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'Class' comes from the word 'Classify'? -- Drake411 16:34, 11 October 2012 (PDT)

Wolff was a little irritating to me when he started of his lecture saying that the word class "comes from" the word to classify; the noun verbed. Then he gives a bunch of "different" examples that classify according to wealth. That was irritating too. I got about fifteen minutes in and had too much to say to listen anymore. Firstly, the word class "comes from" the french word classe which comes from a particular and interesting use in Latin. Servius Tullius a Roman King divided the Roman people into groups for the purpose of taxation. The group Classis which means "the group on call to fight". So the Latin word for class comes from the Latin word to call or calare. Which brings up my second point. One can easily find ways to group people that don't involve money or wealth. Social scientist use classes, market researchers too that divide populations by gender, employment, family type, people who vote, and race. Different measures of wealth could include owning a radio, TV or computer; walking, owning a bike, owning a car, renting vs owning, working vs living off income from property. That said, Servius Tullius King of ancient Rome divided his people into six classes with five classes of classisi and one proletarii. The wealthiest were the only ones called to arms and the poorest had only their children as property (potential slaves). Still haves and have-nots but it is where the word class "comes from".

Well Listened -- Robin 06:29, 12 October 2012 (PDT)

I'll add an erratum; he does get the etymology backwards. Sorry Wolff wasn't helpful for you.

Having gone back to listen to more I have to say this is a great lecture. So he meant that class for Marx is about the classification of groups and not some notion of style or aristocracy but about power. I know this stuff to some degree but this was so current and informed that it was really thrilling to listen to. The idea that Marx is all about labor surplus - bang on. In communism the worker gets the surplus with modern examples of exploitative vs communist situations - beautiful. Pointing out we can occupy more than one class at a time and that they can conflict with observations about marriage - genius. When he pointed out that the day after the Russian revolution the workers were still in an exploitative situation and didn't bring their production home, I had to come back and apologize.

How is a slave different from a free person? -- Mirleau 16:28, 15 October 2012 (PDT)

Hi, I had the same startle when Wolff claimed that class "comes from" classification, but I held through and came away with quite a good feeling about these lectures. I understand more about Marx' framework than I did before. Thanks to Robin :-)

More understanding usually leads to new questions, which I summarized in the slightly ridiculous question above, let me explain:

I put myself in the capitalist's place: He's going to say that all his employees are free to leave him, and that therefore he's not expoiting them. In fact the employees might actually believe him, and pride themselves to be entrepreneurs in their own way: They are in the business of renting themselves out, and from a certain perspective you can see wage-slavery as self-employment: You do what you're good at, and you just happen to specialize in offering employee services to firms.

Now Marx would say: The boss gets to decide where the surplus goes, therefore it's exploitation and not equivalent to self-employment.

The boss would say: Employee A knows how to make left-handed gloves, employee B knows about right-handed ones. The organization sells pairs of gloves at a price way higher than twice what a self-employed person can get for single gloves. Therefore, if people with these skills would be self-employed the single glove-makers would need to sell to a professional trader who would repackage the single gloves to pairs. The manufacturers would be 'free' but completely dependent on what the traders will pay them. If there's only one trader, it's going to be a low price. They're free but still slaves in the sense of dependency.

And then presumably Marx would say: Yes of course cooperation leads to added value, the whole is better than the parts. that's what communism can help you with.

Actually I don't know for sure what Marx would say, but if it's the above, then I'm left with three questions:

1. The boss has a point about the self-employed being enslaved in a way. Compare the modern american farmer: Self-employed but played out against each other. OTHER PEOPLE, the monopolists, determine how much the farmers get. This puts the notion of 'freedom' in a different light, hence the caricature title.

2. In case of communism, as in "without a hierarchy that redistributes the surplus", if I understand correctly, Marx doesn't give us a prescription for getting there, and more particularly, if we stay within the money-paradigm, how that money is going to be divided, and if we get out of the money-paradigm, how to achieve that. Wolff says that Marx mostly wrote about what will go wrong with capitalism, rather than suggesting how to migrate a society away from money. In fact the whole notion of societal migration is in a way 'social engineering', and is in itself already hierarchical (in the sense of elitist) at the root. So the question is: Is there a theory of migration toward a gift economy, preferably based on practical experience?

3. Within the context of the money-paradigm, what is Marx' definition of "the surplus" produced by an individual? In the case of employees A, B and the trader cooperatively producing a pair of gloves that gets sold for 30 hamburgers, does Marx suggest a procedure to distribute that surplus IN CASE THE MEMBERS OF THE COOP DON'T AGREE?

Bye! Thanks again for this program, I've been listening since a few years now, and it keeps on inspiring! :-)

Re: How is a slave different from a free person? -- Mirleau 14:36, 27 October 2012 (PDT)

Replying to my question 1: Probably Wolff's identification of modern "Self-Employment" with Marx' "Ancient Arrangement" is too simple. Probably Marx meant "Self-Sufficient", which is different from "Self-Employed". You can be exploited if you're self-employed, but under reasonable definitions, you can't if you're self-sufficient.

If you rely on the money system, you're not free... -- Robin 03:37, 28 October 2012 (PDT)

I agree. How much do people pay in licenses, taxes etc? If this is with their consent (as opposed to their acquiescence) then it doesn't count as exploitation, but how much is that true? Who actually consents to paying interest on the national debt? The self-employed may be generally less exploited than workers for corporations, but arguably anyone in the money system is exploited by it to the extent that they lack control over it (i.e. >>99% of users).

Is there a theory of migration toward a gift economy, preferably based on practical experience? -- Robin 03:56, 28 October 2012 (PDT)

This is a pivotal question. As for practical experience, see a rather unappealing set of events referred to as 'currency collapses'. We may see a cascade of national currency collapses, but these will be only transitory events, waystations towards a far more diverse set of societies in which people use a wide variety of systems to account for what they do one for another. The general move will be towards a gift economy, facilitated by technologies such as Bitcoin, which while it has flaws (e.g. the zero-sum nature) is a step in the right direction, away from domination by hierarchical money masters. Overall, the ongoing transition is unprecedented. I am reminded of the following quote:
Quotes-66.gifTo improve our money system it is neither necessary nor wise to destroy our present system. It is only necessary to produce a better product and to introduce it gradually."Dr. Edward Popp, The Great Cookie Jar, 1978Quotes-99.gif
On a personal level, there is important testimony from people who have given up money. I am planning to read some of Suelo's thoughts on the show in the near future. See for a wiki effort to facilitate discussion of the shift towards the gift economy.