Democratic Theory and Technological Society

By Richard B. Day; Ronald Beiner et al. | Go to book overview

MARX AND LUKACS ON TECHNOLOGY AND THE "VALUE" OF FREEDOM

Richard B. Day

In the Grundrisse Karl Marx portrays the development of human society as a movement from primitive tribal unity, through the division of labor, to restored communality at the higher level of socialized humanity. In the earliest tribal or clan communities, the individual is said to be born into a natural unity which mediates between him and nature as the objective condition of his existence. In capitalist society, by contrast, the individual becomes himself an object, labor power for sale in the market, and social integration must now occur objectively. The movement of commodities is governed not by consciously determined social values, but rather by pursuit of private profit in compliance with the capitalist "law of value." In this context "value" denotes the labor embodied in commodities; and "surplus value," or profit, arises from unpaid labor time in the service of capital. For the capitalist, "value" represents dehumanized wealth accumulated in the form of things. Communism, Marx argues, will redefine the purpose of production in terms of "communal needs and purposes."1 "Real wealth," as distinct from private profit, will be understood in terms of human values as the "developed productive powers of all individuals." The presupposition of all wealth will become "disposable time" for the free development of each individual's universal skills.2

With the purpose of labor defined as "disposable time," Marx saw the transcendent goal of economic planning as a dramatic shortening of the working day through increases of labor productivity. In Capital he wrote that the "freely associated" producers would organize their activity "in accordance with a settled plan."3 Marx considered it redundant to reflect upon how the priorities of the plan would be settled, for this was a technical and not a philosophical question: the overriding rationale of scientific planning was to reduce "necessary" labor time to a minimum and to replace it with embodied labor and embodied scientific knowledge. Marx believed

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