Philosophy, June 10th

“From what I have said, I would have you infer, my precious Wiseacres, that there is a great confusion of pedigrees, and that those only appear grand and illustrious, whose representatives abound with virtue, liberality and wealth: I say, virtue, liberality and wealth, because, the vicious great man is no more than a great sinner; and the rich man, without liberality, a mere covetous beggar; for, happiness does not consist in possessing, but in spending riches, and that, not in squandering them away, but, in knowing how to use them with taste: now, a poor knight has no other way of signalizing his birth, but, the practice of virtue, being affable, well bred, courteous, kind, and obliging, a stranger to pride, arrogance, and slander, and, above all things, charitable; for, by giving two farthings cheerfully to the poor, he may shew himself as generous as he that dispenses alms by sound of bell: and whoever sees him adorned with these virtues, although’ he should be an utter stranger to his race, will conclude that he is descended of a good family. Indeed, it would be a sort of miracle to find it otherwise; so that praise is always the reward of virtue, and never fails to attend the righteous. There are two paths, my children, that lead to wealth and honor; one is that of learning, the other that of arms: now, I am better qualified for the last than for the first, and, (as I judge from my inclination to arms) was born under the influence of the planet Mars; so that I am, as it were, obliged to choose that road, which I will pursue, in spite of the whole universe: you will therefore fatigue yourselves to no purpose, in attempting to persuade me from that which heaven inspires, fortune ordains, reason demands, and above all things, my own inclination dictates: knowing, as I do, the innumerable toils annexed to knight-errantry, I am also well acquainted with the infinite benefits acquired in the exercise of that profession: I know that path of virtue is very strait, while the road of vice is broad and spacious; I know their end and issue is different: the wide extended way of vice conducts the traveler to death; while the narrow, toiled path of virtue, leads to happiness in life – not that which perishes, but, that which hath no end; and I know, as our great Castilian poet observes, By these rough paths of toil and pain, Th’ immortal seats of bliss we gain, Deny’d to those who heedless stray In tempting pleasure’s flowery way.” – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“This jeremiad is also interesting because it shows how it is only the semblance of the relations of production which is reflected by the brain of the capitalist. He does not know that the normal price of labor also included a definite quantity of unpaid labor, and that this very unpaid labor is the normal source of his profits. The category of surplus labor-time does not exist at all for him, since it is included in the normal working day, which he thinks he has paid for in the day’s wages. But overtime, namely the prolongation of the working day beyond the limits corresponding to the usual price of labor, certainly does exist for him. When faced with his underselling competitor, he even insists upon extra pay for this overtime. Again, he does not know that this extra pay also includes unpaid labor, just as much as the price of the customary hour of labor does. For example, the price of one hour of the 12-hour working day is 3d., say the value-product of half a working hour, while the price of an overtime working hour is 4d., or the value-product of 2/3 of a working hour. In the first case the capitalist appropriates one-half of the working hour, in the second case one third, without making any payment in return.” – Karl Marx, Capital

“The leap taken by value from the body of the commodity into the body of the gold is the commodity’s salto mortale, as I have called it elsewhere. If the leap falls short, it is not the commodity which is defrauded but rather its owner. The social division of labor makes the nature of his labor as one-sided as his needs are many-sided. This is precisely the reason why the product of his labor serves him solely as exchange-value. But it cannot acquire universal social validity as an equivalent form except by being converted into money. That money, however, is in someone else’s pocket. To allow it to be drawn out, the commodity produced by its owner’s labor must above all be a use-value for the owner of the money. The labor expended on it must therefore be of a socially useful division of labor. But the division of labor is an organization of production which has grown up naturally, a web which has been, and continues to be, woven behind the backs of the producers of commodities. Perhaps the commodity is the product of a new kind of labor, and claims to satisfy a newly arisen need, or is even trying to bring forth a new need on its own account. Perhaps an operation, although yesterday it still formed one out of the many operations conducted by one producer in creating a given commodity, may today tear itself out of this framework, establish itself as an independent branch of labor, and send its part of the product to market as an independent commodity. The circumstances may or may not be ripe for such a process of separation. Today the product satisfies a social need. Tomorrow it may perhaps be expelled partly or completely from its place by a similar product. Moreover, although our weaver’s labor may be a recognized branch of the social division of labor, yet that fact is by no means enough to guarantee the utility of his 20 yards of linen. If the society’s need for linen – and such a need has a limit like every other need – has already been satisfied by the products of rival weavers, our friend’s product is superfluous, redundant, and consequently useless. Although people do not look a gift-horse in the mouth, our friend does not frequent the market to make presents of his products. Let us assume, however, that the use-value of his product does maintain itself, and that the commodity therefore attracts money. Now we must ask: how much money? No doubt the answer is already anticipated in the price of the commodity, which is the exponent of the magnitude of its value. We leave out of consideration here any possible subjective errors in calculation by the owner of the commodity, which will immediately be corrected objectively in the market. We suppose him to have spent on his product only the average socially necessary quantity of labor-time. The price of the commodity, therefore, is merely the money-name of the quantity of social labor objectified in it. But now the old-established conditions of production in weaving are thrown into the melting-pot, without the permission of, and behind the back of, our weaver. What was yesterday undoubtedly labor-time socially necessary to the production of a yard of linen ceases to be so today, a fact which the owner of the money is only too eager to prove from the prices quoted by our friend’s competitors. Unluckily for the weaver, people of his kind are in plentiful supply. Let us suppose, finally, that every piece of linen on the market contains nothing but socially necessary labor-time. Despite this, all these pieces taken may contain superfluously expended labor-time. If the market cannot stomach the whole quantity at the normal price of 2 shillings a yard, this proves that too great a portion of the total social labor-time has been expended in the form of weaving. The effect is the same as if each individual weaver had expended more labor-time on his product than was socially necessary. As the German proverb has it: caught together, hung together. All the linen on the market counts as one single article of commerce, and each piece of linen in only an aliquot part of it. And in fact, the value of each single yard is also nothing but the materialization of the same socially determined quantity of homogeneous human labor.” – Karl Marx, Capital

“The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of Communism.” – Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

“He did not, however, look upon himself as unhappy, because this misfortune was, in his opinion, peculiar to knights-errant, and that he was not able to rise on account of the innumerable bruises he had received, he ascribed entirely to the fault of his horse.” – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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