Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reading :: Capital, Vol.2

Originally posted: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 20:12:30

Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (Volume 2)

by Karl Marx

As I said in my review of Capital Vol.1, I'm not an economist and my primary interests are in how Marx describes work organization and (more generally) sociological development. Vol.2 doesn't give me a lot to go on here, since it is primarily concerned with describing how commodities circulate. Nevertheless, it hes some interesting points that relate to my current projects.

My current projects have been centering around work fragmentation and knowledge work. As I said in my review of Vol.1, Marx is dealing with industrial capitalism, and capitalism has changed a bit since then. In particular, Marx makes the following assertions:

  • In the transport industry, production and consumption are simultaneous (p.135). This assertion also seems to have direct implications for the communication industry.
  • "Continuity is the characteristic feature of capitalist production" (p.182).
  • The more perishable a commodity is, the less appropriate it is as the object of capitalist production (p.206).
  • Capitalism reduces transport costs by increasing the scale and developing transportation and communication infrastructure (p.229). It seems to me that distributed work results from a radical increase in communications infrastructures, a distribution of means of communication, and communication itself as production.
  • Workers are drawn from a latent surplus population into new lines of work, then released after the inevitable crash (p.391). In distributed work, to what extent is this cycle regularized and how has it changed the nature of work and learning?

I'm still trying to wrap my head around Marx's insights, but it seems to me that he still has a lot to say in terms of how we understand work. The hard part for me is in figuring out ? without any economic background ? what transfers and what has been obviated. >

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