Thursday, 2 February 2012

I can't get no ( satisfaction - from exchange-value)

I have not written for my blog for quite a while. I do not know if I should really do my own psychoanalytical observations here. I have received demands for and against. I will favour at the moment the voices in favor, as I have not yet taken any rendez-vous with a professional and I could make you, my invisible audience, my symbolic master. So now I do know if I should dwell a bit into personal explanations.

It has all to do with the self, the perception of the self, and the expectations of the self. I have recently moved back to Brussels, my hometown and it takes some time to adapt. I am indeed confront with the self-perceived self of my past, the self I have constructed for me in U.K. And this new breed of self that has not entirely found itself yet. I have though high demands and expectations, I know that I had the luck to grow up in an environment that brought me informations and a way to value informations and I have also the brain capacities to process with ease these informations, though I do have to work still on my memory.

The fact that I find myself very intelligent, and that people find it hard to disagree on that statement but agree that it is not a mark of humility to state it, I find I have to learn a lot and do a lot with this intelligence and when I do not, I beat myself to the point that I sulk into doubt. It takes me time to get back unto my feet and tell myself that I need to start again. This is though how real strength is defined though: the ability to go back to a fight. So here I am back, to my world of reflection, with a self perceived as being worthy to lay down thoughts, no expectation to be incredibly smart and innovative ( not to put to much pressure at the beginning) but with the goal of someday looking back and the roads I took with slight pride.

So now that my time with my lacanian master that you are is up, I will start to write about a very simple class on a Marxist analysis of commodities. It is mostly for myself that I will write about it and I have not yet come to a conclusion, as usual with my personal work. The first exercise will be to outline the difference between two useful concepts: the use-value and the exchange-value. The use-value is the value of a commodity as it is. It is a very hard thing to actually conceive as it is linked to the concept of necessities. Indeed, something can be truly useful only if it is necessary. And a necessity is linked to either a mean to survive, either a mean to develop oneself as its own.

It is easy to value the use of food, and then again, exotic food has more exchange-value than use-value. It is more difficult to value a pen or a computer, as someone might find himself working to accomplish himself when others might buy these tools just to show they can exchange a possession for social recognition – social recognition is something I will later on define when I will define the different forms of capital ( and not stop at Marx definition of capital : Any commodity which helps the accumulation of exchange-valued commodities). So two forms of use-value: the material form, as something that we need so our body survives and the spiritual form - nothing essentially religious- but just specie-centered idea that the human only has a spirit – as something that we need so we can do something of our life as we have decided to independently do.

Now exchange-value is the thing of everyday now. It is the discussions around the price of things, as we exchange money for different objects. Money has become the universal standard to establish exchange-value. We exchange anything ( almost) for money and the price actually does not reflect on anything in particular. What we pay at a restaurant for example, is only defined as what the boss of the restaurant think is the normal price for what he serves. It has nothing to do with the pay of the cook, of the waiters and waitresses, of the food or the price of the designer he chose for his menu. It is something he thinks is the price that people will pay. This price will be accepted only by a social standard established by different networks of people. Let's say the boss of our restaurant is a friend of two newspapers editors, then his price will be high, as the media can easily make a price ( an exchange-value) socially acceptable or not, no matter the fact that the value of a dinner is relative to the taste of the person going to the restaurant plus the added use-value commodities used ( mainly the food and the labour).

Now we are constantly reminded that the exchange-value is the everyday lie that we accept. No matter that televisions cost far more in a store that the added cost of their productions ( and that the value added is done through off-shore front companies so less redistribution for profit is done), we are aware of it and yet ready to buy new ones before the old ones are really broken – Brave New World accepted ideology as well – reparation is something of the past, replacement is the standard of living now. What Marx has noted though is that the exchange-value of a commodity will always rises faster than the exchange-value of labour, meaning that no matter that a company makes profits, the wage of the common worker will never rise, except to the need of necessities ( the risk of a lower production due to excessive frustration). Satisfaction of the exchange-value of labour will be also discussed later on, I want to first talk about the standard of exchange-value.

Currencies are the universal standards of exchange-value and it seems a fair one. Of course, since the 20th century, the value of currencies are themselves only exchange-values, as the price of foreign goods depends on the exchange-value of a currency to another. Meaning that somehow, a currency will have a better value or a worst value depending on a socially acceptable consensus of the people buying these currencies. The value of a currency is therefore not defined by the general population, there is nothing democratic about it – except maybe in China -, but by the people who own a high social capital.

So here I have to explain the notion of social capital. Social capital I will define as the trust accepted in a source for its information. The trust in itself is the capital. Meaning that someone with high social capital will be able to decide more or less the exchange-value of any commodity, as it is the information generated. Somehow, no surprise here, but people with high economic (material) capital have had a high social capital for a long time. That's why two of the big three rating agencies belong to the “ public”, meaning stocks can be bought on the stock exchange so you can have a more-or-less important say depending on how much money you put in, and that the last one “Finch”, belongs to one of the most connected man of France. These three make the weather in finance, even when they are proven wrong.

Now, about satisfaction, it is something personal to the extent that there is an emancipation for the power of structure around. The structures of the system are a necessary tool, in the sense that no one can promote anarchy as it does not bring forward a liberation from the necessities of life. Then again, we are not satisfied by the necessities only in life. We do need to do something out of our life to bring on an existential satisfaction. We can accept on one hand the animalistic satisfaction of procreation, in the sense that we live and do what we do so we can live on through our offspring and so one until the end of the earth, or we can do something for which we are proud to have bring something forward to humanity and all the other species that will recognize the contribution. What is not a necessity is do something we do not like for a defined amount of time just because we cannot choose something else ( or for a lesser time).
Satisfaction is relative to emancipation as I said, because it is a standard of living we accept for ourselves, and this standard is accepted because we are told is acceptable, until a certain point. This is why information is a useful tool for the emancipation for humanity, though still a difficult one to use, in the sense that the medium of information is still important to make an effect. We are satisfied by how things goes because we do not want to know more, and generally we decide to ignore what we know because how we came to learn was not enough to chose to accept it. What we have learned can possibly rise our level of dissatisfaction and because we do not do anything about, it is favorable to ignore the information.

I think I have now lost my self a bit in the meanders of political economy. Anyway, the prices do not reflect offer and demand, but by the complex relationship ordered around by exchange-values.
I will write more next week, as I have decided to take back on the goal to write an article a week as a way to prove and improve myself. That's all folks !  

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