Reichtum ist verfügbare Zeit und nichts weiter
Reichtum ist verfügbare Zeit und nichts weiter
How it started (Charles Wentworth Dilke, 1821):
THE PROGRESS OF THIS INCREASING CAPITAL WOULD, in established societies, BE MARKED BY THE DECREASING INTEREST OF MONEY, or, which is the same thing, the decreasing quantity of the labour of others that would be given for its use; but so long as capital could command interest at all, it would seem to follow, that the society cannot have arrived at that maximum of wealth, or of productive power, when its produce must be allowed to perish.
When, however, it shall have arrived at this maximum, it would be ridiculous to suppose, that society would still continue to exert its utmost productive power. The next consequence therefore would be, that where men heretofore laboured twelve hours they would now labour six, and this is national wealth, this is national prosperity. After all their idle sophistry, there is, thank God! no means of adding to the wealth of a nation but by adding to the facilities of living: so that wealth is liberty––liberty to seek recreation––liberty to enjoy life––liberty to improve the mind: it is disposable time, and nothing more. Whenever a society shall have arrived at this point, whether the individuals that compose it, shall, for these six hours, bask in the sun, or sleep in the shade, or idle, or play, or invest their labour in things with which it perishes, which last is a necessary consequence if they will labour at all, ought to be in the election of every man individually.
How it continued (Karl Marx, 1857-58):
Die Schöpfung von viel disposable time außer der notwendigen Arbeitszeit für die Gesellschaft überhaupt und jedes Glied derselben (d.h. Raum für die Entwicklung der vollen Produktivkräfte der einzelnen, daher auch der Gesellschaft), diese Schöpfung von Nicht-Arbeitszeit erscheint auf dem Standpunkt des Kapitals, wie aller frühren Stufen, als Nicht-Arbeitszeit, freie Zeit für einige. Das Kapital fügt hinzu, daß es die Surplusarbeitszeit der Masse durch alle Mittel der Kunst und Wissenschaft vermehrt, weil sein Reichtum direkt in der Aneignung von Surplusarbeitszeit besteht; da sein Zweck direkt der Wert, nicht der Gebrauchswert. Es ist so, malgré lui, instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, um die Arbeitszeit für die ganze Gesellschaft auf ein fallendes Minimum zu reduzieren und so die Zeit aller frei für ihre eigne Entwicklung zu machen. Seine Tendenz aber immer, einerseits disposable time zu schaffen, andrerseits to convert it into surplus labour. Gelingt ihm das erstre zu gut, so leidet es an Surplusproduktion, und dann wird die notwendige Arbeit unterbrochen, weil keine surplus labour vom Kapital verwertet werden kann. Je mehr dieser Widerspruch sich entwickelt, um so mehr stellt sich heraus, daß das Wachstum der Produktivkräfte nicht mehr gebannt sein kann an die Aneignung fremder surplus labour, sondern die Arbeitermasse selbst ihre Surplusarbeit sich aneignen muß. Hat sie das getan – und hört damit die disposable time auf, gegensätzliche Existenz zu haben –, so wird einerseits die notwendige Arbeitszeit ihr Maß an den Bedürfnissen des gesellschaftlichen Individuums haben, andrerseits die Entwicklung der gesellschaftlichen Produktivkraft so rasch wachsen, daß, obgleich nun auf den Reichtum aller die Produktion berechnet ist, die disposable time aller wächst. Denn der wirkliche Reichtum ist die entwickelte Produktivkraft aller Individuen. Es ist dann keineswegs mehr die Arbeitszeit, sondern die disposable time das Maß des Reichtums. Die Arbeitszeit als Maß des Reichtums setzt den Reichtum selbst als auf der Armut begründet und die disposable time nur existierend im und durch den Gegensatz zur Surplusarbeitszeit oder Setzen der ganzen Zeit des Individuums als Arbeitszeit und Degradation desselben daher zum bloßen Arbeiter, Subsumtion unter die Arbeit. Die entwickeltste Maschinerie zwingt den Arbeiter daher, jetzt länger zu arbeiten, als der Wilde tut oder als er selbst mit den einfachsten, rohsten Werkzeugen tat.
The creation of a large quantity of disposable time apart from necessary labour time for society generally and each of its members (i.e. room for the development of the individuals’ full productive forces, hence those of society also), this creation of not-labour time appears in the stage of capital, as of all earlier ones, as not-labour time, free time, for a few. What capital adds is that it increases the surplus labour time of the mass by all the means of art and science because its wealth consists directly in the appropriation of surplus labour time; since value directly its purpose, not use-value. It is thus, despite itself [malgré lui], instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, in order to reduce labour time for the whole society to a diminishing minimum, and thus to free everyone’s time for their own development. But its tendency always, on the one side, to create disposable time, on the other, to convert it into surplus labour.
If it succeeds too well at the first, then it suffers from surplus production, and then necessary labour is interrupted because no surplus labour can be realized by capital. The more this contradiction develops, the more does it become evident that the growth of the forces of production can no longer be bound up with the appropriation of alien labour, but that the mass of workers must themselves appropriate their own surplus labour. Once they have done so – and disposable time thereby ceases to have an antithetical existence – then, on one side, necessary labour time will be measured by the needs of the social individual, and, on the other, the development of the power of social production will grow so rapidly that, even though production is now calculated for the wealth of all, disposable time will grow for all.
For real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labour time, but rather disposable time. Labour time as the measure of value posits wealth itself as founded on poverty, and disposable time as existing in and because of the antithesis to surplus labour time; or, the positing of an individual’s entire time as labour time, and his degradation therefore to mere worker, subsumption under labour. The most developed machinery thus forces the worker to work longer than the savage does, or than he himself did with the simplest, crudest tools.
How it continued (Raniero Panzieri, 1961):
In effetti, per Marx, il tempo libero « per la libera attività mentale e sociale degli individui » non coincide affatto semplicemente con la riduzione della « giornata lavorativa ». Presuppone la trasformazione radicale delle condizioni del lavoro umano, l’abolizione del lavoro salariato, la « regolazione sociale del processo lavorativo ». Presuppone, cioè, l’integrale rovesciamento del rapporto capitalistico tra dispotismo e razionalità, per la formazione di una società amministrata da liberi produttori, nella quale — con l’abolizione della produzione per la produzione — programmazione, il piano, la razionalità, la tecnologia siano sottoposti al permanente controllo delle forze sociali, e il lavoro possa così (e soltanto per questa via) diventare il « primo bisogno » dell’uomo. Il superamento della divisione del lavoro, in quanto meta del processo sociale, della lotta di classe, non significa un salto nel « regno del tempo libero » ma la conquista del dominio delle forze sociali sulla sfera della produzione. Lo « sviluppo completo » dell’uomo, delle sue capacità fisiche e intellettuali (che tanti critici « umanisti » della « società industrial » amano richiamare) compare come una mistificazione se si rappresenta come « godimento di tempo libero », come astratta « versatilità », ecc. indipendentemente dal rapporto dell’uomo col processo produttivo, dalla riappropriazione del prodotto e del contenuto del lavoro da parte del lavoratore, in una società di liberi produttori associati.
Indeed, for Marx, free time “for the free mental and social activity of individuals” by no means coincides simply with the reduction of the “working day”. He presupposes the radical transformation of the conditions of human work, the abolition of wage labor, the “social regulation of the labor process”. That is, it presupposes the complete reversal of the capitalist relationship between despotism and rationality, for the formation of a society administered by free producers, in which – with the abolition of production for production – programming, the plan, rationality, and technology are subjected to the permanent control of social forces, and work may thus (and only in this way) become man’s “first need”.
Overcoming the division of labor, as the goal of the social process, of the class struggle, does not mean a leap into the “realm of free time” but the conquest of the dominion of social forces over the sphere of production. The “complete development” of man, of his physical and intellectual capacities (which so many “humanist” critics of “industrial society” like to recall), appears as a mystification if it is represented as “enjoyment of free time”, as abstract “versatility”, etc. independently of man’s relationship with the production process, of the reappropriation of the product and the content of work by the worker, in a society of associated free producers.
How I spent my disposable time (2020):
what i have been saying for years.[ though not in so many languages, having decided early in life that my time could be spent better than in trying to learn to speak badly or read with even less understanding than what i read (or speak) in English. nevertheless i am glad others have thought it worth while to learn to translate so i might have the pleasure and profit of learning the thoughts of others of many languages.
while i agree that “free time” is vastly more important than “things”… some of those things do free up our time for better non-thing things.
and the history of the idle class (poor as well as rich) does not encourage us to believe we would necessarily be better off without incentives to work. nor, i am afraid, have the efforts of those to achieve” communism” worked out so well for the confiding masses. we may be stuck in a world where there will always be those who will make slaves of others so they might achieve “free time for themselves.
1) in modern theory further accumulation of capital is inefficient if the return is less than the rate of growth of GDP, not just if it is zero
2) it is not clear how growth would continue with r=0 (allowing reduced working time). If there is technological progress, constant capital stock could imply rising return (to more than 0 say). In models now used, there is continued investment net of depreciation. Capital per worker and GDP per worker can go to infinity in models and has grown beyond every limit imagined in the 19th century.
Marx really was not able to model technological progress in any way which fit subsequent data.
4) this sure does not mean working hours should not be reduced, but I think the case is more that higher consumption won’t make us happier not that it can’t be achieved. The evidence is that economic satisfaction depends on relative consumption, so (at levels reached only in the first world) higher GDP per capital does not make people report higher satisfaction (the data are from Japan early and late in the huge post WWII boom).
(Above “further capital accumulation” means per unit of efficient labor and basically means until the return goes down. With population growth, there is investment more than depreciation and more total capital without my clumsily phrased”further capital accumulation”
5) a very practical question is what if the safe real return is negative (as it currently is) but the average return on capital is positive. Does that mean there is too much so, say, public debt crowding out investment could make us better off ?
6) yes. At least according to standard models.
7) see my call for higher budget deficits