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View Diary: On the 'Vindication' of Marx *updated (208 comments)

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  •  I know its a huge topic, but question (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    penguins4peace, Simplify, Bluesee, VClib

    about alienation: take an oil company CEO.  he's paid for his labor: he does X, he gets $Y in exchange as a matter of contract.  he's contracted his labor the same way most of us do, the main difference is that he's paid a fuckton more.  so is the notion of alienation tied into surplus value?  eg, the surplus value he creates redounds to his benefit, rather than to the shareholders.  is that why his labor isn't alienated from him, or is he actuly as alienated from his labor as a minimum wage worker?

    •  I'll step in it with you (6+ / 0-)

      And it's a bit of a risk since I know a whole lot less now than I used to. And beyond that this is going to be a bit simplistic.

      However an oil company CEO is likely to have a significant investment in the company. That investment, his capital contribution to the enterprise, is part and parcel of the means of production. So he is not only (or perhaps even primarily) contracting his labor so much as he is being compensated for the use of his capital. It really isn't about his labor; I presume that if he has to do paperwork, issue directives, sit in board meetings and so on, that sort of labor he'd be as alienated from as the person at the oil rig. But that isn't his primary involvement in the enterprise.

      •  So let's assume around that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, VClib

        Let's say we have company X, whose CEO is paid entirely in cash and gets an enormous salary.  

        (great thing about philosophy is that we can stipulate the contours of the factual world to get at the conceptual stuff!)

        •  That's pretty much a hypothetical with no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Barton Funk

          real-world reference, isn't it?

          Not sure how it would be instructive to contemplate.

          Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

          by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:49:36 PM PDT

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      •  Marx later abandons (17+ / 0-)

        the alienation theory that dominated his earlier work.  That aside, the logic is different between workers and owners.  In Capital, Marx describes the logic of the worker with the "equation" "C-M-C" (commodity-money-commodity).  The worker sells his labor (a commodity or C) for money (M) and uses that money to buy another commodity.  In other words, his money isn't used to make money.  For the capitalist, by contrast, the "equation" is "M-C-M".  The capitalist invests his money in a commodity (labor, buildings to rent, objects to trade) to get money as the result of his investment.  The capitalists money makes money, whereas the worker uses his money simply to live.

        There are, of course, all sorts of intermediaries.  For example, those of us who have 401's are behaving as capitalists in that we are investing money in commodities to make money.  The crucial difference comes down to whether or not one is able to live on their investment activity alone (M-C-M) or whether we can only live through our labor (C-M-C).  Most of us can't live on our 401's (at least until very late in life) and are therefore forced to sell our labor to buy the commodities we require to live.  The CEO, by contrast, is able to live on investments alone without the need to sell labor.  Not only does his "labor" consist in investing money in commodities (whether they be labor, stocks, or goods to be traded) to make more money for the corporation, but he is able to live solely on the compensation that he receives and the money that compensation is able to generate through reinvestment.

        •  the CEO sells his labor. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hmi, VClib

          he uses the proceeds to invest, but he's still selling his labor for capital.  some of that goes into commodities, a lot back to capital.

          •  But he doesn't need to do so (5+ / 0-)

            Almost any CEO of a major corporation could retire at any point and live very comfortably off of his investments. Unlike a worker, he does not need the income earned from work. In fact, there are many CEOs who take no, or only a nominal salary. You would be hard pressed to find a CEO of a major company who makes more by selling his labor than he makes by lending his capital.

            •  I knew this would provide for an interesting (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              melo, Barton Funk

              discussion. I was unavailable on long, grueling and occasionally scary bike ride. Now I have even fewer functioning braincells.

              I appreciate the responses and in particular the added analysis. As I said I've forgotten a great deal over time.

            •  Seth - I don't think that is accurate (0+ / 0-)

              In large part because total CEO compensation is so high. The average total compensation for a Fortune 500 CEO is about $13 million. Only about $3-4 million is cash. The balance is equity compensation that will be earned over the next four years and depends on the price of the company's stock. It actually takes a lot of capital to have annual investment income in the range of $10 million a year. Even at 10%, which would be a high rate of return, would require an investment portfolio of $100 million. At a more realistic 5%, it would be twice that amount. Most Fortune 500 CEOs don't have a net worth in excess of $100 million and if they do it's not all invested in financial assets. The guys with the really big bucks are CEOs of financial services firms or investors, rather than operating executives.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:38:34 PM PDT

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          •  The question is one of (0+ / 0-)

            whether or not the person is enslaved by a certain relation to labor.  Does the person have the choice of jumping out of the entire game altogether, or is it a necessity for them to sell their labor in order to live at all.  The CEO has that choice.  Most others do not.

    •  I have one quibble (7+ / 0-)

      CEO's especially ones of large corporations do not contract their labor out the same way that middle class people do.

      We only think nothing goes without saying.

      by Hamtree on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 08:46:41 AM PDT

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      •  there are differences in terms, but its (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        still contracted labor.

        •  No. As I note below, there is a big difference (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, Words In Action, JosephK74

          Between a member of the owner class agreeing contractually to help other members of the owner class make enormous amounts of money by exploiting other people, and being paid subsistence wages to be exploited.

          I think you're focusing way to much on the fact that someone is singing an agreement to do something.  It's the "something" you're agreeing to do that's relevant here.

          Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

          by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:42:59 PM PDT

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    •  Actually (14+ / 0-)

      a CEO of a large corporation doesn't contract his labor the same way most people do.

      CEO is at the top levels of the hierarchical power structure, while most of the rest of us are at or near the bottom.

      A CEO's interest is completely aligned with the owner class. The manner in which they are paid is often quite different, based on elaborate contracts, remuneration with stocks, golden parachutes, bonuses, etc.

      Thus they are often both the owner class, as well as the ruling class.

      The relationship is quite different from the powerlessness most workers experience.

      We don't need Marx to tell us what is in front of our faces. Marx didn't invent socialism.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:07:53 AM PDT

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      •  legally they do. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hmi, duhban, VClib

        they sign an employment agreement in exchange for compensation the same way I do.

        •  Not all executive positions are the same (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Some CEOs are definitively part of the owner class, and some are not as entrenched, depending on the nature of the corporation.

          But most are enjoying a privileged position at the upper echelons of the hierarchical work place, and thus are part of worker exploitation.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:02:21 PM PDT

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        •  A practical, non-doctrinaire way to answer this: (6+ / 0-)

          If the capitalistic, hierarchical workplace of the CEO was collectivized, and turned to self-management by the workers, would the CEO flee to avoid the more equal work environment?

          During the Spanish Civil War, when large areas of Spain were collectivized under anarcho-socialism, some fled, some stayed and enjoyed the new freedom and equality in the workplace.

          I'd wager those who fled were going to lose property, position, privilege, and could not bear living under more egalitarian social structure.

          Management generally fled.

          People generally know how their bread gets buttered without consulting a reference.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:19:43 PM PDT

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          •  On the other hand (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MrJayTee, where4art, chuckvw, ozsea1, antirove

            In Spain small business owners (bakeries, hair salons, etc) either continued as before (if they could manage without hired labor) or gladly joined the collectives.

            And some administrators of larger enterprises chose to stay on, as well.

            People knew if they were to lose or gain under the new system, and behaved accordingly.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:38:21 PM PDT

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        •  The issue is where the individual stands (6+ / 0-)

          In the hierarchy of exploitation.  

          Signing an employment agreement to be CEO or other top level position can apply to a member of the owner class who enjoys the work or to an aspiring member of that class.  Either way, as owners or highly paid aspirants, their purpose is to maximize profit with little consideration of the fate of working people.

          Next layer down are non-owners who, whatever their aspirations, make their money using their education and professional qualifications assisting the owners in their exploitation, for example corporate lawyers and accountants.  They are the real middle class.

          You and the CEO may both sign an employment agreement, but you make your living at the mercy of his class, as do we all.

          That's the difference.  Unless he's an extravagant fool, the only wound he suffers when he's fired is to his ego.  

          Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

          by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:21:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's the type of compensation (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, Words In Action, JosephK74

          and how it's taxed that's the fundamental difference; and in fact, your very livelihood depends on it.

          So, you knew this ahead of time, and still blithely offer "abstractions" in hope that your audience will be fooled.

          The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

          by ozsea1 on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 04:03:29 PM PDT

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    •  The surplus value is taken, not created. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, lucid, JosephK74

      Generally, both s/he and the shareholders would benefit.  Exactly how depends on bylaws and management.

      Either way, the distinction isn't just that he's paid a fuckton more but that he's paid to extract value from the workers, i.e., exploit them.

      It's the exploited who experience alienation.

      (And what's the metric system equivalent of a fuckton, BTW?)

      Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

      by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:37:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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