Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tambourine Assessment

Still skipping through Capital. It's a real springtime laugh riot!

I thought these were fun, and by fun I mean something we could do our ol' put-words-in-paranthesis game as a way to get our minds around some concepts:

As capital has the tendency to reduce the direct employment of living labour (get rid of the extraneous guys in the band) to the necessary minimum and constantly shorten the labour needed for the creation of a product by exploiting the social productivity of labour, i.e. economising as much as possible on directly applied living labour, (less pay for less people) so it also has the tendency to apply this labour, which has already been reduced to its necessary amount, under the most economical circumstances, i.e. to reduce the value of the constant capital (musicians) applied to the absolute minimum. If the value of commodities is determined by the necessary labour time contained in them (that includes rehearsal) and not simply by labour-time as such (the time it takes to play the songs), it is capital that first makes a reality of this mode of determination and immediately goes on to reduce continually the labour socially necessary for the production of a commodity (a CD, a concert, a DVD). The price of the commodity is therefore reduced to a minimum through reducing to a minimum each part of the labour required to produce it. (eventually you 'learn the songs' and can play them with ease--and less rehersal time.)

Marx, Carl, Capital Volume 3, the Transformation of Surplus-Value into Profit, p. 180

and then there's this one:

If we consider capitalist production in the narrow sense and ignore the process of circulation and the excesses of competition, it (capitalist production) is extremely sparing with the realised labour that is objectified in commodities. Yet it squanders human beings, living labour, more readily than does any other mode of production, squandering not only flesh and blood, but nerves and brain as well. In fact it is only through the most tremendous waste of individual development that the development of humanity in general is secured and pursued, in that epoch of history that directly precedes the conscious reconstruction of human society. Since the whole of the economising we are discussing here arises from the social character of labour, it is in fact precisely this directly social character of labour that produces this waste of the workers' life and health. The question raised by factory inspector R. Baker is very pertinent here:

'The whole question is one for serious consideration, in what way this sacrifice of infant life occasioned by congregational labour* can be best averted? (Reports of the Inspectors of Factories...31 October 1863, p. 157 [Marx emphasis].)

* 'Congregational labour' means here labour carried on by large masses of people working in association.

Marx, Carl, Capital Volume 3, the Transformation of Surplus-Value into Profit, p. 182

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Capitalism hurts families--especially babies!

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Ah yes, the social character of labour. I seem to recall reading somewhere in that cute Goodwill-bought Lenin book that "labour becomes socialised, profit remains privatised" which I took to mean that while everyone in the band becomes friends (or not) and works together (regardless of the duress that may cause) profit remains the personal private plaything of "the leader" or "the owner" or "the boss."

What is "profit" anyway? Is it really earnings for something which the capitalist did not pay? Is it really an arbitrary amount arbitrarily chosen by the capitalist?

Reading Capital has given me a wonderful opportunity to confront my own Stockholm-syndrome reluctance to accept the idea that everyone should have the same hourly wage.

Tambourine players come to mind. 'Anyone' can play the tambourine, right? Shake the it a bit, smack it against your ass now and then and poof, you're a tambourine player. No need to go to Julliard (or Bennington) for that and so...what?

What would reggae music be without a tambourine? Reggae music without a tambourine, that's what...but what good is that? It would appear that in the song at the top of this blog, the tambourine seems pretty darn central. Someone had to play it...did they get paid less than the drummer? Did the tambourine player get paid less than the people at the record company, whom one cannot hear at all on the recording?

How does one begin to assess the, uh, "value percentage" (my term, obviously) of the tambourine contribution in relation to everything else?

Has that tambourine player been replaced by someone named Roland? If so, who benefitted from that change? The music? The out of work tambourine player? The recording industry? The lucky workers at the Roland factory?

If a job can be done by machines, does that mean it should be done by machines--is that all the justification needed?

Is there an instance (in music, at least) when efficiency and economy does not trump everything else?

copyright © 2009 Stanley J. Zappa