[OPE-L] New article at artefact

From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Sat Feb 25 2006 - 14:32:02 EST

Rakesh, let me try to reformulate your argument in my own
words, and concentrate on relations of production rather
than distribution.  I think you are saying: even if the
labors of different individuals are not counted by society
as equals, it is a physiological truth that each labor is
the performance of human labor-power, and obviously the
amount of human labor-power available to society is limited.
Therefore it is justified to consider all labor to be a
portion of this use of the limited pool of available human

My answer: of course you can make this calculation, but the
question is whether this calculation matters for society.
When I was working on the assembly line in Detroit in the
1970s, one of my proletarian friends on purpose disabled the
dishwasher in his apartment because he thought is was good
for wife and kids to wash and dry the dishes by hand.  You
can easily compute how much labor this family is wasting,
but this labor-time calculation is a theoretical exercise
irrelevant for the day-to-day workings of the family itself.

Of course this example is limited.  A single family cannot
insulate itself from the capitalist need to economize human
labor: perhaps the wife has to get a job, and suddenly the
dish washer becomes a necessity.  A whole society however
can survive centuries despite wasting labor in similar ways;
indeed it may depend on similar labor-wasting practices
in order to maintain the inequalities without which it would

In other words: labor-time is a constraint in every society,
but it is not always a binding constraint, other constraints
may take precedence.  Market relations tend to remove those
other constraints so that labor-time is the only constraint


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