Continued existence as industrial accident

Coda to X:

"In regard to the reproduction phase (especially circulation time), note that use value itself places limits upon it.  Wheat must be reproduced in a year.  Perishable things like milk etc. must be reproduced more often.  Meat on the hoof does not need to reproduced quite so often, since the animal is alive and hence resists time; but slaughtered meat on the market has to be reproduced in the form of money in the very short time, or it rots."

To be alive - meat on the hoof, rather than just meat (in-itself, if you wish) - is to resist time.  To stave off reproduction, a reproduction that will liquify frozen form.

The question is if it will coalesce again.  For once slaughtered, the countdown begins: money or rot, money or rot...

Money being, of course, just a way to keep said meat animated after the fact, to recoup its loss and recuperate its supposed generative potential, via

1. The preservation of the meat: money exchanged for refrigeration, workers to make sure no one shoplifts a rack of beef, butchers to cut into smaller pieces
2. The monetary consumption of the meat: the cash exchanged before the point of no return (the "sell by date"), the meat as a vector or medium for other activities involving money (unwaged work of cooking, energy bought to grill it up)
3. [optional] The physical consumption of the meat: the caloric energy frozen in that meat is processed, albeit by an initial caloric expenditure of chewing and cutting, and thereby reproduces the potential labor-power of the eater.  If unused, it will gather in convenient storage units around the thighs and belly, ready for a Stakhanovite effort to come knocking.
4. [optional] The application of the meat: that caloric energy gets used by the one who ate it, thereby joining the ex-life of the meat with the life of the human "meat on the hoof" busy resisting time and rot.

The mode of the meat's destruction, though, is utterly irrelevant, provided that the first two conditions occur.  It's "supposed" to get plowed back into circulation not just as money but as caloric input into the reproduction of a body, preferably one that might do some work.  But it does not matter.  Only that it has been reproduced.  That is to say, utterly transformed.

It might seem, then, that "we" humans are the exception here, not only because we are the source of value.  Rather, because we are, in general, that whose reproduction requires a preservation of that existing thing in its distinct life and form (read: body able to sell labor-power, perhaps to actually expend some energy toward a hypothetically productive end, economic subject of getting paid, and point of transfer/proper name through which money flees back into the market).  Would that it were so.  Our reproduction, as subset of the circulation and accumulation of capital, cares not a whit about the preservation of these specific things, these individual bodies we are that sit and run, talk and read, drool and make seatbelts, these minds that come along with them, these persons we aim to be, these worlds that shatter into night when we die. 
No: what matters is only the perpetuation of these things in general.  That's the core of the difference between labor and labor-power: it is always a distinct I who does the laboring, however alienated that labor might be, but what is exchanged is labor-power as such, in a prescribed duration of time. 

[Note toward a longer study: We can actually gauge the strength of the historical workers movement, in its apexes and nadirs, by the degree to which it tried to insist on the inseparability of these two things, insisting that labor-power not be understood via a general calculation of the factory's total hours of surplus-labor but in terms of the concrete labor, and the conditions and length of the working days, of these specific laborers.]

But it always remains a real separation.  Unlike, say, a bandsaw in factory, which indeed aids in the circulation of capital.  Yet insofar as it is reproduced/maintained (with new parts, a bit of oil, with a mechanic's skill and time), it is in the name of this particular bandsaw continuing to work and do its job.  Because it has already been bought in full, it is in the interest of its owner that this very distinct instantiation of bandsaw keep functioning as long as it performs competitively.  It must, therefore, be cared for.  (From the general perspective of capital, though, the sooner it busts, the better: all the more bandsaws to be made, all the more labor to pour through the forges!)

Laborers: no, from either a local or system-wide perspective.  It is of no grand importance if a particular one breaks down, and it just slows down circulation to have to keep it running (via the insistence of political pressures to keep manufacturing at home, via the rarer insistence of other workers to strike if this busted one is not given a modicum of attention or remuneration).  Especially when there are new, cheaper models elsewhere.  What matters is the reproduction of labor-power in general, both in its local instance (the labor pool in a particular zone) and in its global scale (the hypothetically employable portion of the species).  So while it demands there be particular workers (obviously, there can be no such thing as labor-power, and hence no surplus labor, without laborers), it is opposed, violently, to them in their particularity. 

It would seem, then, that every step, hour, nickel, and dime toward the perpetuation of the species in general is a step further from that phantom X called "species-being," defined by Marx as that distinct mode of a "being that treats the species as its own essential being."  Perversely, however, the very concept of this assumed common ground, this milestone of how far we've gone down the road of alienation, perhaps mimics the exact relation between individual and species on which relations of value and production turn.  That is, a being not in accordance with a particular activity (whatever that may be: running, drinking, painting, building houses, murdering, learning physics) that may be at odds with the species as a whole, but rather with a general activity (abstract labor, however brutally real, localized, and experienced it is) dictated by, and dependent upon, an indifference to particular instantiations of the species.  In other words, dictated by the essence of the species beyond its existent forms.  Species-being, then, may be just the back-projection in which we can faintly glimpse what is materially the case now.

The reproduction of ourselves -  the reason (one can't live on antagonism alone) we all individually put up with all this as a class - is, it turns out, an accident of industry.  A by-product of the perpetuation of labor-power in general.  We throw ourselves headlong into that project, all in hopes of snatching a bit of the leftover, one piece at a time, with which to make a life, a family, a community, a site of other time.

Our labor, too, this shuddering drive, this life: it is the reproduction of slaughtered meat.  Yet without rotting, without transforming money itself: just making more than will rot, and more money that will not. 

Meanwhile, we turn down the heat, we breed in the freezers, we rattle the bones.  The impossible, vile gesture, nestled somewhere in the heart of the matter, the red matter of deciding to go on.


Greyhoos said...

Nice one. Love the graphics, too.

Anonymous said...

can't live on antagonism alone, can't live long in the v-effekt...

socialism and/or barbarism said...

Hell, if it sounds that good, we just may be able.