Re: [ox] Die Anwendbarkeit der Werttheorie in der Informatik
- From: graham belegost.mit.edu
- Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 19:22:02 -0500 (EST)
Hi Stefan et al.
It is not only surplus value, but value in general. Copylefting
design (of products and production) means making productive labour
unproductive. Labour is then general work (allgemeine Arbeit) - the
term which I asked for.
Ummm. Just to make sure there is at least some overlap with what
people on the list are saying, this is my understanding (clearly different
from Stefan's). I apologise if this is repeating material already
discussed and settled. I think it's possible I have a more traditional
(1960's) view of the world and your influences are different.
I assume value=wert, exchange value = gebrauchswert, commodity = ware.
Marx' 'allgemeine arbeit' is general, scientific work. In legal terms,
either pure science not covered by any law, or at the most specific
new ideas for implementation traditionally covered by patent law.
In practical terms, the kind of work originally done by lone inventors
(eg Stephenson), later by universities,
which coexisted very happily (maybe more so in the past) with
capitalism. Something once achieved in this area is a permanent
achievement which does not need to be repeated in any way.
The product of programmers may express scientific ideas, but is not in
one-to-one correspondence with them. Many programs are possible to achieve the
same end - the first editor was not the last (not even emacs!) - which
is why software has in the past been covered by copyright law, based
on expression, not idea.
The whole of the non-pre-packaged software industry is based on the
fact that one program, however good, cannot satisfy the needs for
all companies and all situations. Programs are not 'allgemeine
arbeit', though they may reflect it, and saying that they are
may encourage the people who want to cover software by patents.
An individual program is a product; it is produced by labour.
If it is produced to sell it is a commodity. If it is produced by
paid labour for capital, but not to sell (eg. a control system for
unique machine tool) it is not a commodity. But in either case it
has value, based on the time taken to produce it. In the first case
this value is realised directly as price; in the second case, indirectly
as part of the price of the products of the factory.
If it was not produced to sell, and not produced by paid labour it is
not a commodity and has no exchange value. And if protected by the
gpl and the current legal system, it cannot become a commodity
or have exchange value (the exchange value attached to Red Hat
products is the exchange value of the nominal services attached to them,
not of the products themselves).
But it may be useful, and so have use value. And it is still the result
of productive labour - its production
involves time, and to the extent that 'value' is used to mean simply a measure
of the fraction of society's time labour time spent on producing a good,
it has value. But only to this extent - it cannot have exchange value,
and measuring a free program by the amount of time
spent on it is in general impractical and pointless. Similarly,
labour spent on it may be productive from a human point of view, but
cannot not be productive from the point of view of capital
[in English I believe the use of the word 'productive' in Marx'
sense as 'productive of surplus value' is not at all reflected
in any normal usage, so that using the word 'productive' in this
way is only likely to be understood by Marx-exegesists. Is the same true
If you say that software development is 'allgemeine arbeit' , and that
free software is based on that fact, then
the only way that free software can be generalized to a whole society is if
all the labour of that society becomes mental labour. Whereas,
if it is normal productive labour, free software is a demonstration that
productve labour can be done collectively without profit, and therefore
potentially so can any labour - for example, baking bread (as in
communal ovens in many villages in the past).
The oven does not need to be dematerialized :-) But unlike baking bread,
which preceded capitalism, and could be swallowed and reshaped by it, free
software has emerged as a consequence of capitalism, a result not
a premiss, and so cannot be swallowed up by it, any more than feudalism
could completely absorb early capitalism.
picture of a value-free society - which in fact is the same what
free software does. Taking over the material production for a small
amount of money can be a step in this direction, but the goal has to
be reorganizing our live in a way that value does not force us any
more to produce more value in order to exist. We must jump out of
G-G', and this is the simple thing, which is hard to do.
Do you think it is a necessary consequence of your argument, that
at some point you will be able to buy out the capitalists? Or that
if it is not possible to do so, there is no other route?
Me too, so forgive me for my utopism... (...and my english;-))
I'm happy with utopianism, and would be very proud if my German
were as good as the English of everyone who has had the patience
to reply in English :-) (but I am increasingly understanding the
German now I am getting used to the technical terms).
Organisation: projekt oekonux.de