|27 May 2008 @ 01:23, by Roberto Massera|
.... the characteristic that defines the field of economics, that tells apart economic from non economic relationships, is not the objective, which is the same for both, but the way, the mode. Economic relationships are those negotiated, measured and regulated in quantitative terms, those where quantity takes priority over quality...
Field of Economics, Economic Value and Character of Economic Relationships
For the meaning of the words, in every specific situation everyone does his best, with every action and relation, to satisfy his own needs and desires, to obtain that which one describes with the positive attributes of existence: that which is necessary, useful, pleasant, meaningful, etc.
The urge to life and the fixed laws of nature, reveal the causality of the Creative in its efficacy. The urge to life -that which furthers and is right for each beings- lays the foundation of its nature, and this nature acts according to fixed laws; this is the way of all beings. (R. Wilhelm. I CHING p. 377)
For this reason, the characteristic that defines the field of economics, that tells apart economic from non economic relationships, is not the objective, which is the same for both, but the way, the mode. Economic relationships are those negotiated, measured and regulated in quantitative terms, those where quantity takes priority over quality.
To distinguish a commodity from a common object, indeed, is not its function or utility; every natural or artificial object ha an intrinsic value determined by its physical characteristics. The sure difference is that a commodity has a price, or rate of exchange - its economic value -, which indicates the exact quantitative relationship between a commodity and the other commodities. If something that satisfies needs is freely available in nature, that thing doesn't have a price and cannot be considered as a commodity.
Labor, as well, is different from leisure activities not because of the usefulness of its result or the effort or the ability it requires, but because produces commodities. To speak, to sing or making love, as well as growing food or house building, are all activities aimed toward the satisfaction of wants which result may or may not be sold. Only barter relationships and relationships mediated by money can and must be considered as economic relationships
From the definition of the field of economics derives the definition of the economic value's nature.
Since the exchange of commodities is nothing but the material aspect of the exchange of labor, the economic value of the gross product, indicated by the sum of the price of all the commodities and services sold in any given period of time within an economic system, is always and only the quantitative representation of the totality of time of labor which produces them, whatever their function or utility could be and however they are distributed.
This determines the absolute value of the currencies as precise quantities of time of labor of each for the others. The price of a commodity always and immediately represents a fraction of time of social labor, of undifferentiated human existence as considered in pure quantitative terms. Economics is the quantification of human existence.
Character of Economic Relationships
Once established that the distinction between economic and non economic relationships is quantitative and that that between wellbeing and malaise is qualitative, and since both economic and non economic relationships have the same objective, the nature of the relationship between economic and well being must be considered in two distinct ways: particular, or relative, and general, or absolute.
The relative consideration refers to the fact that all relations, activities and objects, economic or not, can be suitable or unfit for a specific task and imply well being or malaise: the material value, the function of an apple, bought at the market or gathered while hiking, for instance, is the same.
At the same time, though, between economic and non economic relationships there is a difference caused just by the exchange of position of quality and quantity, otherwise there would be no reason for some of them to be quantified and not the others. The absolute evalation regards the nature of the relationship between economic and non economic relationships as such, and corresponding state of well being or malaise, no matter what the utility of each of them, individually considered, might be. This is the kind of evaluation specifically regarding the nature of the relationship between economics and wellbeing.
The relationship between quality and quantity is the same kind of relationship between spirit and matter, or, more generally, between yin and yang, where quality is yang and quantity yin. The unnatural inversion of quality and quantity is the reason why economic relationships, even though aimed toward wellbeing, are in the same time intrinsically negative, expression and cause of a state of malaise.
Strictly speaking there is no real dualism here, because there is a clearly defined hierarchic relationship between the two principles. In itself of course the Receptive is just as important as the Creative, but the attributes of devotion defines the place occupied by this primal power in relation to the Creative. For the Receptive must be activated and led by the Creative; then it is productive of good. Only when it abandons this position and tries to stand as an equal side by side with the Creative, does it become evil. The result then is opposition to and struggle against the Creative, which is productive of evil to both. (R. Whilhelm I Ching p. 11)
The quantification of human existence is the direct social consequence of the production of food, since when that which is needed is abundantly available in nature, negotiated exchange don't have sense and cannot exist. The very existence of economics, therefore, indicates the presence of a state of scarcity, and then malaise, both in the relationship with nature - in labor activity - and in social relationships - in negotiated exchange -.
John Locke, who considered the shears (the forgers of the time) as criminals worst than the murderers, writes:
Changes and movements are judged according to the furtherance (that they bring). Good fortune and misfortune change according to the conditions. Therefore: Love and hate combat each other, and good fortune and misfortune result therefrom. The true and the false influence each other, and advantage and injury result therefrom. In all the situations of the Book of Changes it is thus: When closely related things do not harmonize, misfortune is the result: this give rise to injury, remorse and humiliation. (I CHING p. 355)
In the beginning, the whole world was like America, and maybe better than how it is now, for nowhere anyone knew anything like money. (J. Locke Two Treatises 1680- 1690 p. 276 from George Constantine Caffentzis Parole Abusate... p. 51)
Regarding relationships with the environment, by saying that labor is human activity producing commodities, one does not express any qualitative judgment, so that not only pleasant and useful labor activities may exist, but also some labor activities may be more pleasant and useful than many leisure activities.
From the absolute point of view, though, since commodities are commodities because they are sold, labor activity is by definition that from which result one alienates himself, the alienated activity. By means of economic activities one produces something in order to obtain something else, which means that in order to satisfy needs one must first of all deny their immediate satisfaction. Labor is time of existence subtracted from the direct enjoyment of life and, for this reason, a synonym for physical and/or emotive strain.
For Smith and the classical economists, labor as such is a negative activity, it is sacrifice (the disturbance that one can avoid by giving it to somebody else), it is the cost, the burden required to satisfy one's own needs. Humanity, happiness and the realization of man are not found in labor, but only out of it, in resting and enjoying life, in contemplating and thinking. (Marina Bianchi I Bisogni e la Teoria Economica Loesher p. 25)
In social relationships, the relatively positive and absolutely negative character of the quantification of existence is evident in the very definition of price as the meeting point of demand and supply.
On one side, that economics succeeds in its aim towards the satisfaction of needs is demonstrated by the fact that those who buy commodities are ready to give in exchange - renouncing other possibilities - something useful that requires commitment and effort to be made. Also, one is "free" to buy or not to buy, to sell or not to sell, therefore, at the point of equilibrium of demand and supply where the exchange takes place, one must suppose that both parts are satisfied with the quality and the price of the exchanged commodities.
From the absolute point of view, though, we see that, just because labor is alienated activity, negotiated exchange is a conflict relationship for which the declared intention of both parts is to obtain the maximum amount in exchange for the least of whatever object is dealt; to sell at the highest and buy at the lowest possible price. Outside the meeting point of demand and supply there is no unity, no solidarity, no agreement on the mutal sharing. If it were not so, indeed, prices, and therefore economics, could not exist.
In economic relationships, not only one does not try to understand - given the needs and the availability of resources - what would be best for the well being of both parts: one, instead, hopes that the need of the other is great - which consequently is often artificially created - so that he can obtain a higher price for his commodity.
Also, indeed, since economic value is the representation of a definite quantity of human existence, the enrichment of someone means the immediate essential impoverishment of all the others, of society as a whole.
Satisfaction and enjoyment are in consumption, not in labor. Labor, on the contrary, is the disturbance, the sorrow, the sacrifice that must be borne to achieve some well-being. Consumption therefore is the reason for economic activity... If indeed production, distribution, exchange and consumption are the chapters of economics, only consumption constitutes the principal purpose and the natural end of all the other activities. (M. Bianchi I Bisogni... p. 10)
Smith considers labor as a malediction, as the punishment for having tasted the divine fruit, and finds the conditions of happiness in resting and in the freedom from work. (M Bianchi I Bisogni... p. 160)
Labor is a burden, is constriction, pain. Richness is the result of no-freedom, no-happiness. Progress is the fruit of pain. (M. Bianchi I Bisogni... p. 58)
One fact should be clear to you by now. Money-making is aggression. That's the whole thing. The functionalistic explanation is the only one. People come to the market to kill. They say, "I'm going to make a killing". It's not incidental. Only they haven't got the genuine courage to kill, and they erect a symbol of it. Money! (Saul Bellow Seize the Day p. 76 Fawcett)
Money therefore represents the totality of labor of each for the others, and its use objectively maintains social unity, but in the same time it implies a competitive spirit that denies the awareness of that social unity.
Money implies the coexistence of two antagonistic forces: an unaware cohesive one, which materially and objectively establishes and maintains the unity and the common front toward the external world of those who use the same currency, and an interior, conscious and systematic, competitive, antagonistic and disintegrating one.
This lack of awareness is demonstrated by the incapacity of the economic theory to formally define the meaning of economic value, as it is demonstrated by the fact that the various currencies don't indicate the quantity of time of social labor that they anyway represent.
As Marx says in the Economic-Philosophic Notebooks, money is the alienated power of humanity.
In the modern, capitalist society, everyone, as the economists say, really doesn't have any other aim than his own private, egoistic interest, but the result, according to Marx, is not harmony, but competition, antagonism. The social recomposition, when present, is independent from their will; the reality of their relationships is, instead, the contrast and conflict of interest and needs. The new force that keeps together these disiecta membra is the market, the exchange, and a new power: money. (M. Bianchi I Bisogni... p. 19)