The Production of Labour
March 6, 2008
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I keep meaning to put up a pointer to Praxis, which is always discussing interesting topics at the intersection of economics and deconstruction. The posts over there are consistently worth the read, but I wanted to post a specific pointer today to a nice post up on Keynes, written partially in dialogue to some of the things I’ve put up over here on Marx’s “labour theory of value”. A brief selection:
The innovation of Keynesianism was to reverse the terms in which neo-classical economics had understood the labour-production relation. Neoclassical economics sees labour as the means to the end of production. Keynes’s general theory sees production as a means to the end of labour. Faced with the great depression, and massive unemployment, Keynes proposed deficit-financed government expenditure as a means to ‘produce’ employment. The actual commodities labour produced were incidental – as Keynes vividly illustrates with his great example of burying bank-notes down coal mines, and then digging them up again. Keynesianism – ‘rescuing’ capitalism from itself, and from the looming threat of socialism – can be seen as bringing into the open something that was implicit in earlier mainstream economic theorising: the extent to which economic activity works to produce not commodities, but wage-labour. And – as the social unrest that the great depression brought to the surface suggests – the production of employment is essential if capitalist society is to survive. This is, of course, because people need food to eat. But it’s also because the social system of wage labour serves as an incredibly potent mechanism of discipline and control. When the Keynesian revolution brought ‘full’ employment explicitly to the forefront of policy-making, capitalism, one might say, showed its hand.
I unfortunately have no time today to comment adequately, but at least wanted to put up a pointer to the post, which is worth a read in full.