Capital Volume 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Section 2 Post 5

Page 45: “If one coat represents x days’ labour, two coats represent 2x days’ labour, and so on.  But assume that the duration of the labour necessary for the production of a coat becomes doubled or halved.  In the first case, one coat is worth as much as two coats were before; in the second case, two coats are only worth as much as one was before, although in both cases one coat renders the same service as before, and the useful labour embodied in it remains of the same quality.  But the quantity of labour spent on its production has altered.

“An increase in the quantity of use-values is an increase of material wealth.  With two coats, two men can be clothed, with one coat only one man.  Nevertheless, an increased quantity of material wealth may correspond to a simultaneous fall in the magnitude of its value.  This antagonistic movement has its origin in the two-fold character of labour.  Productive power has reference, of course, only to labour of some useful concrete form, the efficacy of any special productive activity during a given time being dependent on its productiveness.  Useful labour becomes, therefore, a more or less abundant source of products, in proportion to the rise or fall of its productiveness.”

Here we have an important concept: the productiveness of  labor.  In other words, in a given society at a given time, how productive is average labor?  It is easy to see in a given case: a man driving in nails with a rock is less productive than one using a hammer; and using a power hammer permits him to be even more productive.  It is clear, then, that the introduction of the power hammer makes anyone using it more productive (that is, can accomplish more in a given time); it follows that the introduction of the power hammer makes the society more productive, albeit by a trivial amount.  Increased productivity means less labor-time spent on a given commodity, which means a lower value, which translates (though we haven’t gotten there yet) to a lower cost.

“The same change in productive power, which increases the fruitfulness of labour, and, in consequence, the quantity of use-values produced by that labour, will diminish the total value of this increased quantity of use-values, provided such change shorten the total labour-time necessary for the production; and vice versa.

Page 46: “On the one hand all labour is, speaking physiologically, an expenditure of human labour-power, and in its character of  identical abstract human labour it creates and forms the value of commodities.  On the other hand, all labour is the expenditure of human labour-power in a special form and with a definite aim and, and in this, its character of concrete human labour, it produces use-values.”

And here we have an interesting footnote: “In order to prove that labour alone is that all-sufficient and real measure, by which at all times the value of all commodities can be estimated and compared, Adam Smith says, ‘Equal quantities of labour must at all times and in all places have the same value for the labourer.  In his normal state of health, strength, and activity, and with the average degree of skill that he may possess, he must always give up the same portion of his rest, his freedom, and his happiness.’ (Wealth of Nations, b1 ch V.)  On the one hand, Adam Smith here (but not everywhere) confuses the determination of value by means of the quantity of labour expended in the production of commodities, with the determination of the values of commodities by means of the value of labour, and seeks in consequence to prove that equal quantities of labour have always the same value.  On the other hand, he has a presentiment, that labour, so far as it manifests itself in the value of commodities, counts only as expenditure of labour-power, but he treats this expenditure as a mere sacrifice of rest, freedom, and happiness, not as at the same time the normal activity of living beings.  But then, he has the modern wage-labourer in his eye.”  Engels makes the additional remark: “The English language has the advantage of possessing different words for the two aspects of labour here considered.  The labour which creates Use-Value, and counts qualitatively is Work, as distinguished from Labour; that which creates Value and count quantitatively is Labour as distinguished from Work.”

Among Others by Jo Walton

This book will be out next January.  Let me get my major complaint out of the way: if you are going form a book as a series of journal entries, you need to always be aware of the state of mind of the writer at the time of making the entry.  For example, if a car crashed into my house creating a fire from which I barely emerged alive, and I wanted to write a journal entry about it, I wouldn’t start the entry: “I got up around ten and made coffee, then checked my email.  Heard from an old high school friend….” unless I was going for effect (which I probably would, but that isn’t the point). It would be more  reasonable for me to say, “Holy fucking shit!  I can’t believe I’m alive!  Okay, let me tell you about MY day!  Jesus.  It was pretty normal until…”  So, yeah, there are too many entries where I had trouble believing they were being written as they were.

All in all, that’s a pretty minor beef.  Also, the thing is set in 1979-1980 in England and Wales, and other than vague mentions of Russo-American antagonism and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there is no feeling of what was, really a remarkable time in the British Isles and the world (the election of Thatcher, a horrible mine explosion, massive violence in Northern Ireland, Iran becomming an Islamic republic).  I get annoyed with the notion that boarding schools and small towns are so isolated that events in the world don’t penetrate.  I don’t buy it.  But that, too, is pretty minor.

Those complaints aside, this is an amazing book.  I mean, really amazing.  Ever read one of those YA books that drops in the occasional mention of what is obviously a favorite book of the author’s in such a way as to give you the uncomfortable feeling that you’re supposed to like the character because the character likes that book, or maybe likes books, and you end up feeling manipulated?  This ain’t that.  This ain’t that at all.  In this book, we follow Mor, aged 15, as she voraciously read sf just as we did, and it gives her bursts of insight just as it did us. The sf she is reading is part of who she is, and who she is becoming, and it is so real it hurts.  Meanwhile, she’s involved in a magical battle involving faeries, a dead twin sister, and those who would use magic to twist others to their ends.  And the insights from the books she reads and the magical battles keep bouncing off each other in ways that make my head spin.  I need to read this a bunch of times just to start to figure it out.

The timing of her revelations, as we gradually learn about the key incidents of the past, is perfect.  Forgive me for falling into cliche, but, “the deft touch of the master” is the only way to describe it.

A couple years ago, at Fourth Street Fantasy convention, Mrissa Lingan made the (to me) profound observation that characterization is a relationship, or a set of relationships–it’s not about this person, it’s how this person interacts with that person, and that one, and the other one.  I’ve never seen a better example of that than this book–each set of relationships reinforces every other, and makes Mor stunningly real.  Not to mention that the first person narrative is, to my mind, flawless; nailing the thought processes of a 15-year-old, very bright, articulate reader is a triumph. Also, it helps that I like her.

But there is one thing for which I will never forgive Jo Walton: As the book is set in 1979-1980, and as my first book didn’t come out until 1983, I will never get to hear what Mor thought of Jhereg, and that pisses me off!

How would Vlad do against Dumbledore?

Um.  I have no idea.  Nor do I know why anyone would ask.   But it’s happening, sort of.  Del Ray Spectra is doing, uh, something arcane that involves a series of imaginary cage matches between various fictional characters.

I’ve been given two links:  This one, which seems to be broken; and this one, which appears to work.

Maybe someone can explain it to me.

Edited to Add:  Guess I misunderstood.  The first link won’t be working until Wednesday.

Edited to Add: The actual link is live now.  Find it here.