Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 2 September 2011

Clarification on John Ross at Gavyn Davies

Just in case some friends needed a clarification of the comments on "the division of labour" I made below, let me briefly clarify them. "Labour" is a human activity that is polymorphous - it is "living labour": therefore, it cannot be "divided", because "division" means that "living activity" is a "quantity", which is a contra-diction. What we can do is to devote our "living activity" to "different tasks". That is not a "division of labour" at all!
When we work, we devote our living labour to different tasks - which means that we "organise" our living activity in different ways. So we should never speak of "division of labour" but rather of "the organisation of social labour", because we are not like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island. The very fact that we are born with brains and a "specific physiology" means that we belong to our species - we are not "human beings" but "beings human". It is not possible therefore "to divide" our living activities into "individual labours" any more than it is possible "to divide labour"!

"Technological progress" does not exist: there are merely different technologies for the organisation of social labour. Technologies changes to reflect the changing organisation of social labour. Therefore it is sheer nonsense to say like Ross that "the division of labour produces technological progress"! That is the worst load of rubbish ever printed - since Guttenberg! No amount of "division of labour", however understood, could give you "technological progress" because there is no such thing! There are only "different technologies" that reflect given social relations of production, or the social organisation of labour! Cheers. I hope to continue this some other time - too busy with Nietzsche and Wittgenstein now.

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