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Articles by Sandwichman

The Ambivalence of Verfügbare Zeit

5 days ago

The Ambivalence of Verfügbare Zeit

Back in December I posted an excerpt from the Grundrisse, Reichtum ist verfügbare Zeit und nichts weiter, without noticing that in it was a prototype for Marx’s concept of socially necessary labour time (Gesellschaftlich notwendige Arbeitzeit): 

Die Schöpfung von viel disposable time außer der notwendigen Arbeitszeit für die Gesellschaft überhaupt und jedes Glied derselben (d.h. Raum für die Entwicklung der vollen Produktivkräfte der einzelnen, daher auch der Gesellschaft), diese Schöpfung von Nicht-Arbeitszeit erscheint auf dem Standpunkt des Kapitals, wie aller frühren Stufen, als Nicht-Arbeitszeit, freie Zeit für einige.

The creation of a large quantity of disposable time apart from necessary labour time

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The Ambivalence of Verfügbare Zeit

7 days ago

Back in December I posted an excerpt from the Grundrisse, Reichtum ist verfügbare Zeit und nichts weiter, without noticing that in it was a prototype for Marx’s concept of socially necessary labour time (Gesellschaftlich notwendige Arbeitzeit): Die Schöpfung von viel disposable time außer der notwendigen Arbeitszeit für die Gesellschaft überhaupt und jedes Glied derselben (d.h. Raum für die Entwicklung der vollen Produktivkräfte der einzelnen, daher auch der Gesellschaft), diese Schöpfung von Nicht-Arbeitszeit erscheint auf dem Standpunkt des Kapitals, wie aller frühren Stufen, als Nicht-Arbeitszeit, freie Zeit für einige.The creation of a large quantity of disposable time apart from necessary labour time for society generally and each of its members (i.e. room for the development of the

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“Our pamphleteer overlooks two things”

9 days ago

Socially Ambivalent Labour Time VI: TSV part 3, chapter 21: “Our pamphleteer overlooks two things”

Although Marx discussed socially necessary labour time in chapters 4, 8, 9, 16, 17, and 20, he didn’t mention it in chapter 21 where he discussed the 1821 pamphlet, The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties by Charles Wentworth Dilke. Marx’s reticence here is notable if only for the fact that the pamphlet proposed a method for calculating a sort of socially necessary labour time.

Dilke’s method differed fundamentally from Marx’s in that Dilke focused on consumption rather than the production of surplus value as did Marx. It is perhaps more intuitive to focus on consumption because, after all, what is the purpose of production if not to

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time VI: TSV part 3, chapter 21: “Our pamphleteer overlooks two things”

9 days ago

Although Marx discussed socially necessary labour time in chapters 4, 8, 9, 16, 17, and 20, he didn’t mention it in chapter 21 where he discussed the 1821 pamphlet, The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties by Charles Wentworth Dilke. Marx’s reticence here is notable if only for the fact that the pamphlet proposed a method for calculating a sort of socially necessary labour time.Dilke’s method differed fundamentally from Marx’s in that Dilke focused on consumption rather than the production of surplus value as did Marx. It is perhaps more intuitive to focus on consumption because, after all, what is the purpose of production if not to provide for consumption? But that misses the point of production under capital, which is to accumulate surplus value.Marx outlined two ways Dilke

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time: TSV part 3, chapter 20

13 days ago

Socially Ambivalent Labour Time: TSV part 3, chapter 20

Marx’s discussion of socially necessary labour time in Chapter 20 of Theories of Surplus Value is notable for the fact that it comes immediately before Chapter 21, where he doesn’t mention socially necessary labour time (but the concept lingers just below the surface in the latter chapter). He talked about how piece-work is actually a kind of time work in which the piece rate is set according to expectations of how many pieces can be made in a designated period of time.

Once again Marx reiterated the notion of value being measured in terms of abstract labour: simple, uniform, average labour. “That the quantity of labour embodied in a commodity is the quantity socially necessary for its

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time IV

14 days ago

Socially Ambivalent Labour Time IV: TSV part 2, chapters 8, 9, 16, and 17

Nothing notable in these chapters. Chapter 8: Poor quality land requires more labour time than socially necessary (which is to say the average labour time required to produce a given output). Chapter 9: Socially necessary labour time is permanently established in nature, in industry it is constantly disappearing. Chapter 16: The value of labour is established by the customary means of subsistence of the labourer (this appears to be a notation on Ricardo’s view). 

In chapter 17, Marx discussed the crisis. (Brad DeLong called it Marx’s Half-Baked Crisis Theory) The first appearance of socially necessary labour time is in an assumption that the time for producing the

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time: TSV part 3, chapter 20

14 days ago

Marx’s discussion of socially necessary labour time in Chapter 20 of Theories of Surplus Value is notable for the fact that it comes immediately before Chapter 21, where he doesn’t mention socially necessary labour time (but the concept lingers just below the surface in the latter chapter). He talked about how piece-work is actually a kind of time work in which the piece rate is set according to expectations of how many pieces can be made in a designated period of time.Once again Marx reiterated the notion of value being measured in terms of abstract labour: simple, uniform, average labour. "That the quantity of labour embodied in a commodity is the quantity socially necessary for its production — the labour-time being thus necessary labour-time — is a definition which concerns only the

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time IV: TSV part 2, chapters 8, 9, 16, and 17

17 days ago

Nothing notable in these chapters. Chapter 8: Poor quality land requires more labour time than socially necessary (which is to say the average labour time required to produce a given output). Chapter 9: Socially necessary labour time is permanently established in nature, in industry it is constantly disappearing. Chapter 16: The value of labour is established by the customary means of subsistence of the labourer (this appears to be a notation on Ricardo’s view). In chapter 17, Marx discussed the crisis. (Brad DeLong called it Marx’s Half-Baked Crisis Theory) The first appearance of socially necessary labour time is in an assumption that the time for producing the commodity is socially necessary. The crisis arises out of the separation between the act of selling the produced commodity and

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time III

19 days ago

Socially Ambivalent Labour Time III: Theories of Surplus Value, chapter 7 and addenda to part 1

In an earlier post, I mentioned that in chapter seven of TSV Marx explicitly excluded William Godwin from his historical review of theories of surplus value:

In accordance with the plan of my work socialist and communist writers are entirely excluded from the historical reviews. These reviews are only intended to show on the one hand in what form the political economists criticized each other, and on the other hand the historically determining forms in which the laws of political economy were first stated and further developed. In dealing with surplus-value I therefore exclude such eighteenth century writers as Brissot, Godwin and the like, and

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time III: Theories of Surplus Value, chapter 7 and addenda to part 1

19 days ago

In an earlier post, I mentioned that in chapter seven of TSV Marx explicitly excluded William Godwin from his historical review of theories of surplus value:In accordance with the plan of my work socialist and communist writers are entirely excluded from the historical reviews. These reviews are only intended to show on the one hand in what form the political economists criticized each other, and on the other hand the historically determining forms in which the laws of political economy were first stated and further developed. In dealing with surplus-value I therefore exclude such eighteenth century writers as Brissot, Godwin and the like, and likewise the nineteenth-century socialists and communists. The few socialist writers whom I shall come to speak of in this survey either themselves

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Necessary labour. Surplus labour. Surplus population. Surplus capital. (The Return of “Disposable People”)

21 days ago

This post will be a bit of a backtrack. While going through my notes for chapter 7 of Theories of Surplus Value, I discovered a printout of a page from the Grundrisse that I had overlooked when writing the post on that book. Although it does not contain the term socially necessary labour time, the two and a half page section with the same title as this post speaks volumes about the concept.

First, a little context: the section follows discussions of T. R. Malthus and Thomas Chalmers on population. Or perhaps denunciations of Malthus and Chalmers would be more accurate description of Marx’s notes on their arguments. In that earlier discussion Marx referred to Chalmers’s On Political Economy in Connection with the Moral State and Moral Prospects of

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Necessary labour. Surplus labour. Surplus population. Surplus capital. (The Return of “Disposable People”)

22 days ago

This post will be a bit of a backtrack. While going through my notes for chapter 7 of Theories of Surplus Value, I discovered a printout of a page from the Grundrisse that I had overlooked when writing the post on that book. Although it does not contain the term socially necessary labour time, the two and a half page section with the same title as this post speaks volumes about the concept.First, a little context: the section follows discussions of T. R. Malthus and Thomas Chalmers on population. Or perhaps denunciations of Malthus and Chalmers would be more accurate description of Marx’s notes on their arguments. In that earlier discussion Marx referred to Chalmers’s On Political Economy in Connection with the Moral State and Moral Prospects of Society (1832) and quoted the passage,

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time II: Theories of Surplus Value, chapter four

23 days ago

Socially Ambivalent Labour Time II: Theories of Surplus Value, chapter four

In chapter four of TSV, Marx discusses two (or possibly three?) aspects of socially necessary labour time: the devaluation of labour and commodities produced under less efficient methods, and the fall in value of commodities when more have been produced than there is demand for. Note that pursuit of greater efficiency through economies of scale (see underlining) risks overproduction, which compounds the impact on the less efficient producers. 

There is a teaser at the end of the last paragraph that could count as a third aspect of socially necessary labour time. If the production cost of linen remains the same while the production cost of other commodities rises, the

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time II: Theories of Surplus Value, chapter four

23 days ago

In chapter four of TSV, Marx discusses two (or possibly three?) aspects of socially necessary labour time: the devaluation of labour and commodities produced under less efficient methods, and the fall in value of commodities when more have been produced than there is demand for. Note that pursuit of greater efficiency through economies of scale (see underlining) risks overproduction, which compounds the impact on the less efficient producers. There is a teaser at the end of the last paragraph that could count as a third aspect of socially necessary labour time. If the production cost of linen remains the same while the production cost of other commodities rises, the relative value of linen to those other commodities would fall. I have a hard time deciding whether that is a distinctive

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time I: Grundrisse

25 days ago

Karl Marx did not use the phrase, socially necessary labour time (or its equivalent, labour time [that is] socially necessary) in the Grundrisse (1857-58 notebooks). He did, however, refer once to “the necessary labour of society”:

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. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the development of the general powers of the human head. With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time I: Grundrisse

25 days ago

Karl Marx did not use the phrase, socially necessary labour time (or its equivalent, labour time [that is] socially necessary) in the Grundrisse (1857-58 notebooks). He did, however, refer once to "the necessary labour of society":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. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the development of the general powers of the human head. 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

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Socially Necessary Superfluous Labour Time — a digression

26 days ago

In a comment on my earlier post, Bill H. (run75441) mentioned that he thought at first this series on socially necessary labour time (SNLT) would be about Sydney Chapman’s theory. That comment stopped me short because I hadn’t thought about the connection between Marx’s analysis of SNLT and Chapman’s theory of hours.

Recall that Chapman argued that competitive pressures would lead employers to prefer hours of work that were longer than optimal for output and that employees would prefer hours of work that would be longer than optimal for their welfare, although shorter than the hours sought by employers. The reasoning behind such suboptimal preferences was that achieving the long-run optima would require short-term risk with uncertain payoffs.

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Socially Necessary Superfluous Labour Time — a digression

26 days ago

In a comment on my earlier post, Bill H. (run75441) mentioned that he thought at first this series on socially necessary labour time (SNLT) would be about Sydney Chapman’s theory. That comment stopped me short because I hadn’t thought about the connection between Marx’s analysis of SNLT and Chapman’s theory of hours.Recall that Chapman argued that competitive pressures would lead employers to prefer hours of work that were longer than optimal for output and that employees would prefer hours of work that would be longer than optimal for their welfare, although shorter than the hours sought by employers. The reasoning behind such suboptimal preferences was that achieving the long-run optima would require short-term risk with uncertain payoffs.Output and welfare losses can be estimated to be

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Socially Necessary Labour Time: outline of a review

28 days ago

Socially Necessary Labour Time: outline of a review

I have excerpted all the passages in Capital and Theories of Surplus Value in which Marx explicitly discusses the concept of socially necessary labour time by name and will go through them in manageable chunks. My first pass through the excerpts suggests to me that 13 segments would be a reasonable division of the material. Subsequent segments will superficially examine a few of the many Marxists and Marxologists who have discussed the concept in some detail. My examination will be superficial because those scholars did not address the relationship between Marx’s concept and the “plain leveling principle” employed by C. W. Dilke in The Source and Remedy.

I will start with

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Socially Necessary Labour Time: outline of a review

June 28, 2021

I have excerpted all the passages in Capital and Theories of Surplus Value in which Marx explicitly discusses the concept of socially necessary labour time by name and will go through them in manageable chunks. My first pass through the excerpts suggests to me that 13 segments would be a reasonable division of the material. Subsequent segments will superficially examine a few of the many Marxists and Marxologists who have discussed the concept in some detail. My examination will be superficial because those scholars did not address the relationship between Marx’s concept and the "plain levelling principle" employed by C. W. Dilke in The Source and Remedy.I will start with the Grundrisse specifically because Marx did not mention socially necessary labour time in those notebooks (unless the

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Oedipus Marx and the Chimera of Socially Necessary Labour Time

June 28, 2021

Oedipus Marx and the Chimera of Socially Necessary Labour Time

Karl Marx: “Pamphlet No. 1 ends with the statement: ‘Wealth is nothing but disposable time’”

No, it doesn’t. 

The pamphlet Marx cited was The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties. The phrase, “wealth . . . is disposable time, and nothing more,” appeared on page 5 of the 40-page pamphlet. On page 6, the pamphlet’s author asked,

“Why then is it that no existing society, nor society that ever had existence, has arrived at this point of time, considering that in all times, and in all societies, excepting only the very barbarous, a few years would naturally have led to it?

The subsequent 34 pages were dedicated to solving that riddle — or at least illuminating it. In

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Oedipus Marx and the Chimera of Socially Necessary Labour Time

June 26, 2021

Karl Marx: "Pamphlet No. 1 ends with the statement: ‘Wealth is nothing but disposable time’"No, it doesn’t. The pamphlet Marx cited was The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties. The phrase, "wealth… is disposable time, and nothing more," appeared on page 5 of the 40-page pamphlet. On page 6, the pamphlet’s author asked,"Why then is it that no existing society, nor society that ever had existence, has arrived at this point of time, considering that in all times, and in all societies, excepting only the very barbarous, a few years would naturally have led to it?The subsequent 34 pages were dedicated to solving that riddle — or at least illuminating it. In chapter 21 of Theories of Surplus Value and in the "fragment on machines" in the Grundrisse Marx wrote almost as many words

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TimeWork Web Reloaded

June 25, 2021

TimeWork Web Reloaded

Publication of my article, “The Ambivalence of Disposable Time: The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties at Two Hundred,” felt very much like the culmination of a 26-year long research project that began when I answered a call for proposals from the B.C. Ministry of Employment and Investment. My proposal included a research hub website, which was pretty innovative for 1995. It turns out that no research contract was awarded because a provincial government spending freeze terminated the selection process. But the proposed website materialized as the TimeWork Web and endured until 2004 when it was integrated into the Work Less Party website as a resource for the Work Less Institute of Technology.

I had the old Html

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TimeWork Web Reloaded

June 23, 2021

Publication of my article, "The Ambivalence of Disposable Time: The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties at Two Hundred," felt very much like the culmination of a 26-year long research project that began when I answered a call for proposals from the B.C. Ministry of Employment and Investment. My proposal included a research hub website, which was pretty innovative for 1995. It turns out that no research contract was awarded because a provincial government spending freeze terminated the selection process. But the proposed website materialized as the TimeWork Web and endured until 2004 when it was integrated into the Work Less Party website as a resource for the Work Less Institute of Technology.I had the old html files from 1995 and 2004 on hand so I decided to revive the

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#TangPing (“lying flat”)

June 7, 2021

#TangPing (“lying flat”)

China’s new ‘tang ping’ trend aims to highlight pressures of work culture (from BBC)

Young people in China exhausted by a culture of hard work with seemingly little reward are highlighting the need for a lifestyle change by “lying flat”.

The new trend, known as “tang ping”, is described as an antidote to society’s pressures to find jobs and perform well while working long shifts.

China has a shrinking labour market and young people often work more hours.

The term “tang ping” is believed to have originated in a post on a popular Chinese social media site.

“Lying flat is my wise movement,” a user wrote in a since-deleted post on the discussion forum Tieba, adding: “Only by lying down can humans become the

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#TangPing (“lying flat”)

June 6, 2021

China’s new ‘tang ping’ trend aims to highlight pressures of work culture(from BBC)Young people in China exhausted by a culture of hard work with seemingly little reward are highlighting the need for a lifestyle change by "lying flat".The new trend, known as "tang ping", is described as an antidote to society’s pressures to find jobs and perform well while working long shifts.China has a shrinking labour market and young people often work more hours.The term "tang ping" is believed to have originated in a post on a popular Chinese social media site."Lying flat is my wise movement," a user wrote in a since-deleted post on the discussion forum Tieba, adding: "Only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things."The comments were later discussed on Sina Weibo, another popular

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Disposable People Reinstated

May 18, 2021

Today (Saturday, May 15th) I learned that my EconoSpeak post, “Disposable People” (which has over 2500 views) has been reinstated by Blogger. I never knew it had been removed. If I was a GOP whiner, this would be a prime example of cancel culture in operation. But of course, it’s only an artefact of “moderation that has to rely on algorithms” to identify potential community guidelines violations.

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