Monday, November 14, 2011

Free time: Marx and individualism

"The free development of individualities, and hence not the reduction of necessary labor time so as to posit surplus labor, but rather the general reduction of the necessary labor of society to a minimum, which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific etc. development of the individuals in the time set free, and with the means created, for all of them."1

"[Capital] is thus, despite itself, instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, in order to reduce labor time for the whole society to a diminishing minimum, and thus to free everyone's time for their own development." 708

"[R]eal wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labor time, but rather disposable time." 708

"Free time -- which is both idle time and time for higher activity -- has naturally transformed its possessor into a different subject, and he then enters into the direct production process as this different subject." 712


Note: Capital, through technical development (automation, etc.), reduces to a minimum that portion of the day which we work for ourselves, in order to maximize that portion in which we work, uncompensated, for others (the for-profit employer). That portion in which we work for ourselves -- for our own subsistence or "reproduction," so that we may from our employer's perspective return to work the next day, week, and so on; or, from our own view, in order to live -- Marx calls "necessary labor time." The idea here is that if capitalism's development drives down, by means of technological advance, that portion of the day that people need to work in order to meet their own needs, then it is simultaneously creating the possibility that people would stop working, uncompensated, for others, for the "surplus" portion of their working time. This time, in turn, would become their own: "Free time -- which is both idle time and time for higher activity … transform[s] its possessor into a different subject … [who] then enters into the direct production process as this different subject."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


"The dialectical mode of thinking, at least as I construe it, precludes closure of the argument at any particular point. The intriguing configurations of internal and external contradiction … force the argument to spin onwards and outwards to all manner of new terrain. The opening of new questions to be answered, new paths for enquiry to take, provokes simultaneously the re-evaluation of basic concepts -- such as value -- and the perpetual re-casting of the conceptual apparatus used to describe the world. Perhaps the most extraordinary insight to be gained from a careful study of Marx is the intricate fluidity of thought, the perpetual creation of new openings within the corpus of his writings. Strange, then, that bourgeois philosophers frequently depict Marxist science as a closed system, not amenable to the verification procedures with which they seek to close out their own hypotheses into universal and unchallengeable truths. Strange, also, that many Marxists convert deeply held and passionately felt commitments into doctrinaire dogmatism, as closed to new openings as traditional bourgeois modes of thought, when Marx's own work totally belies such closure."

David Harvey, The Limits to Capital

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Malthus and overpopulation

"[Malthus] … relates a specific quantity of people to a specific quantity of necessaries. Ricardo immediately and correctly confronted him with the fact that the quantity of grain available is completely irrelevant to the worker if he has no employment; that it is therefore the means of employment and not subsistence which put him into the category of surplus population.

The invention of surplus laborers, i.e. of propertyless people who work, belongs to the period of capital. The beggars who fastened themselves to the monasteries and helped them eat up their surplus product are in the same class as the feudal retainers, and this shows that the surplus produce could not be eaten up by the small number of its owners. It is only another form of the retainers of old, or of the menial servants of today. The overpopulation e.g. among hunting peoples, which shows itself in the warfare between the tribes, proves not that the earth could not support their small numbers, but rather that the condition of their reproduction required a great amount of territory for few people."