[iDC] Answers to Postings about Marx, Labour Theory of Value

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at
Thu Nov 19 01:33:29 UTC 2009

Dear Michel,

>     Christian, I agree with you. But what if we add a temporal
>     dimension. Since these practices are emergent, they are weak and
>     therefore more easily integrated. But already they create powerful
>     new social possibilities and cultural shifts, many of which go
>     against the grain of previously existing neoliberalism. Do yo
>     agree then, that the issue is: how do we strengthen those
>     post-capitalist aspects, how do we strengthen peer and sharing
>     communities, how do we protect commony protected value from
>     private appropriation. On the other side of the coin, what do you
>     think of the Crisis of Value hypothesis, i.e. that these trends
>     create a crisis for capital's monetization as well?
Yes, of course, I agree wi th you, the political task is to strengthen 
those potentials that anticipate a post-capitalist society. The Internet 
allows the easy, fast, cheap copying and transmission of data. Therefore 
commodification is to a certain extent undercut and threatened by the 
Internet-based sharing of data. And that this is perceived as a threat 
by industry, can be viewed by the reactions by the recording industry, 
the movie pictures industry, the trials against Napster, Pirate Bay, 
etc. So to a certain extent these projects provide alternatives to 
surplus value exploitation and therefore pose threats to surplus value 
exploitation. But on the other hand there are also forms of how new 
sources of surplus value are established by media corporations on the 
Internet (targeted advertising, iTunes). New Internet business models 
also make use of "free access". I have termed this phenomenon the 
Internet gift commodity Internet ecomomy. In my opinion, there is a 
contradiction between the networked forms of production and the 
(capitalist) relations of production. I have written about this in a 
recent paper (http://fuchs.icts.sbg.ac.at/ICTS_EJC.pdf). Alternative 
online projects anticipate a post-capitalist society and point beyond 
capitalism, so they are transcendent projects. But on the other hand 
their very principles can also become subsummed by capital. In the 
current form, the capitalist Internet is stronger than the 
post-capitalist Internet. The future is not determined, so I do not 
think that there is an automatic evolutionary growth of alternative 
Internet projects that at a certain moment of time will result in a leap 
from quantity into quality and result in a post-capitalistic Internet. I 
rather think that a movement of intellectural labour is needed that 
organizes itself politically and struggles for a non-corporate Internet 
and for steps in the political regulation process that help to further 
advance non-capitalist Internet projects. One could discuss to which 
extent the US media reform movement or the various Pirate parties have 
potentials for becoming such movements, I am not sure myself. I think 
that given the current student protests against the commodification of 
education in Europe and other parts of the world are responses to 
neoliberalism, the crisis, and the neoliberal "socialism for the rich" 
crisis management strategies. If they intensify and in a sort of domino 
effect extend themselves to large parts of the globe, then I think a 
movement of intellectual labour could emerge. Critical Internet politics 
could then be connected to this movement.

>     Here I must disagree. Facebook usage is voluntary and I know many
>     people who refuse to use it. The truth for me is that there are
>     compelling reasons to that 1) third party platforms exists; 2) and
>     that they are  currently 'better' than independent platforms. You
>     have to see this as a acceptable social contract from the user's
>     point of view. They get a lot out of it, which makes the quid pro
>     quo valuable enough. Especially in the context of the value
>     crisis, Howard Rheingold's quip, "I get more out of Flickr, than
>     they do out of me", rings true.
You hold what I have characterized as political position 1 in Internet 
politics in this respect, whereas I more tend towards position 3. So I 
do not think that this is a symmetric exchange because material aspects 
are crucial aspects of our economy. We will not agree on this point, but 
we may agree that we disagree. In terms of the formula rate of 
exploitation = s / v, the users of YouTube, Google, etc are infinitely 
exploited. If some people want to define exploitation in other ways, 
they are free to do so, but I find the Marxian formula more convincing. 
Discussions about these points are not very productive, what they do 
show is that there are different political positions underlying 
theoretical arguments.

Best, Christian

- - -
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Christian Fuchs
Associate Professor
Unified Theory of Information Research Group
ICT&S Center
University of Salzburg
Sigmund Haffner Gasse 18
5020 Salzburg
christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at
Phone +43 662 8044 4823
Personal Website: http://fuchs.uti.at
Research Group: http;//www.uti.at
Editor of 
tripleC - Cognition, Communication, Co-Operation | Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society
Fuchs, Christian. 2008. Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age. New York: Routledge. 

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