[OPE-L:5844] Re: contemporary social formations

jurriaan bendien (Jbendien@globalxs.nl)
Tue, 16 Dec 1997 22:05:29 +0100

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Does Andrew seek a serious answer ? I'll be boring and give you one.

First, a few definitions:

"Social", i.e. characteristic of belonging to co-operative human
"Forces of production" - i.e. means of labour (means of production) i.e.
equipment, implements, tools, technology, as well as human labour power.
"Social relations" - i.e. connections/dependencies between individuals in
virtue of membership of groups or classes of people, or connections between
social groups, as distinct from interpersonal relations.
"Computer" - i.e. force of production consisting of mechanical and
electronic devices useful for sending/receiving messages, writing and
executing programmes, accessing information, etc.
"Refrigerator" - i.e. force of production consisting of a usually metal
container with trays and a cooling/frosting device designed for storing or
preserving food.
"Fork" - device normally used for transferring food from a plate to the
mouth instead of using one's fingers, as is customary in civilised society
(except where chopsticks are used as alternative).
"Cat" - a species of domesticated mammal that rarely functions as a force
of production, being on the whole content to be fed by its owner and go its
own way.
"Mode of production" - a historically specific, stable combination of
forces and social relations of production, "stable" in the sense of tending
to spontaneously reproduce themselves in the normal course of events.

Now to your questions:

> I am typing these words on my highly developed force of production. What
> the mode of production? What are the social relations of production?
The mode of production is presumably capitalist insofar as you are using
capitalist technology. You could also see it as your individual domestic
mode of production insofar as you are typing at home. The social relations
of production are presumably the relations with other people you must enter
into in order to produce your message, starting off with OPE-L group

> A few minutes ago, I opened the door of my highly developed force of
> production, and took out a half-empty can of cat food, which I had opened

> yesterday using another highly developed force of production. Using a
> highly developed, perhaps not-so-highly developed, force of production
> (plastic fork), I fed the cats. What was the mode of production? What
> the social relations of production?
Presumably you are engaging in domestic labour, in a domestic mode of
production, the production consisting in the transfer of catfood from the
tin to a feeding bowl or plate, the forces of production being the
refrigerator and the plastic fork. Technologically speaking the mode of
production would appear to be capitalist as you are using capitalist
technology. However in reality you are only producing a use-value as
domestic labour, a domestic production which in itself isn't capitalist and
does not have the commodity-form (does not directly involve a market
transaction), although I guess culturally/historically you might say it is
a practice developed in bourgeois society. The relation between you and
the cat isn't a social relation, because the cat is an animal, but you
could argue that your relation with the cat is expressive of a social
relation, insofar as you are a member of a group of cat-owning citizens.

> Last night I cooked dinner for my wife and myself, using other highly
> developed forces of production. What was the mode of production? What
> the social relations of production?
> Again I would say you are operating within a domestic mode of production,
engaging in domestic labour. The social relation is the relation between
you and your wife, insofar
as you belong to the set of married people. The relation could be analysed
as a social relation of food production or consumption, or as a gender
relation, or as some other cultural relation depending on what sort of
group membership or co-operative activity applies to the situation.

Jurriaan Bendien.