labour power

But the body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. This political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use; it is largely as a force of production that the body is invested with relations of power and domination; but, on the other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible only if it is caught up in a system of subjection (in which need is also a political instrument meticulously prepared, calculated and used); the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body.
—  Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1977), pp. 25-26
[N]ature does not produce on the one hand owners of money or commodities, and on the other hand men possessing nothing but their own labour-power. This relation has no basis in natural history, nor does it have a social basis common to all periods of human history. It is clearly the result of a past historical development, the product of many economic revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older formations of social production.
—  Karl Marx, Capital (1867)
The construct of the submissive wife and mother developed during this period has lasted to this day, and it serves the capitalist mode of production very well, providing unpaid mothers, carers and workers - producing and reproducing labour power. The woman, her children and her work became the property of her husband.
—  Lady Stardust, Burning Women: The European Witch Hunts, Enclosure, and the Rise of Capitalism

I have decided, after due consideration, that when I commandeer the Scottish labour party’s powers of necromancy (which are currently being wildly misused on Gordon brown) instead of reviving my previous candidate, Keir Hardie, I’m going to go for John Maclean instead because from what I can tell he wasn’t a racist and also blarites don’t seem to have a ragin boner for him the way they inexplicably do for Hardie, a Scottish nationalist.

insurrectionarycompassion  asked:

How do you feel about the Autonomist focus on unwaged labor and how the wage relation obscures the unwaged labor which reproduces the conditions for waged labor?

I think drawing a hardline between waged and unwaged labour in this way is a bit confusing - because the minimum price of labour power includes the price required to reproduce the labour of the worker - this bundles together the wage as actually also the amount needed to reproduce the labour done in the domestic sphere - unwaged labour, emotional labour, whatever we call it. In this sense the two kinds are reciprocal, no ‘unwaged labour’ reproduces itself in isolation - not unless we’re talking about a peasantry who can still do unalienated labour directly for their own consumption. At the same time, the labour power sold to the capitalist is not reproduced passively - the wage does not pay for a maid, a servant, a personal accountant and trainer, a cook etc, it doesn’t include the ability to reproduce ones labour with no additional expenditure of effort. So that’s where unwaged labour comes in, either in the form of familial bonds - and then it gets super gendered and we gotta refer to Federici, or for some unlucky souls they get to do it themselves (we can’t discount the fact that a small fraction of waged workers are also extremely socially isolated - basically alone - and any reproductive labour they do is done by themselves, or paid for directly rather than tacitly). 

It’s a complex question, the two make each other possible, as reproductive labour needs an injection of use-values which are bought with the pay of the ordinary waged labour. So basically, this unitary characteristic of waged/unwaged labour and its interaction emphasises that the proletariat as a political actor must be one forged of various fractions - one of which is specifically the ‘working class’, but the proletariat as a whole are all those who rely on the wage fund in some way to reproduce their lives. So a political programme for the class would need to incorporate the interests of both. 

At a personal level, I often say that one of the few things worse than being exploited by capital in waged work is being basically excluded even from this exploitation. Anyone who has been unemployed involuntarily will basically agree. But the big thing is that worker-centric politics misunderstands why the working class matters - it isn’t the revolutionary class because workers are essential for production to continue (and I’m concerned that how you explain the autonomist perspective just flips this logic and applies it to unwaged workers, says that they also matter because they’re essential for production). But that is not and has never been the point, in my opinion, when it comes to socialist politics. The reason the proletariat matter is not their position in production as ‘variable capital’ so much as their generalised estrangement from the means of production - they are ‘sans reserves’ and as such have no interest at all in reproducing society the way it is, or becoming a new ruling class over a class society because there is no basis for them to do so without ceasing to be proletarians. 

No idea if I’ve answered your question - I’m pretty hungover. 

In this essay the classical Marxist position that housework is ‘non-productive’ is challenged for the first time. Dalla Costa points out that what the housewife produces in the family are not simply use-values but the commodity ‘labour power’ which the husband then can sell as a ‘free’ wage labourer in the labour market. She clearly states that the productivity of the housewife is the precondition for the productivity of the (male) wage labourer. The nuclear family, organized and protected by the state, is the social factory where this commodity ‘labour power’ is produced. Hence, the housewife and her labour are not outside the process of surplus value production, but constitute the very foundation upon which this process can get started. The housewife and her labour are, in other words, the basis of the process of capital accumulation. With the help of the state and its legal machinery women have been shut up in the isolated nuclear family, whereby their work there was made socially invisible, and was hence defined - by Marxist and non-Marxist theoreticians - as ‘non-productive’. It appeared under the form of love, care, emotionality, motherhood and wifehood […] one cannot understand the exploitation of wage-labour unless one understands the exploitation of non­wage-labour
—  Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World ScaleWomen in the International Division of Labour, pp. 31-32
But the body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. This political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use; it is largely as a force of production that the body is invested with relations of power and domination; but, on the other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible only if it is caught up in a system of subjection (in which need is also a political instrument meticulously prepared, calculated and used); the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body. This subjection is not only obtained by the instruments of violence or ideology; it can also be direct, physical, pitting force against force, bearing on material elements, and yet without involving violence; it may be calculated, organized, technically thought out; it may be subtle, make use neither of weapons nor of terror and yet remain of a physical order. That is to say, there may be a ‘knowledge' of the body that is not exactly the science of its functioning, and a mastery of its forces that is more than the ability to conquer them: this knowledge and this mastery constitute what might be called the political technology of the body.
—  Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
The cornerstone of the capitalist mode of production is the fact that our present social order enables the capitalists to buy the labour power of the worker at its value, but to extract from it much more than its value by making the worker work longer than is necessary in order to reproduce the price paid for the labour power. The surplus value produced in this fashion is divided among the whole class of capitalists and landowners together with their paid servants, from the Pope and the Kaiser, down to the night watchman
—  Engels - The Housing Question 1872
Some thoughts on organisation

When we think about building socialist institutions it is worth considering that the activist model, the volunteer model actually has an inherent turn towards student-based organising. Personally I think this is a grave error. The reason this happens is that students, even those who are working as well, and with the pressure of studies, have more flexibility to opt in to volunteer work - organising, protesting, boring meetings, whatever - than your average 40 hour wage worker. My life is not flexible, the free time I have is pretty rigid and a lot of it is expressly about reproducing my own labour power. However, a lot of workers are time poor - but not in absolute dire straights monetarily. Yes, none of us are paid well (though perhaps some manage to extract ‘monopoly pricing’ for their labour, or get paid above the price of labour power) but it isn’t uncommon for a wage worker to potentially have a dollar, two dollars a week to spare to put towards an organisation much much more so than they have a spare two hours a week.

This is a necessary move, and we can not pretend the NGO model of organising is going to work for socialism. What socialist institutions are more like would be a secular church that engages in politics, frankly. Some people won’t like that framing, and rightly so, since politically engaged churches sound like some hardout reactionary shit. But the model is generally better. Socialism will not succeed without some funding in our organisations. This will have to be membership-funded, not applying for grants or creating co-op businesses. We can hope that some sympathetic sections of the petite bourgeoisie or even haute bourgeoisie will aid us - we hope for a Morozov coming along but we can’t rely on it. 

Regardless, if we take this model more seriously and adjust our work accordingly, we can imagine actually ordinary working people will feel they can be involved without being expected to lay out hours of volunteer labour every week which they simply can not do. 

Capital is fundamentally the use of money to make more money. In order to maximize profits, a capitalist must be prepared to shift production from a less profitable commodity to a more profitable one, and this implies a stance of indifference to use-value. Whatever his personal attachment to vanilla ice cream, a capitalist will produce less vanilla and more chocolate ice cream if it is profitable to do so. Similarly because labour-power is commodified, capitalists can hire or fire labour-power as required to maximize profits with total indifference to the human suffering that this may cause.

Indifference to use-value is also indifference to human values and human beings. Thus capitalists, if not constrained by outside forces, will have no concern for the working conditions of their workers or their lives. Unless constrained by law or by worker organization, capitalists will always try to get the most work from workers for the least pay.
—  Robert Albritton, Marx’s Value Theory and Subjectivity (2003)
On the one hand, all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power, in the physiological sense, and it is in this quality of being equal, or abstract, human labour that it forms the value of commodities. On the other hand, all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power in a particular form and with a definite aim, and it is this quality of being concrete useful labour that it produces use-values.
—  Karl Marx, Capital (1867)
The Truth About Energy & Life Force

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If the hour’s wage is fixed in such a way that the capitalist does not bind himself to pay a day’s or a week’s wage, but only to pay wages for the hours during which he chooses to employ the worker, he can employ him for a shorter time than that which is originally the basis of the calculation of the wages for the hour, or the unit of measurement for the price of labour. Since this unit is determined by the ratio of the daily value of labour-power to the working day of a given number of hours, it naturally loses all meaning as soon as the working day ceases to contain a definite number of hours. The connection between paid and unpaid labour is destroyed. The capitalist can now wring from the worker a certain quantity of surplus labour without allowing him the labour time necessary for his own subsistence. He can annihilate all regularity of employment, and according to his own convenience, caprice, and the interest of the moment, make the most frightful over-work alternate with relative or absolute cessation of work. He can abnormally lengthen the working day without giving the worker any corresponding compensation, under the pretence of paying ‘the normal price of labour.’
—  Karl Marx in Capital Volume 1, explaining zero hours contracts about 150 years before they came about proper
it is self-evident that the labourer is nothing else, his whole life through, than labour-power, that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and law labour-time, to be devoted to the self-expansion of capital. Time for education, for intellectual development, for the fulfilling of social functions and for social intercourse, for the free-play of his bodily and mental activity, even the rest time of Sunday — moonshine!
—  Marx - Capital Vol 1 Ch.10 1867