Marx-onomics: When The World is Your Family

To parents in a certain phase of life, this is art:

The value of this piece has nothing to do with beauty or impressing your friends. This goes on the fridge to reward hard work and build self esteem. The longer and more effort the child put into the work the more he/she cares about it and so the more a parent values it.

Now keep that in mind for a sec. Here is Brad Delong quoting Karl Marx in this very interesting essay:

To say that “the value relation[s] between the products of labour… have absolutely no connection with their physical properties” is simply wrong: if the coffee beans are rotten–or if their caffeine level is low–they have no value at all, for nobody will buy them. Marx says that the value of a good is something inscribed within it and attached to it–the socially-necessary labor time for its production—that then bosses people around. And it is the values–not the prices at which things are actually bought and sold–that are the elements of the real important reality. And those values: “appear as independent beings endowed with life and
entering into relation both with one another and the human race.”

Now I have never found anybody who thinks this way.

Customers don’t care how much work something took. Producers do. If a short project ends in failure, we can shrug it off. If we pour our lives into something that dies, we get grumpy.

Now, there are many who’d go to great lengths to keep you from getting grumpy. Family and friends might wear that hideous sweater you knitted for them once or force down that rubbery low fat jello you insist on bringing to dinner. They want you to feel good because that’s how close relationships work.

But they ain’t most people. And they’re not wearing that sweater anywhere outside your company.

I feel like emphasis on the family metaphor is sometimes a core difference between conservative and liberal politics. Left wing people, in other words, are more likely to support policies that treat strangers as family and right wing people to treat strangers as something less.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s