Why is organic labor necessary?

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LumpenProle
Why is organic labor necessary?
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e8rt8RGjCM

I watched this video, read excerpts from Capital, and have read various other interpretations of Marxist economics. Why can't constant labor replace organic labor, so that there is no human element in production? I know that right now this is kind of a SciFi concept, but if human beings could be replaced by machines is there something still keeping humans on board as part of labor? How does the reduction in wage of either necessary or surplus labor impact profit, meaning how does the induction of constant labor damage the profitibility of the capitalist and why is it that some people believe that companies must have workers to exploit?

Zanthorus
look at it a different way

I think you're thinking of the Labour Theory of Value too much in terms of Marx's negative deduction of it from the act of commodity exchange in the first section of chapter one. Marx's main point in his discussions on value is that value is the form that social labour takes in capitalist society. Social labour is is labour which produces social use-values, use-values for someone other than the immediate producer. It is a characteristic feature of every society from 'primitive communism' onwards. In capitalist society though the producers are atomised, the different branches of the division of labour carry out production for their own private account. Where labour is private labour, the social character of labour no longer appears as it's nature as concrete labour, labour for the production of particular useful artefacts which satisfy social wants, but as abstract labour, labour which creates value. Value is the medium through which labour becomes social within capitalist society. So it is strictly speaking a tautology to say that value is social labour:

"Since the exchange-value of commodities is indeed nothing but a mutual relation between various kinds of labour of individuals regarded as equal and universal labour, i.e., nothing but a material expression of a specific social form of labour, it is a tautology to say that labour is the only source of exchange-value and accordingly of wealth in so far as this consists of exchange-value." (Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy)

idk about some hypothetical scenario where robots completely replace human beings. Seems kinda, well, hypothetical to be frank. Even if we imagine that robots do all the menial tasks in this scenario, you would think there would still have to be humans to program things, clean out the gunk that gets stuck in their joints and whatever else, so there's still some factor of human labour.

 

Red Hughs
Very interesting

Very interesting question.

Such a scenario can certainly be imagined. It would involve self-reproducing machines. Moreover, this more or less coincides with what Ray Kurzweil and other "futurists" call "the singularity".

However, there are some downsides one might mention;

It would be end of capitalism but also humanity. Essentially, if machines make human beings unnecessary, the simplest course of action would be for the masters of the machines to do away with the remaining "messy" humans. Only a faith in the clearly murderous and barbarous masters of capitalism could make one imagine differently.

Moreover, self-reproducing machines would also bring other "wonders", especially autonomous killing machines which "liberate" politicians from the political problems associated with war. Further, once such machines become widespread, the civilian toll from their deployment by two side in a war would be horrific.

The one thing I'd say that the present world is still capitalist in the sense that living labor is needed. The development of automation of this sort quite possibly could send capitalist relations into a higher level of crisis and provoke the proletariat into heading off these imaginable events. 

Projecting the advancement of computer technology, Kurzweil projects the singularity to be about 30 years away. So one might argue that is how long we have... But of course such things are very uncertain to speculate about.

....I should also stress that none of this is a "political position" of mine, just speculation.

 

baboon
It's absolutely necessary for

It's absolutely necessary for capitalism: as Henry Ford said: "Robots don't buy motor cars". Once capitalism is out of the way then a whole range of scientific development can help to begin to redefine "work".

LumpenProle
A quick refrain

What I'm reading specificially states that organic labor is the source of surplus value, and thus constant labor reduces profit by replacing organic labor. Either I've drastically misread the book on Marxism in question, or they have made an error in communicating their ideas.

This confusion simply reminded me of the video. I had difficulty understanding the idea that recessions occur specifically to correct the reduction in profit caused by constant labor. Am I just reading simplifications? I'm going out and buying a copy of Das Kapital today, all these Marxist digests aren't cutting it any longer.

Beltov
LumpenProle wrote: I watched

LumpenProle wrote:

I watched this video, read excerpts from Capital, and have read various other interpretations of Marxist economics. Why can't constant labor replace organic labor, so that there is no human element in production? I know that right now this is kind of a SciFi concept, but if human beings could be replaced by machines is there something still keeping humans on board as part of labor?

First, I thought the video gave quite a clear explanation of labor theor of value. They didn't mention the class struggle of - course! - which can also affect the rate of profit. In terms of your questions, I think you need to be clearer on the terms you are using, which have quite specific meanings in marxist theory.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/v/a.htm#variable-capital

I think you're asking why constant *capital* can't replace *variable* capital completely. Variable capital (wages) is used to purchase labor power, the goose that lays the golden egg, the only thing that can create new value. The whole purpose of capitalism is the accumulation of capital, which entails many cycles of production, each time enabling the capitalist to skim off a portion of surplus value to enlarge production. From the capitalist point of view, robots aren't a source of new value and thus can't be exploited. And who's going to make and maintain the robots?

I remember trying to make sense of marxist theory by reading books. It didn't really sink in until I got a job as a chef. Within a fews days it all made sense. ;)

devoration1
Quote: I remember trying to

Quote:

I remember trying to make sense of marxist theory by reading books. It didn't really sink in until I got a job as a chef. Within a fews days it all made sense. ;)

Which is why professional Marxologists are such a confused lot.

jk1921
Capital is--above all else--a

Capital is--above all else--a social relationship. Its is a technology for regulating the balance of power between mutually opposed classes under conditions of scarcity. In a post-capitalist societyy, human beings engage in labor not simply as a means to an end, i.e. in terms of "production" but to realize their species being. Labor is a fundamental human activity. Its expression as alienation under captialism makes it appear as its opposite: the negation of human activity. As Marx said in the EPM of 1844, under capitalism, "All that is human appears animal and all that is animal appears human."