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The life put to work: towards a theory of life-value

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Presentation on theme: "The life put to work: towards a theory of life-value"— Presentation transcript:

1 The life put to work: towards a theory of life-value
Andrea Fumagalli (Economic researcher) Cristina Morini (Social and Gender researcher)

2 Summary theory of utility value Value Theory : theory of labour value
2. Marxian Theory of value 3. Cognitive Capitalism and value theory: continuities and break 4. Towards a theory of life value a. knowledge value b. affective value c. imagine value 5. Preliminary conclusions

3 Value Theory (1) Value theory becomes relevant with the diffusion of the capitalistic system of production, that is, when, after Industrial Revolution, the economic organization is able to generate a surplus. Value theory implies the solution of two problems: 1. the determination of relative prices of commodities, that is the quantitative ratios of values which are exchanged on the market;  2. the search for the origins of the value of commodities, that is the fundament of the accumulation. In other words , why economics exists. We’ll focus on point 2.

4 Value Theory (2) Two are the Value Theories , which try to give answer to the problem of the origin of commodities’ value Theory of utility-value, defined as “subjective”, since it is based on the idea that the value depends on the consumer’s preferences Theory of labour-value, defined as “objective”, since value depends on the quantity of labour which is necessary to produce each commodity, given the technology

5 Theory of utility-value
This theory, starting from individual preferences which lead to the demand-supply framework, states that the price of commodities depends on the level of scarcity, according to the demand-supply law. Hence the value is determined by and inside the market. Exchange  Production  Value Barter Economy: C-M-C There is no accumulation: pre-capitalistic society. Not adequate to study capitalism

6 Theory of Labour-Value
Classical economics pointed out that production is the source of accumulation The capitalistic economy is described as monetary-production economy: M-C-M’ where M’ > M (surplus) Labour capacity is at the basis of accumulation

7 Tab. 1: Historical evolution of economic systems Pre-capitalistic stage Mercantilism (< 1780) Production of commodities by means of money C - M – C Capitalistic stage Industrial capitalism: pre-fordism ( ) Production of money by means of commodities M – C(*) – M’ Industrial capitalism: fordism ( ) M – C(**) – M’ cognitive capitalism (> 1980) Production of money by means of knowledge M – C(Kn) - M’ Where: C(*) = decreasing returns of scale; C(**) = increasing returns of scale  Kaldor-Verdoorn Law; Kn = knowledge

8 Marxian Theory of Value (1)
Marx introduces two crucial terminological (and substantial) distinctions: a. between labour and labour-power b. between concrete labour and abstract labour since labour is the unique commodity able to produce both use-value and exchange-value. “It appears that the capitalist buys …. labour [of wage-workers] with money, and that for money they sell him their labour. But this is merely an illusion. What they actually sell to the capitalist for money is their labour-power. […] Consequently, labour-power is a commodity which its possessor, the wage-worker, sells to the capitalist. Why does he sell it? It is in order to live” [K.Marx, Wage Labour and Capital]

9 Marxian Theory of Value (2)
Labour power exploitation (Das Kapital): 24 hours/day productive labour time unproductive labour time(otium?) I I I___________________I labour for workers surplus- reproduction labour Temporal unit of measure: quantitative approach based on productive labour as exchange-value

10 Marxian Theory of Value (3)
b. The origin of surplus value is dynamically determined by the evolution of labour-capital ratio. The value-theory is based on labour but its quantitative measure varies according to the dynamics of “living labour” (Grundrisse): 1. productive-unproductive labour ratio 2. concrete – abstract labour nexus Possible problems about the definition of a measure unit of surplus-value.

11 Cognitive Capitalism and Bioeconomics: I
Cognitive: because the key variable of accumulation process is represented by generation and diffusion of knowledge. Capitalism: since the valorisation of knowledge, as source of accumulation, derives from labour-capital ratio, accumulation is more and more based on time and spatial dynamics (i.e: internationalisation and financialization): learning dynamic economies (by using, doing, inter-acting, …)  knowledge life cycle network economies (spatial and virtual)  diffusion and transmission of knowledge

12 Cognitive Capitalism and value theory
Continuities: Labour continues to be the basis of value Labour exploitation continues to be the basis of accumulation, but in different forms. Breaks: Redefinition of productive-unproductive labour ratio Redefinition of living-dead labour ratio Redefinition of concrete-abstract labour ratio

13 Redefinition of productive-unproductive labour ratio: I
Marx I (Das Kapital, ch. 6, fr. 480): “Since the direct purpose and the actual product of capitalist production is surplus value, only such labour is productive, and only such an exerter of labour capacity is a productive worker, as directly produces surplus value. Hence only such labour is productive as is consumed directly in the production process for the purpose of valorising capital” Marx II (Grundrisse, fr. 593): “…but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value.… With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. The free development of individualities, ”

14 Redefinition of living-dead labour ratio
Human beings (cognitive workers) combine the functions of both variable and fix capital Human capital as a mixture of creativity and routines: a nexus between word and language Words are the becoming of language, whilst language is the codification and systematisation of social production and co-operation Does living labour tend to coincide with abstract labour?

15 Redefinition of concrete-abstract labour ratio
The division between working time and free time is fading away The dematerialization of fix capital emphasizes a new human relationship between means of production and labour-power The separation between abstract and concrete labour becomes no longer clear Cognitive division of labour: information, skills, culture The more professional training and learning extend them-selves, the more ignorance Alienation becomes cerebral alienation, between heart and hand, between left and right brain hemisphere

16 Cognitive Capitalism and the new labour value theory I
With the shift from Fordism to cognitive capitalism, the social relationship embodied by capital from being a relationship between labour-power and machineries becomes a relationship between body and mind, brain and heart, unfolding itself within human beings. But, far from being the capital that becomes human, it is individual’s life, with its multiple singularities and differences, to become capital and to be expropriated by capital.

17 Cognitive Capitalism and the new labour value theory II
New forms of productive labour: knowledge, affect, imagine. Towards an “Anthropogenetic model of pro-duction” (Marazzi, 2007) , in which General Intellect is embodied in human beings and not in machineries Irreducibility of concrete labour to abstract labour  Life is put to work and it becomes a source of value. Towards a theory of life-value

18 Towards a theory of life-value I
We enquiry three levels of productive labour: The knowledge value (cognitive labour) The affective value (affective labour) The imagine value (symbolic labour)

19 Towards a theory of life-value II: the knowledge value Knowledge as common good

20 Towards a theory of life-value III: the affective value (1)
Affective value is generated by all labour activities which have to do with care, education, relations (from teacher, to care-givers, to call-centre workers, to sex-workers). Care work is also defined as house production work in a broader sense (not only house care, but even “mainte-nance” and “valorisation” of human beings) Affective labour is emotional labour, with a component of a direct self-participation  which is "natural" in human relations. . The commercialisation of affective value directly generates surplus-value as it becomes productive labour.

21 Towards a theory of life-value III: the affective value (2)
The affective surplus-value of affective labour is incommen-surable. Management theory (Loyalty Business Model) has formulated the concept of “Life Time Value” (LTV) (Reichheld F. 1996): the total revenue which a firms expects from a client for the whole period of him/her loyalty  relation linguistic activity As far as care labour is concerned, one possible unit of measure is the level of opportunity cost linked to the saving by the State (Galca, 2005): Italy: 424 Euro per week  private care Denmark: 560 Euro per week  public care

22 Towards a theory of life-value IV: the imagine-artistic value
The valorisation of commodities no longer occurs within the productive process alone, but, as the immaterial production has became production of imaginaries, it occurs when the imaginary realized itself – that is, customer’s value: it is the result of what we can define the brandization process, which goes beyond the commodity as it concerns more and more the territory, the space and the lifes. When the commodity becomes a symbol, between production and consumption there is no difference: namely, there is no clear cut between production and realization. From the fetishism of commodities to the fetishism of imaginary

23 Towards a theory of life-value IV: the imagine value (2)
An example: Nike shoes (2005), produced in Vietnam: Production cost: 9, 6% Assembly cost: 0,4% ,0% Producer profit: 3% Transport: 5% Total taxes: 19% ,0% Commercial margin: 30% Advertising and marketing: 8,5% ,5% Design: 11% Nike net profit: 13,5%

24 Towards a theory of life-value IV: the artistic value (3)
The Economics of Art is normally based on: the esistence of “liking” (not measurable) the persistence of “trend” and “style” (not rational) the dualism between the s.c. “expert” and the “client” (the commercialisation of the “connoisseur”) In Cognitive Capitalism, the conditioning and the mani-pulation of the “liking” is a direct element of valorisation of the work of art. Towards the building of an artistic convention, with some similarity with financial markets dynamics.

25 Conclusions I: the crisis of traditional value theory
the inexistence of a direct measure of value, that is of an objective theory of labour-value as it was epistemologically developed till today. The problem to fix an alternative unite of measure of value leads to the problem of the value of money.

26 Conclusions II: the dimension of theory of life value in cognitive capitalism
Towards the life exploitation? Temporal unit: the whole life Fordist era: the whole day productive labour time unproductive labour time(otium?) I I I__________________ I labour for workers surplus- reproduction labour Cognitive era: the whole life unproductive productive labour time labour time(retirement?) I I I_______I labour for workers reproduction surplus-labour

27 Conclusions III: the dimension of theory of life value in cognitive capitalism
Labour exploitation tends to increase since the accumulation basis is going to enlarge. Previously unproductive labours become productive  increase of the absolute surplus-value Labour exploitation tends to increase since non only the body but even brain, heart and nerves are put to work  increase of the relative surplus-value

28 Conclusions IV: the problem of unit of measure I
Knowledge value  financial market dynamics? Affective labour  cost opportunity analysis of welfare privatisation? Symbolic labour  the quotation of brand in financial markets? These are attempts of capitalistic measures.

29 Conclusions V: the problem of unit of measure II
Value as social and political convention The value of money is itself a convention, after the collapse of Bretton Woods system Value’s dynamics as result of social conflict Theory of life-value as theory of class struggle

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