I was not going to blog this week. The racism and inequity and violence in the USA – ie the killing of black people – is ineffable. What on earth is worth writing about? During quarantine, I have stopped listening to a number of podcasts that I love because I just am tired of hearing the same point of view. Maybe I am also tired of hearing my point of view…
However, I have my Marx reading group tonight so I am going to write this blog post so I can put together my thoughts and contribute something to the discussion. I would suggest listening to 1619 by the nytimes. Also capitalism and racisms and violence are all linked. I am not sure if Marxism is the alternative but Marx’s analysis of Capitalism is brilliant and nuanced.
Fraud AND Appearances
So on to fraud and Marx, this is from Chapter 5 of Marx’s Inferno – where people perpetrating fraud are punished. Where does fraud figure in Das Capital? From Roberts’ framing it is not entirely obvious. One possibility Roberts states is in the structure of Das Capital itself. He states: “The sine qua non of fraud is a certain discrepancy between appearances and reality, seeming and being.” In Das Capital Marx again and again says, this is how things ‘appear’ that is a clue that he is now going to uncover how things really are and to further quote Marx “the surface process of market-exchange camouflages the depth-process of exploitation.”
Fraud AND Violence
Last week I went on a tirade on Zachary Schomburg. I then wrote a snarky poem. Maybe I will post it at some point. I was responding to a poem by Zach about Violence and poetry. I felt that Violence is the thing that is not poetic. So does Zach kinda, but not really, I have major problems with this and if you are really interested you should read it and then we can talk about it.
Anyway reading Robert’s reading says fraud is a process while violence (and force) is an act. I agree. Violence is not poetry but maybe fraud is. Fraud is a process that unfolds in capitalism over time (diachronically) – it is a historical revolution. The force of capitalism is the market, it being paid for labor. The fraud in capitalism is that you will be able to reproduce yourself with this (my interpretation).
What else is fraud? As Roberts rightly analyzes it is the working day. Reading Das Capital I was completely fascinated by the analysis of the working day. Why such an analysis? Here follows there is a discussion of increased leisure that technical innovation (and capitalism) promises. However, the working day is a standard that seems never to change. It is an invariant of capitalism. Perhaps this is always why all alternatives to this fail. Why is the working day an invariant to capitalism.
What are the conditions of this fraud? It is the clothing of all human relations in exchange – ie the quantification of all human relations. The way of overcoming fraud is not changing the numbers of the exchange but changing the exchange itself so that social relations are no longer quantified or exchange based. It seems to me that this exchange puts the works on one side and the capitalists on the other, or that perhaps they are separate variables. And the Marxist solution is that by removing this class divide, by making these variables equal or these sides equal, then we will break the equation. I do agree that something needs to change in this equation. I wonder how this equation is changed today by technology, by mines and extraction, by global capitalism, etc.
Proudhon identifies the collective work as greater than the work of the individuals. But his conclusion is that the workers need to share in the profit, it is working within in this existing capitalist equation. This is the surface of capitalism not the inner work of capitalism. Marx is practicing a depth economics. The fraud is what happens on the surface. This is perhaps there is a modern distinction and marxist distain for style and ornamentation. It confuses the outer and the inner with design and content. But the truth is there is a design to the outer and the inner and what we are calling surface and internal is really explicit and implicit or apparent and occult. The false struggle is to struggle for fair wages – the correct struggle is to struggle for more free time.
Marx says, with capitalism, “the cooperation of wage-laborers is entirely brought about by the capital that employs them.” We can contrast that with something like the labor of masons on a cathedral brought together by religion or belief or perhaps slavery – I have no idea. What are some ways of social organization other than capitalism that allows us to organize ourselves and create something that is GREATER than the sum of our parts.
There is something about the division of labor that encourages the automation or technification of processes (according to Marx). There is a cybernetic feedback loop that makes it impossible for an individual to become free because a) she is beholden to the machine (the task master) b) she is contorted to work like /interface with a machine.
The worker believes she is selling her time to the capitalist, but in reality the worker is selling herself. This is what Marx says. This is the fraud. The wage contract is a fraud. I think that it is impossible to sell only time, you are always either selling yourself, or selling a product. If you are selling a product are you still just selling yourself?
I talked a lot about time, and selling time. This is perhaps incorrect – I should be calling it “labor power”, per Roberts:
There is the notion of wage as relative. There is not an absolute wage but a wage in relation to everyone else to the “reserve army of labor”. This is an interesting point.
But finally, what is the nature of cooperation in capitalism. This is what capitalism does very successfully, but through this reduces the dimensions of the human workers and makes the human worker aware of the capability of producing something in collective -the emergence of this new human the collective laborer. Now can we have this collective or cooperation without capitalism?
What does this have to do with the present moment? I don’t know – only that perhaps capitalism gives the illusion of freedom but it is structurally impossible, and that racism is part of that structure – part of the structure of capitalism. That there is a fraud perpetuated.