Valueless “Knowledge-Commodities” and Financialization: A materialist understanding the “information economy” by Teixiera and Rotta

Below is an excerpt from an article published in the Union for Radical Political Economy journal The Review of Radical Political Economics originally published in February 2012 Valueless Knowledge-Commodities and Financialization: Productive and Financial Dimensions of Capital Autonomization By Rodrigo Alves Teixeira and Tomas Nielsen Rotta

This article is of significant importance because it provides a materialist foundation for the understanding of the commodification of knowledge in the context of the mature capitalist economy. In the coming weeks Rawlinsview will be producing a full review and a digital edition on a separate page. A few paragraphs are excerpted below. Readers interested to study the article may view the complete article by following this link

Valueless Knowledge-Commodities and Financialization: Productive and Financial Dimensions of Capital Autonomization: from the  Review of Radical Political Economics

By request and with the consent of the authors the full article is graciously made available to Rawlinsview and it’s readers free of charge by Sage Publications and the Union of Radical Political Economics

Readers interested to comment on the article or who have questions for Rawlinsview or Thomas Rotta are encouraged to voice their views in the comments field below.

excerpt from

Valueless Knowledge-Commodities and Financialization: Productive and Financial Dimensions of Capital Autonomization

Contrary to the idea that capitalism is currently experiencing a change in the commodity form – as supported by theories of “immaterial labor” – we advocate that in fact it is the commodity form that is encompassing a new activity in social life: the production of knowledge. As Marx states throughout Capital, every time that the commodity form incorporates a new social object we observe an original logical development of the capital form:
(a) When the commodity form incorporates labor products, they become commodities.
(b) When the commodity form incorporates labor power, societies experience the formation of capital as such.
(c) When the commodity form incorporates money we have the emergence of money traders, which leads to the formation of interest-bearing capital.
(d) When the commodity form incorporates land it creates ground-rent.

Now we theorize the idea that:
(e) When the commodity form incorporates knowledge production it produces a novel logical moment: the creation of knowledge-rent.

          *               *              *

…Knowledge-commodities require huge amounts of highly skilled labor-time to be conceived, steeply increasing their cost. But despite the fact that their first-time production presupposes the investment of large sums of money, these special commodities can easily be copied.
In concrete terms, if highly-skilled Microsoft employees spend three whole years developing a new operating system that even a child of 8 can easily copy, its value is nil. So even though large investments were necessary for the development of the software, the fact that the  commodity can be duplicated without any further complication makes it valueless. The same happens with the pharmaceutical industry. After years of investment and research, medicines can be easily copied by direct competitors.
The valueless property of the knowledge-commodities is an implication of what Marx himself stated in Capital III:

[T]he value of commodities is determined not by the time that it took to be originally produced but by the labor time necessary to its reproduction. (Marx 1984a: 298, emphasis added)

The capitalist response to the known public-good and free-riding dilemma is clear: privatization of knowledge, that is, transform knowledge into a monopolized commodity through the creation of intellectual property rights that impede effortless reproduction. This way, knowledge commodities will be protected by an institutional device that prevents people from freely acquiring and reproducing them. They will no longer be sold but only loaned. The “buyer” (actually a borrower) will only have the right of use, not of ownership. That is the logic behind licensing rights: the consumer becomes only a user, not the owner of the knowledge-commodity.

Excludability is the solution to the inherent free-riding paradox of knowledge production in capitalism.

* * *

Privatized ideas and commodified information cannot be freely [speaking juridicially ed] copied. They are subject to legal constraints such as patents, copyrights, and authorial rights. The user cannot legally copy them if the duplication is not contemplated by the “terms of use” demanded by the producer. The consumer does not buy the knowledge-commodity; he buys instead the license to use it. Virtually every industrial secret, computer software, musical composition, movie, book, academic article, chemical formula is protected by copyright monopolies that severely limit the actions of the user. The knowledge monopoly legally limits the capacity to free ride. If one can destroy, give away, or re-sell a CD or a DVD containing music, software, or a movie, it is in fact not relevant. The material artifact per se is virtually irrelevant. What really matters is the content–the knowledge-commodity–and over this content sui-generis users are powerless. They buy the artifact but not the content. The actual content is licensed or rented, not sold.

If the original enclosures in England were a way to deny labor access to land as means of production, nowadays we can say that the “new enclosures,” such as patents and intellectual property rights, are a way of denying labor access to knowledge as means of production. [emphasis added ed] Knowledge in capitalism cannot be common property. Although it is an essential condition of production it must not belong to the labor-force that produces it. Harvey (1994) even used the term “accumulation by dispossession” to describe the present-day primitive accumulation represented by such new enclosures. Accumulation by dispossession is not a historical pre-conditional phase to capitalism but rather an ongoing process that occurs with the struggle for relative surplus-value and for technological innovation. Harvey shows how technological progress can lead, contrary to what is generally stated, to primitive accumulation.

Corresponding Author:

Tomás Nielsen Rotta  is a PHD student at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst  Department of Economics tomasrotta.net  Amherst, MA 01003, USA.
Email: trotta@econs.umass.edu
Rodrigo Alves Teixeira Institute of Applied Economic Research, IPEA, Brazil

Published by:

http://www.sagepublications.com

On behalf of:
Union for Radical Political Economics
below is the original link to Sage. Use the link at the top of this post if you do not have university library credentials.

Valueless Knowledge-Commodities and Financialization: Productive and Financial Dimensions of Capital Autonomization

By Rodrigo Alves Teixeira and Tomas Nielsen Rotta
2012 44: 448 originally published online 3 February 2012 Review of Radical Political Economics
DOI: 10.1177/0486613411434387

http://rrp.sagepub.com/content/44/4/448

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News and political commentary from the point of view of the social interests of the international working class.
This entry was posted in Analysis of Mature Capitalism, Bibliography, Knowledge-Commodities, Marxist technical economics, Political Economy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Valueless “Knowledge-Commodities” and Financialization: A materialist understanding the “information economy” by Teixiera and Rotta

  1. Pingback: Comments on Money in Contemporary Capitalism: Autonomization of ‘Truly Social’ Forms…by L.M. Paulani Excerpt and Link | Rawlin'sView Blog

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