Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 112

[16.] Henri Storch [Unhistorical Approach to the Problem of the Interaction between Material and Spiritual Production. Conception of “Immaterial Labour” Performed by the Ruling Class]

“After Garnier, Storch is in fact the first writer to polemise against Adam Smith’s distinction between productive and unproductive labour on a new basis.” (p 284)

Storch distinguishes between material wealth and spiritual wealth, and argues that the former is dependent on the latter.

““It is evident that man only attains to the production of wealth in so far as he is endowed with internal goods, that is to say, in so far as he has developed his physical, intellectual and moral faculties, which implies the means for their development such as social institutions, etc. Thus the more civilised a people, the more its national wealth can grow.” ” [Storch, Cours d’économie politique, p 136] (p 284)

Smith, of course, does not consider spiritual or any other kind of wealth, because he is only concerned with analysing the specific form of capitalist wealth. It would, of course, be the case that if one was considering spiritual wealth, or say ecological wealth, some other types of labour would be productive, and then capitalist productive-labour may even be considered destructive rather than productive.

Storch did recognise, Marx says, that the material division of labour is the precondition for the division of intellectual labour. But, in general, he does not get beyond trivialities. The problem, Marx says, is that Storch failed to locate production in its specific historical context.

“Thus for example different kinds of spiritual production correspond to the capitalist mode of production and to the mode of production of the Middle Ages. If material production itself is not conceived in its specific historical form, it is impossible to understand what is specific in the spiritual production corresponding to it and the reciprocal influence of one on the other.” (p 285)

These different modes of material production give rise to different social structures, different types of state, different relations between individuals in these societies, and also a different relation to Nature. As a result, the spiritual outlook of individuals within these different societies is also different.

But, by spiritual production, Storch also means the activities and functions of the various strata of the ruling class. In essence, his outlook is functionalist. Production of material wealth and spiritual wealth is then not historically determined but functionally determined.

“... he deprives himself of the basis on which alone can be understood partly the ideological component parts of the ruling class, partly the free spiritual production of this particular social formation.” (p 285)

He cannot then comprehend the point made earlier that some forms at least of capitalist material production are contradictory to spiritual production, and the same could be said of other forms of wealth.

“For instance, capitalist production is hostile to certain branches of spiritual production, for example, art and poetry. If this is left out of account, it opens the way to the illusion of the French in the eighteenth century which has been so beautifully satirised by Lessing. Because we are further ahead than the ancients in mechanics, etc., why shouldn’t we be able to make an epic too? And the Henriade in place of the Iliad!” (p 285)

Storch is right, however, Marx says, that others of Smith's critics, such as Garnier, had done so by instead of establishing the distinction between material and immaterial production, asserting that the production of services was material production.

Marx quotes the following passage from Storch, which he says, later writers copied from him.

““From the fact that internal goods are in part the product of services, the conclusion has been drawn that they are no more lasting than the services themselves, and that they were necessarily consumed as they were produced” (l.c., t. III, p. 234). “The original” [internal] “goods, far from being destroyed by the use made of them, expand and grow with use, so that even the consumption of them augments their value” (l.c., p. 236). “Internal goods are susceptible of being accumulated like wealth, and of forming capitals that can be used in reproduction”, etc. (l.c., p. 236). “Material labour must be divided up and its products must be accumulated before the dividing up of immaterial labour can be thought of” (p. 241).” (p 286)

Marx doesn't quote this passage because it contains any great insight. On the contrary, it contains only superficial analogies and relations between material and spiritual wealth.

“According to Storch, the physician produces health (but also illness), professors and writers produce enlightenment (but also obscurantism), poets, painters, etc., produce good taste (but also bad taste), moralists, etc., produce morals, preachers religion, the sovereign’s labour security, and so on (pp. 347-50). It can just as well be said that illness produces physicians, stupidity produces professors and writers, lack of taste poets and painters, immorality moralists, superstition preachers and general insecurity produces the sovereign.” (p 286-7)

In other words, we have a functionalist approach whereby these activities are designated as productive because they perform a function required for the mechanism of the society. For the later writers, who copied from Storch, it can be reduced to the following, Marx says.

“1. that the various functions in bourgeois society mutually presuppose each other;

2. that the contradictions in material production make necessary a superstructure of ideological strata, whose activity— whether good or bad—is good, because it is necessary;

3. that all functions are in the service of the capitalist, and work out to his “benefit”;

4. that even the most sublime spiritual productions should merely be granted recognition, and apologies for them made to the bourgeoisie, that they are presented as, and falsely proved to be, direct producers of material wealth.” (p 287)

No comments: