Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

The Production of Labour

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.

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5 responses to “The Production of Labour

  1. Mike Beggs March 6, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for that – looks great. BTW I regret not having time to engage with your Elson posts at the moment due to urgently pressing thesis needs but hopefully I will get a chance eventually!

  2. N Pepperell March 6, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I have a few urgently pressing thesis needs of my own at the moment – it’s probably just as well :-) I thought of you when I saw the Keynes comments at Praxis – unfortunately, I never seem to have time to comment in adequate detail when anyone is writing on Keynes :-( (It’s becoming an incentive for finishing the thesis, wanting to get to the point when I can read something *else* and spend adequate time thinking about it…)

  3. darkdaughta March 7, 2008 at 6:31 am

    I’m not well acquainted with this language. I do suspect however, as my minds works to ponder the significance of the quote, rather than getting hung up on the terminology, that I am heavily influenced by people who translated these ideas into popular politicized forms that people like me could understand and get behind. Thanks for the pointer and thanks for the link. Hey! ;) I’ll be reading more here for a good mind stretch and I’ll also follow the link.

  4. N Pepperell March 7, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Hey there – sorry you were caught in moderation – it’s an anti-spam thing, and should only happen the first time you post. While you’re here, just wanted to say that I enjoy your site a great deal – I had a chance to explore a bit the other day, after you linked here, and will keep reading. The vocabulary here has been a bit abstract for a while, because it’s how I try to get my head into the thought-space of these theorists, but the drive to do this kind of work is very concrete for me (and was, I suspect, for them as well) – I do think (hope) it’s possible to say these things in less technical ways – once I understand them better myself :-)

  5. Praxis March 8, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Thanks for the link – and the kind words! I’d probably go for ‘on occasion just maybe’ rather than ‘consistently’ worth the read – but I’m very flattered. :)

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