Saturday, November 5, 2011
The non monetised sector of the economy
--- In WSM_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "Bob Howes (vegan)" <robertcircle1@...> wrote:
> Hi Robin,
> I agree with you that there are classes but I also think we should all become a third class, a classless class. We don't need to wait for a socialist revolution either, we can just enter into different relationships with each other for mutual advantage. Maybe even in the same ratio of rich to poor in society. If 99 of us join together and largely cater to our own needs then maybe we can get one uber rich person to join us. What do you think? It would be a hell of a boost wouldn't it?
There'as nothing wrong with people wanting to change their relationship with others for the purposes of "mutual advantage". To an extent, people have always done this throughout the history of capitalism. There has always been what economists have dubbed an informal non-monetised "grey" economy, the size of which, in terms of comparative labour hours expended, is literally massive. So really you are pushing on an open door here...
Some years ago a guy by the name of Charles Handy wrote a book called "The Future of Work" . Citing earlier research by Richard Rose, Handy noted that within the United Kingdom as a whole the proportion of labour hours devoted to unpaid work of all kinds - namely, 51% - exceeded the total labour hours worked in paid employment in both the official white money economy (46%) and the unofficial or illegal black money economy (3%) combined. (Handy C, The Future of Work, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1984, p.48) . In other developed economies these proportions were somewhat different - in Italy, for example, a larger proportion was accounted for by the black economy and a smaller proportion by the white economy. I guess thats the hand the Mafia at work there ;-)
In America, Scott Burns, referred to the vast scale of the "domestic self provisioning" sector in these terms:
"How large would this invisible economy be if it could be measured in dollars? Very large. According to one study (Sirageldin, 1969), the total value of all the goods and services produced by the household economy in 1965 was about $300 billion. That was about equal to the gross national product of the Soviet Union at that time. If all the work done within the household by men and women were monetised, the total would be equal to the entire amount paid out in wages and salaries by every corporation in the United States...Very very little of this appears in conventional accountings for the the gross national product...The hours of work done outside the money economy rival those done inside" (Burns S, The Household Economy: Its Shape, Origins and Future, Beacon Press, Boston, 1975, p.6-8)
Though these figures are somewhat dated they do not seem to have changed much over time. According to more recent figures released by United Nations Development Programme, for the industrialised countries as a whole, the consensus seems to be that as much time is spent on unpaid work as on paid work . (The North-South Institute Newsletter Vol.3, No.2 , 1999). More recently still, a report on the State of the World Population (2002) by UNFPA notes that "Of men's total work time in industrial countries, roughly two thirds is spent in activities that are counted towards measures of GNP and one third in unpaid activities; for women, the shares are reversed" (http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2002/english/ch4/page3.htm). This works out to be much the same as 50:50 split between paid and unpaid work mentioned earlier.
So, yes, people do relate to others in ways quite different to that prescribed by capitalism - not only in terms of the domestic household but in numerous other forms of voluntary or unpaid work -from charities to mutual aid projects to the myriad of schemes such as the "Freecycle network" . This last scheme started off as one person's idea in Tucson USA back in 2003 and mushroomed in a matter of a few years into a global network of well over 8 million people in 85 countries and is still growing at a phenomenal pace. There is even a group here in Granada , Spain
So, yes, you dont need to tell me or anyone else that it is possible. The facts speak for themselves. The potential is there.
However, the flipside of that coin is to recognise also what is NOT possible and why precisely therefore a socialist revolution is most definitely needed. Some kinds of means of production are amenable to what you suggest; others most definitely are not. Factories, power stations and the like are clearly not and we can't do without them , can we? The computer that you are typing your emails on is assembled out of components and materials that are produced within the capitalist monetary economy. Certainly, if the computer crashes you can get it repaired without money changing hands - for example, if you are a member of a LETS group. Thats fine as far as it goes but its not going to alter that fact it is within the commercial capitalist sector that this computer first saw the light of day.
Point is that capitalism NEEDSA us to be its wage slaves, to have no option but to sell our working abilities on the labour market so that capital can reproduce itself. Its needs us in other words to be saparated from the means of the production so that become dependent on those who actually own and control these means of production for a job. There are all sorts of ways in which workers are sucked into dependency on the money economy. Dave mentioned taxes. Historically , taxes played an important role in forcing native populations in the European colonies into migrant labour. Hut taxes in the native reserves of South Africa, payable in money, compelled many black workers into working on the mines. The reduction in the amount of land available for black subsistence agriculture (formalised in the 1913 Native Lands Act) put added pressure on them, literally leaving them with no alternative but to migrate to places like Johannesburg to work as cheap mine labour
This is what we need to recognise and construct our strategy around. The complete elimination of capitalism can ONLY come through a social revolution. It can't happen in any other way. Yes there are some things you can do that dont require you to wait for a socialist revolution but equally there are other things that cannot be done UNLESS and UNTIL we have a socialist revolution! Its a question of sorting out which is which.
Capitalism is not going to conveniently submit itself to a process of non-market entryism, as it were, in the way that trotskyists a few years back thought they could change the Labour Party through entryism. All that happened is that the Trots got booted out.
In the capitalist sector of the economy for all the backward looking nostalgia of the freemarket neanderthals on this list, who seemingly yearn for the return of an era of petty commodity production (if it ever really existed) a few ceturies ago, capital is becoming progressively concentrated in few and fewer hands. A tiny portion of the population own more and more of the large scale means of production. This has got nothing to do with economies of scale, with factories getting larger and larger. Factories can reduce in size, corporations can scale down and federate into more autonomously run units but STILL the concentration of capital goes on. According the 2010 Global Wealth Report 83% of the world's households own only 13% of the wealth, down from 14% the previous year. By contrast, the top 0.5% of households (those with $5 million or more) owned 21%, or $23 trillion, of the world's wealth. That is up from 19% in 2008. If this is not a concentrating trend, what is?
This is what we have to face up to and confront. And you can get rid of the stranglehold that this tiny class of individuals exercise over our lives ONLY by deliberately and consciously stripping them of their monopoly ownership of the means of production - means of production which we ourselves, the vast majority, produced in the first place and from which we are systematically and forcibly excluded in the interests of capital accummulation