembered him it was his own business to apply the full attributes that inhere him as a free person to control his individual labour process. As we said, his were the productive powers of isolated individual free labour at their best. Now, if Mr. W. Labourer is not attentive enough at work and he mistakes salt for sugar, the market will not tell him, but his employer, that he is misbehaving from a social point of view. Of course, this will happen provided Mr. A. Capitalist's direct control on Mr. W. Labourer's labour did not noticed Mr. W. Labourer distraction before those nasty cakes where sold. In any case, Mr. A. Capitalist will be in charge of remembering Mr. W. Labourer the duties that concern him as a free person, by freely firing him. Hence, his are the productive powers of individual free labour carried a step beyond Mr. A. Baker's ones. They do not belong to the application of an isolated individual free consciousness and will, but to the application of a free consciousness and will under the direct control of another's individual free consciousness and will, that is to say, under a direct social control. Of course, this social control is restricted to the private nature of the workplace in which it takes place.
Capital can only appropriate these productive powers of individual free labour under direct conscious control, because it produces the forced labourers in which they are embodied under the concrete form of individuals that bear a free consciousness and will. Thus, the forced character of labour by selling one's labour power just to reproduce it, takes the concrete form of the freedom to sell the commodity one owns. The labourer's obligation to render unpaid surplus labour takes the concrete form of an exchange of equivalents in which all labour is paid. The fact that the labourer is dispossessed of the product of his social labour, and that even the paid part of his social labour is paid with that same dispossessed product, takes the concrete form of being the complete realisation of the labourer's property rights on his own product. And a social process that lacks any immediate object other than the accumulation of capital, takes the concrete form of a process that simply emerges from everybody pursuing his/her self-interest.
His condition as a doubly free labourer turns Mr. W. Labourer's subjectivity into the most powerful expression of the productive powers of individual labour seen thus far in history. Yet, at the same time, his own subjectivity faces him as an alien power with an extension never seen before either. As it happens with any producer of commodities, he lacks all control upon the social character of his labour. So the social powers of his labour face him as an attribute inherent in the materiality itself of his labour's product. He has to subordinate his consciousness and will to serve the necessities of the only commodity he produces and owns as his private property; that is, his labour power. But this is only the first step of the alienation of his human powers as the social powers of the product of his privately preformed social labour. The material product of the productive consumption of his labour power does not belong to him, but to the capitalist. Not only the social organization of his labour faces him as an alien power inhering in the material product of that labour, but also this material product itself faces him as an alien property. Still, this is only the formal determination of his alienation. The real determination of his alienation is that Mr. W. Labourer is not the concrete subject of the process of social production in which he participates. The social form of the product of his own productive labour, capital, has taken this place. And it is capital that produces and reproduces Mr. W. Labourer, to the extreme of imposing on him the concrete forms that his individual consumption needs to take (which include not consuming at all, as we will see later). All the powers of his social labour, therefore, his very generic human being, face him as the alien powers of capital.
It is now the turn for the mutation from Mr. A. Baker's consciousness and will to Mr. A. Capitalist's ones. But it will have to wait for another couple of days.
Chris: It is difficult to justice to this elegant and extensive demonstration of a dialectical approach to the processes of private and social labour.
My main paradigm was not really in this idiom. It was one of seeing the labour that goes into making commodities as a subset of the total labour that recreates the whole society.
That is what it is. Only that, in the capitalist mode of production, it is not just a subset among others, but the general subset of social labor. And not just the general one, but that which carries in itself, albeit as an alienated power, the necessity of turning all the other subsets into its own domain. Which means not only ruling them according to its own purpose, but to dissolve them into itself. On doing so, and capitalism only can do it in the most brutal way, it achieves its historical necessity of producing the sort of laborer able to rule in a complete conscious mode its own social labor, an universal laborer.
Chris: Only a few points where I can see room to comment:
Then, how is it that Mr. A. Baker decides every day what and how to produce? This is his private affair. Which means everybody else's consciousness and will is excluded from this decision, but, at the same time, that his consciousness and will is excluded from everybody else's respective decision too.
This I do not resonate with. Mr Baker's daily decisions are influenced substantially by his semi-consciousness, and this interpenetrates in turn with the semi-consciousness of all other members of the society. Creating a shifting concensus about what is useful. IMO.
However influenced Mr. Baker's daily decisions could be, and they certainly are (I would not call it a matter of semi-consciousness but of a consciousness that sustains itself on more immediate or more mediate appearances), they still remain exclusively his own. As well as his influence on other's does not make their decisions his attribute. If he could decide for another private producer, or vice versa, then they would not be such. "Private" means the exclusion of others from somebody's exercise of an attribute.
If Mr. Baker insists in following mistaken advises, and goes bankrupt, he could try to find some relief by blaming his advisors at Chris' office, but this procedure will show to be completely useless at the commercial court where only his general social relationship will be at stake. And, actually, Chris himself will attempt at making Mr. Baker understand "his" decisions are "his" decisions, as a necessary step forward in his therapy. Which means that Chris sees in him, above all, an individual that has to assert himself as being independent from any immediate social link. Not to mention when it is time to pay the fees.
He, and the rest involved, face each other as private independent producers.
Chris: But also still as members of an organic society.
Only through the mediation of the appearance (and this means not just a mistaken perception, but the actual concrete form in which that that they essentially are takes concrete opposite form) of being mutually independent individuals. Whichever the historical form social labor is organized, the powers of individual labor are a concrete form determined by this labor's social nature. Therefore, whatever the private producers of commodities could do, they do it as a concrete form of society's organicity.
What is peculiar to a commodity-producing society is that this organicity realizes itself under the concrete form of the nonexistence of any organicity whatsoever. That is to say, social labor is organized and performed under the concrete form of its opposite, private labor. Then, the products of the social labor performed as private labor become the bearers of the general social relationship, or, the general organization of social production (hence, of social life) takes concrete shape through commodity exchange, the market. What actually are the products of society's organic activity take the concrete form (immediately existing from the individual point of view of their producers and as such the actual one concerning their individual behavior) of an alienated power that imposes itself upon the, in appearance, independent and free individuals
Still, the sum of these private decisions does not just produce chaos, but rather the reproduction of social life.
Chris: No, this is the model Marx uses for explaining the social nature of the capitalist means of production despite the intense individualism of its supposed method of functioning.
The reproduction of the wider social life is not done through "private" decisions but by decisions that always exist in a social context of which the actor is exquisitely sensitive.
The very use of the term "context" points out to what a degree the individual actor appears in commodity production as an independent individual by nature. In fact, the actor is social life itself, under the only concrete form it can realize itself, individual acting. Instead of seeing his decision as what it is in essence, a social action, the individual actor has to see it as what it is for its form, an individual action that needs to keep an external relationship with the rest of individual actions.
How is it that society solves the question of allocating its total labor power under this one's useful concrete forms through the web of private labors? It does so by determining the products of social labor as commodities.
Chris: This may be a self-defining tautology if by labour power Juan means the commodity. I am interested in the commodity but also the wider processes of socially relevant human activity which leads grandma still to attempt to bake birthday cakes for her spoilt granddaughter even though grandma herself is dementing and diabetic.
This leads to grandma being "valued" as a person in the social sense, and not the sense of exchange value. She does not get exchanged as a result. Instead she gets loved by other members of her family who care for her effectively (with the exception of her spoilt grandaughter) until she slips into her final sleep.
Perhaps that is the difference between working for exchange of commodities, and working for co-dependency.
The precise meaning of Chris' possible objection escapes me. Yet, I will consider what follows in Chris' reply.
It is because I am interested in the wider processes of socially relevant human activity, that I am interested in the commodity. Moreover, what immediately interests me is _my_ activity. To me, everything starts from the "what is to be done" question, and more concretely, from the "what I am supposed to do" question. Therefore, to me, the process of consciously discovering the determinations of one's concrete action is, in itself, the process of consciously ruling this action. That is to say, the process of knowledge is not a means to rule one's action, but it is itself the process of consciously organizing one's action. And it happens that, in capitalist society, this process of consciously ruling one's action discovers that our most general social relationship, and therefore, the one that imposes itself over the rest of our social relations by determining them as its necessary concrete form of realizing itself, takes the simplest specific shape of a commodity. Therefore, it is by reproducing in thought the determinations inherent in the commodity that one discovers the historical specificity of those, in appearance, other social relationships, and can turn them into the vehicle of one's conscious action.
Working for exchange of commodities is the most general, the most universal, form of working for codependency that humanity has developed thus far. Yet, again, the private concrete shape that social labor takes in it, makes it appear as the very opposite of codependence. The difference is between a universal social codependence (commodity exchange) and some restricted forms of codependence through direct personal relationships. In this sense, family is a much more mean form of human relationship, since it excludes from its social scope almost the complete humanity, making grandma to discriminate _her_ granddaughter from any other girl, etc.; speaking about private ambits ...
The historical virtue of the commodity relation (actually, of its concrete determination as capital) is that, since it transforms those social restricted ambits into forms of realizing itself, it advances by dissolving them into an increasingly universal codependency. An universal codependency that, precisely for being the product of a social relationship that faces the codependents as an alien power imposed upon their, in appearance, absence of codependence, can only go on realizing itself through the very negation of that alienation, that is to say, as a directly conscious codependency.
Funny inversion, isn't it? (in the Spanish sense of the word, of course).
Chris: What is that meaning please? I am not sure I understand it.
In Spanish, to be funny (gracioso/a) has no connotation related to a queer situation, but to a grotesque one: the irony of someone that sees himself as a free individual and actually is the servant, not even of another individual, but of the material object that is his property.
Mr. Baker has to spend more time in the process of selling his cakes. During this time, he spends another part of his share in society's total labor power. He spends human brains, muscles, etc. under a certain concrete form able to achieve its ends. And, obviously, this expenditure is a condition for the reproduction of social life, given its general mode of organization. Yet, whether he sells all his cakes in a blink or he has to stay at his shop till night to do so, during the time he spends to sell his commodities he does not add even a bit of use value to the total social mass of use values available at the very moment he finished his productive labor.
Chris: This is about the circulation of commodities and is perhaps a different point. However I do not quite agree with the way this is put. Use values exist concretely in space and time. Whether a cake can be a use value for a purchaser depends on whether the shop is open till late.
Marxism must adapt its presentation slightly to accommodate these points so that it is not left aside by advanced capitalist economies that have most of their jobs in the service sector.
The question that society solves through the commodity form taken by material products is how to allocate its total labor power, that is to say, its total capacity to produce use values, into the concrete forms of labor that produces each of them. This form of allocation has two basic drawbacks from the point of view of society's ability to produce use values, hence, its life. Both arise from the fact that social labor is performed under the concrete form of private labor.
The first one is that social labor power can be expended in a socially useless way, that is to say, producing an object that is not a use value. The second one is that, since the confirmation of the product of private labor as a product of social labor is a process that needs time to develop itself, and since commodities cannot sell and buy themselves but need a human personification of their social powers, the transformation of commodities into money and of money into commodities is a labor consuming activity. Due to this fact, society has to deduct from its total capacity to produce use values, hence again, human life, the part of its total labor power needed to perform that transformation. The labor consumed for the selling of commodities is a deduction from productive labor power, not an addition to it. And value only concerns the allocation of productive social labor.
Of course, this fact appears completely inverted in the immediate expressions of capital circulation, through the formation of the concrete forms of the general rate of profit; but this goes beyond what matters here.
Let us consider Chris' cake. If the labor needed to sell it were able to add value to it, then unsold cakes would become more and more expensive as the day goes by. Rather, things go the other way round. After watching hour after hour that nobody is interested in his cakes, Mr. Baker will begin to understand that not only his time at the shop does not add value to them, but that probably they do not even represent the value he has assumed they embodied when he put on them the price tags.
At 3 AM, the cakes quietly resting in the refrigerator of the bakery have not lost a bit of their use value. Whether this use value emerges from a consumer's hunger or from his most hidden fantasies, it is inseparable from the materiality itself of the cake. There is no way of appropriating that use value, that is to say, of satisfying the necessity that confronts it as such a use value, other than by appropriating its materiality in a suitable way. What normally happens with a sudden 3 AM desire for a purchased cake, is not that it turns cakes at the bakery into use values, but that these already existing use values remain beyond the reach of the desiring person, thus turning him/her into a frustrated consumer.
Now let us assume that this is really a sadistic personality, whose desire for 3 AM purchased cakes arises only from the pleasure of being served by other people at work at such an hour. In this case, the labor needed to keep the bakery open at 3 AM produces by itself the quality materialized in the product, and counts as a part of society's total productive labor. Consequently, it adds the value that represents it to the one already embodied in the cake by the labor needed to make it.
Still, this sort of subtlety ends up diluted in the average through which all the determinations of the commodity-form realize themselves. The point concerning the productive character of "services" is to distinguish between those that produce use values that get into the metabolic process of society with nature (however perverse this use values could be for human life and for nature, so again, for human life), and those whose only use value is to make this process possible by transforming commodities into money and vice versa (This differentiation does not include yet the services whose material object is to subject the working class to the direct control of capital, given the antagonistic nature of capitalist society).
And, yes, advanced capitalism (to use Chris' words) does really impressing things with productive labor in the service sector. It has turned the scientifically based ability to cheat other people into productive labor. When advertising convinces us that a piece of shit actually is a must, it does not achieve the transformation of an existing commodity into money, but the transformation of an useless object into a commodity. The use value of this commodity arises from the labor that produces its materiality as much as from the labor that transforms this materiality into a desirable thing.
Juan: Let us look at Mr. A. Capitalist. As it happens to any other owner of a commodity, Mr. A. Capitalist can only exercise his general social relationship by putting his consciousness and will at the service of his commodity's social necessities and powers. Still, his commodity gets into social touch with the rest of them, that is to say, enters its exchange relationship in circulation, under a peculiar form. It does not take the shape of a particular product that has yet to prove that the concrete labor that produced it was a properly allocated portion of society's total labor power privately expended. On the contrary, it has the material form of the general representative of all commodities, of their general equivalent, substantiated value itself, money. Therefore, to exercise his general social relationship embodied in his commodity, Mr. A. Capitalist does not have to start by selling in order to buy, but he has to start by buying in order to sell. And since he ends the circuit of metamorphosis of his commodity by selling it, he ends up with his commodity returned to its original form, money.
Still, his commodity does not leave the safety of being the material product of a concrete privately performed labor that reigns upon the commodities' world as the immediate representative of embodied socially necessary abstract labor, to take the shape of a bunch of particular commodities, that in turn suffer the transformation of their material shape in the process of producing a new commodity, which has then to undergo its confirmation still as a materialization of useful social labor privately expended, just because. His commodity goes through all this risky trouble just to return to the form it started from, in order to realize the only necessity that could concern it as substantiated value: to increase its own substance, to become more substantiated value than it was, to valorize itself, to be capital. And, actually, since the achievement of this quantitative difference is the only quality that concerns it, capital needs to go once and again through this process of producing itself. In other words, the only necessity that inheres in capital as such is to produce surplus value in an increased scale, is to accumulate itself.
Capital is just the product of human conscious and voluntary activity upon nature to transform this one into a means for human life, that is to say, the product of society's labor. In other words, capital is just a historical product of the generic human being. More precisely, capital is a historical concrete form through which this generic human being realizes itself. Nevertheless, as that concrete form, capital is the materialized general social relation that has turned itself into the concrete subject of social production. It is capital that puts human labor into action to achieve its own aim, that is to say, just to produce more of the materialized general social relationship that only carries in itself the necessity of producing more of itself. Only as much as capital needs labor power to feed itself, it produces the human beings that it determines as the bearers of that labor power. Capital is the exercise by humanity of its generic being alienated as an autonomous power of the concrete form in which this generic human being realizes itself.
Thus, Mr. A. Capitalist stands up determined as the direct personification of the autonomous ruling of social life by capital and, therefore, determined as a fanatic of capital accumulation franticly devoted in body and soul to his social duty. Yet, let us start by looking at him not at his bakery, but at home. However much his family and his private life could mean to him, as it happens to any other commodity owner, he cannot leave his condition of being a personification outside his home's door. As a free individual, he could mistake being such an important person as to spend without limit in his family's consumption, or going from one orgy or charity party to the next without taking care of his business, for his social reason of existence as a direct personification of capital. But his own capital will let him know how much it is suffering from such a dissipated behavior for the personification he is. It will do so by losing its competitiveness against the capitals that go on increasing their scale by accumulating the proper proportion of surplus value, through the correct attitude of their owners. And as much as his capital loses competitiveness, so will decrease the surplus value he and his family can individually consume to reproduce their personal lives, until reaching a point where no surplus value at all would remain to enjoy.
Still, this does not mean capital demands from Mr. A. Capitalist to be an anchorite either. If he does not spend enough in his and his family individual consumption (if he does not attend the proper parties, own the proper house, the proper car, send his daughter to the proper school and her mother to the proper retirement home, if he does not attend the proper orgies and charity shows, and so on) the rest of the capitalists he has to make business with will not be able to get in touch with him at those fancy places were so important decisions are made. Moreover, they will start suspecting that his capital is not healthy enough as to allow him to enjoy the proper pleasures of life, and start to fear their own capitals could get infected if they get in contact with it. Not only at his bakery, but at home too, Mr. A. Capitalist has to behave himself as the living personification of his capital. After all, this is not even a burden for him. On the contrary, in pursue of its successful accumulation, capital needs to be personified by individuals proud of being such a personification. So it takes good care in producing Mr. A. Capitalist's consciousness and will not just through the negative path of terrifying him with the visions of an impoverished personal future. Above all, capital produces Mr. A. Capitalist's consciousness and will through the positive path of making him feel proud of being the fanatic personification of capital accumulation. However huge his personal fortune could become, he will not stop to be the unsatisfied personification in pursue of capital's limitless increase. He guides his life by the principle that "the only good capitalist is a coronary-bypassed capitalist." And he takes such a pride in being a personification, that he enjoys claiming about "we, the industry ..." This is why he is always so willing to do to the laborers whatever he does to himself. Yet, let us see if he does to himself what he does to the laborers.
The path has taken us again into Mr. A. Capitalist's bakery. When we first met Mr. W. Laborer, we assumed he was just one among the many laborers working there. Let us assume now, for the sake of simplicity, that he is the only laborer that Mr. A. Capitalist needs to employ to produce the commodities he sells. Furthermore, let us assume that Mr. A. Capitalist just bought an already operating bakery and that the production process under his command is such an easy one that he does not need to technically intervene in it at all (in a further step, the whole development will be focused on this matter). His only duty is to devote himself to valorize his capital.
Above all, being the personification of capital, it is Mr. A. Capitalist's private decision what, how and how much his laborers will produce. It is also his private matter to buy the means of production and the labor power needed to perform that material production, and to sell the produced commodities. In other words, he has to devote his own individual subjectivity to transform money into commodities, and commodities into money (more concretely, money into ovens, flour, sugar, etc. and labor power, and cakes into money), in order to achieve the proper valorization of his capital. In other words, his place is at the shop, while his employee manages himself at the kitchen of the bakery.
Still, to personify his capital, Mr. A. Capitalist has a specific task to perform inside the kitchen of his bakery. He has paid the commodity labor power for its value and, as any other buyer, he wants to appropriate its use value up to the last bit. From capital's point of view, this use value comes down to producing surplus value. Therefore, the appropriation of this use value does not take place at once, but it is a process that unfolds itself along the complete working day. At the same time, Mr. A. Capitalist has nothing personal against Mr. W. Laborer. After all, they are socially related with each other only through the buying and selling of a commodity, that is to say, as personifications of the social powers of an object. Moreover, Mr. A. Capitalist could see in Mr. W. Laborer the personal attributes he values most in a friend. Yet, if he mistakes friendship for the accumulation of capital, and pays Mr. W. Laborer more than the value of his labor power or he lets him put into action less labor than that he could extract from him, he will fail his best friend as a personification, his capital. This could cost him even the definitive loss of this friend, if thus betrayed it cannot survive the unfriendly atmosphere of competition. And together with his capital, his own attributes as its personification will be gone.
As any other buyer of a commodity, Mr. A. Capitalist needs to pay for Mr. W. Laborer's labor power as little value as possible, and get out of it as much use value as possible. And to achieve this result, he needs to count on Mr. W. Laborer's will as a free individual along the working day. It happens that Mr. W. Laborer's free will mediates in the determination of the quality and quantity of the labor he performs and, hence, in the determination of how much surplus value he produces.
Mr. W. Laborer has nothing personal against Mr. A. Capitalist either. Still, if he mistakes friendship for selling his labor power as his only commodity, and accepts to be paid for less than its value or to expend it in an excessive way, he will not be able to reproduce it with the proper attributes capital demands from it. Therefore, he will destroy his own attributes as a personification, and hence, as a person. As any other seller of a commodity, Mr. W. Laborer needs to collect for it as much value as possible, and to deliver as little use value as possible. As the free individual he is, his will can only be placed at restricting the expenditure of his labor power along the working day.
Mr. A. Capitalist and Mr. W. Laborer get into a social relationship with each other that is rooted in the very negation of any direct personal relationship between them. Still, from the very moment they agree in circulation the price that Mr. A. Capitalist will pay for Mr. W. Laborer's labor power, and along the whole working day in which this labor power is put into action, their social relationship necessarily realizes itself through a direct antagonism between them.
Mr. A. Capitalist cannot leave the control on Mr. W. Laborer's behavior as a free laborer in the labor process to the general autonomous ruling of social labor through the exchange of commodities. On doing so, he would notice too late that his capital is not accumulating itself at the due pace. It is his duty as the personification of his capital to remind Mr. W. Laborer in a direct way that he is a free laborer in the double sense of the word, hence a forced laborer for capital. If Mr. W. Laborer does not apply to his work the proper dose of the consciousness and will that corresponds to the first sense of his freedom, Mr. A. Capitalist will take good care in making him understand how hard is its second sense. He will stop buying his labor power, the only commodity that Mr. W. Laborer can produce by himself for himself, provided he constantly sells it.
Thus, Mr. A. Capitalist needs to rule his social relationship inside the portion of social labor he privately owns by the principle that "human beings are good by nature, but keeping an eye on them makes them better." In other words, he has to expend his own labor power to directly control what Mr. W. Laborer does with his labor power while it belongs to him, to Mr. A. Capitalist.
Under the said conditions, Mr. A. Capitalist does not expend an atom of his brains, muscles, etc. to directly increase through this expenditure the mass of use values available for society's metabolism with nature. But he does make an expenditure of human brains, muscles, etc. to make his private decisions on social production, to act in the circulation of the commodities in which his capital takes shape along its turnover circuits, and to control the laborer at work to get as much surplus value as possible out of him. Therefore, he does allocate his share in society's total labor power under a certain concrete useful shape (and he better does) for the concrete subject of social life, capital. Not only that. On doing so, he allocates his laborer's share in society's total labor power under the concrete form needed to produce social use values. Not in vain, Mr. W. Laborer has sold that share to him.
Therefore, in the first place, the individual private expenditure of Mr. A. Capitalist's labor power is of an unproductive nature not only from society's point of view, but for capital too: it does not produce social use values, nor consequently value, and hence, it is sterile to produce surplus value. It has been allocated under its concrete form without needing to produce value, because it is just the necessary unproductive appendix that follows the fate of the one that does it. Still, at the same time, the individual private expenditure of Mr. A. Capitalist's labor power is nothing less than the concrete form taken by the exercise of the consciousness and will that personifies the social powers of the labor privately performed by the laborer under his direct rule.
The labor power that Mr. A. Baker, the private independent producer, specifically expended to act as the personification of his commodity was an unproductive deduction from society's total capacity to perform a materially productive labor. The same happens with Mr. A. Capitalist's whole labor as a capitalist. The necessity of Mr. A. Baker to act as the personification of his commodity, expressed that his consciousness and will freely ruled by themselves his individual labor process but, at the same time, that their were completely impotent to rule the social character of his individual labor. At first sight, there is only a slight change here concerning Mr. A. Capitalist's consciousness and will. They freely rule by themselves an individual labor process, and remain impotent to dominate the social character of this labor, only that it is not about Mr. A. Capitalist's personal labor, but about Mr. W. Laborer's one.
Mr. A. Baker faced the social powers of his individual labor, materialized in the cakes he produced, as an alienated attribute that simply inhered in this product itself. Mr. W. Laborer does not only face the social powers of his individual labor as an attribute inherent in its material product, but as a power that is alien to him as the private property of another individual. It is from this private property on the product, that this other individual, Mr. A. Capitalist, gets the right to socially personify it. Yet, Mr. A. Capitalist is doubly alienated from the social powers of his labor too. He has applied his consciousness and will to rule Mr. W. Laborer's labor. Therefore, the material product of this labor is the product of his social labor too. Still, in the first place, it faces him as a commodity, and moreover as capital. In other words, it faces him as the material bearer of a social power that dominates his consciousness and will. In the second place, as a commodity and as capital, that is to say, as a value and surplus value, it does not embody an atom of Mr. A. Capitalist's own social labor, but only Mr. W. Laborer's social labor, albeit the former expended his complete share in social labor to achieve its production.
Thus far, the transit from Mr. A. Baker to Mr. A. Capitalist and Mr. W. Laborer does not seem to involve a single step towards the overcoming of the alienation of the powers of social labor as the social powers of its material product. On the contrary, all this transit essentially seems to embody, is a further development in this alienation. In the first case, the social production of use values is ruled by these one's value-form. Value itself becomes the direct object of social production. Only by producing value, use values, and hence human beings, are produced. In the second case, capital, substantiated value, has become the subject itself of social production. Only the valorization of value produces use values, and hence, human beings.
Still, a fundamental mutation has taken place inside such a monstrous social desubjectivization of human subjects. What characterized Mr. A. Baker as an independent private producer, was that nobody's consciousness and will could directly rule his individual labor, while at the same time, his consciousness and will lacked any power to directly rule upon social labor. On the contrary, in capitalist production, Mr. W. Laborer's has to consciously and voluntary apply his consciousness and will to rule his individual labor under the direct control and rule of Mr. A. Capitalist's own free consciousness and will. At the same time, Mr. A. Capitalist applies his free consciousness and will not just to rule his own individual labor, but specifically to the direct control upon Mr. W. Laborer's individual free labor. Therefore, Mr. A. Capitalist exercises by himself a direct conscious control upon society's total free labor beyond his personal share in it. In other words, albeit in the alienated name of capital, and restricted to the social scope of his capital, Mr. A. Capitalist exercises the direct free-conscious rule upon individually free-consciously ruled social labor.
Furthermore, we started here by assuming, for the sake of simplicity, that Mr. A. Capitalist employed only one laborer. Still, since social production is ruled by the production and reproduction of surplus value, this is not the norm under capitalism. Normally, Mr. A. Capitalist exercises his private direct free-conscious rule upon an aggregate of individually free-consciously ruled social labors. Therefore, he exercises that rule upon the social labor of a collectivity of free individuals, that is to say, upon a free labor that is performed as a social power even inside the private sphere that cuts out its conscious ruling.
Where there was no place for the conscious ruling of social labor, capital shows that, for being an autonomous system of organizing the process of social metabolism, based as such on the unconsciousness and lack of freedom of the individuals, it necessarily takes concrete form through the conscious direct organization of free social labor. The question we face now is, under which forms and how far does capital need to develop this conscious ruling of free social labor?
Chris: Generally I would see the phenomena Juan describes here, as involving *semi*-consciousness.
Marx's method is dialectical and looks at things from sharply contrasting angles, but the participant in the market is not *totally* blind. By his (her) guesses, and the innumerable guesses of others, a social mind is created that equilibrates around the prevailing use values consumed by that society and the prevailing methods of production.
In another post, I mentioned that I would not call it a matter of semi- consciousness but of a consciousness that sustains itself on more immediate or more mediate appearances. These appearances are not mere illusions, but on the contrary, they are the really existing concrete social forms through which our general social relation realizes itself. They confront us as objective social actualities that our conscious and voluntary action has to deal with.
The problem with naming the resulting consciousness a semi- consciousness and not one that stops at appearances is that the former does not leave place for its differentiation inside itself (to speak about a quarter-consciousness, a two-fifths-consciousness, and so on, would not make sense either). And the point concerning the political action of the working class is that, to each concrete role this political action plays in the development of capitalism (therefore, in its supersession), corresponds a consciousness that rules it by advancing beyond appearances in a certain degree.
For instance, the consciousness that has to be put into action to give the reproduction of capital accumulation the political form of a democratic process, is a consciousness that has to stop at the appearance that this reproduction realizes (however imperfectly) the individual freedom, equality, property and self-interest, that reigns in circulation. The consciousness that has to be put into action to centralize capital in an absolute way as state property has to go beyond the former. Still, it suffices for it to stop at the appearance that it is a free consciousness in itself, the absolute opposite of the consciousness alienated in capital. It does not need to discover its own determination as the necessary concrete form of the alienated consciousness that thus personifies the necessity of capital to accumulate itself without stopping at any specific barrier it could rise against itself. On the contrary, the annihilation of capitalism into the society where the consciousness about one's determination as the direct individual existence of social powers becomes the general social relationship, can only be the product of a consciousness that has advanced beyond any appearance inside capitalism. Therefore, it must have recognized itself as an alienated consciousness that is in itself the negation of alienation.
Chris: The psychological concept of ambivalence may also be relevant here in ways that would have to be elaborated. Certainly it sounds dialectical. "The simultaneous existence of contradictory tendencies, attitudes or feelings, in the relationship to a single object.."
The critique of the concept of ambivalence would take psychology to the critique of its very starting point. That which makes it see the alienated consciousness and will of the personifications of commodities as the natural from of human consciousness and will. Political economy naturalizes the private form in which social labor is performed in capitalist society. It condenses the representation of the in appearance absolutely independent private producer into the category of the Homo Oeconomicus, with his actual complete interdependence represented as the limits that society externally imposes on him.
In turn, psychology takes the same appearance and represents it as the natural constitution of human mind. The, in appearance, complete independence is represented as the natural foundation of human will, the id. The true social interdependence of the individual, that is to say, the powers of his/her generic human being alienated as an attribute of the commodity-form, is represented as the barrier that society imposes on the true human nature. As such, it is represented as a part of human mind that is forced to develop against the in appearance natural constituent, namely, the superego. Then, the consciousness and will of the individual is represented as the external mediation of a third party between the id and the superego, the ego. The ego is the representation of the consciousness and will of an individual that needs to act as a free person to realize his/her determination as an alienated personification, as if it were the natural form of human consciousness and will.
This is the inverted representation of the actual problem that the consciousness and will of any commodity producer constantly have to solve: they can know what, how and how much the individual must produce for society's consumption only by making their orders crash against society's demand in circulation. Since this is the concrete form in which the commodity producers need to make their consciousness and will to behave on exercising their general social relationship, it is the only way in which they can make them to behave at all. Therefore, this is the concrete form in which the consciousness and will of the commodity producers behave concerning their personal relationships, for example, their family relationships.
Given the concrete form in which the consciousness and will of the commodity producers operate, ambivalence is their omnipresent attribute.
Chris: Just one passage for more specific comment.:
"Since Mr. A. Capitalist has bought Mr. W. Laborer's labor power for the day, the first thing that the latter has to do inside the workshop is to subordinate his free consciousness and will to the direct authority of the former. It is an attribute of the capitalist's consciousness and will to tell him what, how and how much to produce."
That is so of the barrack room factory conditions in the first half of the 19th century but it is not always the case. The capitalist may require the worker to use his brain as well as his muscle. This might equally be exhausting - as in jobs requiring long periods of concentrated attention. However other jobs such as service industries may require some conscious creativity. Still other jobs require team working, which has become more sophisticated than being an appendage of a production line.
Applying one's conscious creativity or team working do not mean that the personification of capital has lost the direct control on the free consciousness and will of the laborers. On the contrary, it is that personification that demands from them to behave creatively and to work in teams, under the penalty of being fired. Nevertheless, in due time we will arrive at the stage in which the material conditions of the labor process transforms the consciousness and will of the laborers into the direct personifications of capital, making them to pursue its valorization by themselves.