[iDC] Social Production and the Labor Theory of Value

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at
Fri Oct 30 15:26:52 UTC 2009

Dear Sareeta,

Sareeta B Amrute schrieb:
> Dear Christian and List:
> I really enjoyed your last post, and it stimulated a series of questions for me.
> 1) If, as you suggest, Internet producers are maximally exploitable because no wage is paid to them, this begs the question (which has been discussed on this list and seemed embedded in the term 'playlabor/playbor' itself), why do they engage in these forms of surplus value creation/exploitation?  
I think one reason is that there are no viable non-commercial
alternatives to many popular commercial web 2.0 platforms, which is due
to the fact that much money is needed for organizing storage space for
something like MySpace, which is not easy to organize on a non-profit,
non-commercial basis.

> In my view, answering this question requires us to take 'ideology' seriously (An earlier post on McLuhan also moved in this direction). There isof course a view of ideology that treats it as false consciousness, but I do not think this gets us very far.  Among its many problems, the ideology as false consciousness thesis would suggest that all we need to do iseducate people on how they are being exploited and they would stop.  
The notion of false consciousness was popularized in critical thinking
by Lukács and the whole Frankfurt School built on this idea of Lukács.
The concept does not imply that education brings about true
consciousness because it is based on the assumption that the relations
of production and the commodity form tend to fetishize human thinking.
So in order for false consciousness to turn intro true consciousness, a
foundation is that the commodification of everything stops, that
commodified goods and services are turned into common goods, etc.
However, I think that this is not just an economic question, but that
also political and cultural changes are needed, education being one of
them, but these factors must be based on economic cahnges.

> A more fruitful way of thinking through ideology might be as part of production of surplus value itself. That is, ideology is not false representation, but an account of 
> actually existing social relations, one that in a certain sense makes possible (because its widely agreed-upon) the continued production of surplus value for capitalist.  To quote Marx's famous passage on fetishism, 'to the producers, therefore, the social relations between their private labors appears as what they are, i.e. they do not appear as direct social relations between persons in their work, but rather as material relationsbetween persons and social relations between things.'  The key phrase here is 'as they really are'.  So, what is the relationship between the 'dinglich' and the 'sozial' that is being established in web 2.0 economies?
I think the fetish character of commodities and money is a very
important concept. Lukács beased his whole ideology critique on the
notion of Verdinglichung, which is just a reformulation of the fetish
chapter in Capital, Volume 1.

I do not think that web 2.0 users do not generally have false
consciousness, there is a lack of alternative platforms, this is not
such much a question of ideology than of the availability of alternative
technologies. My hypothesis (that needs to be empirically tested) is
that web 2.0 worker's consciousness is more critical than the one of
tradtional industrial workers.

Ideology is both an account of actually existing social relations and a
false representation of these social relations that tends to take social
relations for things.

> 2) My second question is on necessary labor.  While the producer in your formulation is not being paid a wage (but MTurk would be an exception here), it may be worthwhile to think about what necessary labor is in thiseconomy.  That is, what is required (the amount of labor) for the workerto reproduce herself in order to be vital (to capital itself perhaps)?  Although it is true that in your scenario the capitalist is paying out nocontribution for the subsistence and reproduction of the worker, clearlythe worker thinks/feels that she is 'getting something out of' all of this labor.  Borrowing from Spivak's notion of affectively necessary labor (see Scattered Speculations p. 162), it may be useful to ask what other conditions are vital to the reproduction of the worker here (i.e. connectivity itself, the circulation of reputation, the transfer of information all via Facebook)?  I recognize 
> that you still might argue that the capitalist is contributing nothing to this affectively necessary labor, since setting up the platform etc. does not require compensating those who work on it, but the difference seems important.  It might allow a discussion of desire to enter into a discussion of web 2.0 political economy. It would be nice to hear some thoughts on this.

I do not really see what your argumentation is aiming at. Do you want to
say that playlabourers are not really exploited because capitalists
provide them with emotional benefit? Do you want to say that they are
also emotionally exploited?

I do not have an opinion on this topic and cannot answer your question
because I do not know Spivak's notion of affectively necessary labour.

Even if we like the wage labour or non wage labour we are doing, we can
be exploited in doing it. Contemporary capital even aims at attacking
our emotions and wants to make us feel happy while we work in order to
forestall the emergence of class hate. Probably people have unlearned to
identify and hate their enemies. Eva Illouz has written about the
instrumental role of emotions in contemporary capitalism.

I think it is important to theorize emotions, but I have not undertaken
to do so. You cannot do everything in the limited working time
available... I also would not see that it is the primary task of
critiacl theory today to theorize emotions, it is one interesting task
besides others.

Best, Christian
> Thanks,
> Sareeta
> Then, it seems as if the capitalist is contributing    On Tue, 27 Oct 2009 idc-request at mailman.thing.net wrote:
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- - -
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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