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Value of work? [David Graeber]

March 22, 2017

Interestingly, the labor theory of value, or some version of it, is something “libertarians” and “socialists”, in the US at least, tend to agree on.[*]

This animated micro lecture goes a small step further, and proposes an answer for the purpose of work.

[via Idler on a Hammock]

[*] – you have to press the libertarians a bit, they sometimes start off with the property-owner thing. But by the end of the first beer, I usually find that the property-owner ideal itself is just there as a way to safeguard the fruits of one’s labor, and is not an end in itself. With some gentle gentle challenges, this comes right out. For example, imagine a society with ultra-simple property-purist rules : what happens if one person accumulates ownership of everything? That is obviously unseemly. Why shouldn’t native Americans own all the land in the US, under similar ultra-simplified property-purist rules? Why do we think highly of entrepreneurs? Why do native-born citizens find immigrants threatening / why do immigrants enjoy disproportional upward economic mobility? The answer to all these is some version of the old commie labor theory of value. Based on my limited informal experiments, I think you can reliably get people from across the political spectrum to lay it out for you without much prompting other than asking their opinion on how to resolve difficult issues relating to property ownership and concentration of wealth. I’m not suggesting a 19th century LTV is useful as-is for a world where we cannot feed the world without some minimum of organization and tech and social stability, but at a minimum, it shows the importance of examining this stuff. The ultimate goal is a formulation that is inoffensive enough that it can merge with the still-dominant ideology of the free-market-purists and result in a less destructive system.


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