I think I agree with much of the thrust of the posts by John and Simon. If
I understand them correctly they are both criticising the social and
psychological effects of capitalism. I think this is a very important area
of criticism of late capitalist society, and is essential for the battle
for ideological hegemony of socialist ideas.

However I have differences with the precise wording of the distinctions
they make and would like to discuss this more. It is an area that Marx did
not illuminate particularly strongly as his interests lay elsewhere.

>Domestic work is part of private production and falls outside the 
>realm of social production. 

To be consistent with Marx's terminology I would not say "private
production" here. I would say "outside the realm of commodity production". 

This BTW is not completely true. Capitalism has been able to produce
commodities that save on domestic labour, like vacuums and washing
machines. Companies may sell as a commodity the service of visiting your
home and power-cleaning the carpets. Domestic servants may hire themselves
for a few hours a week. 

Human beings meet many needs for each other. This is all part of the
"social life process" of our species. Only a subset of these activities are
organised through commodity exchange, and only a subset of this subset are
organised for the production of surplus value by capital. Nevertheless the
incessant drive for capitalist accumulation means that this compartment
constantly eats into the quality of the other life processes with damaging
effects, even at the same time as it produces an over-abundance of consumer

Nor do I think the distinction is quite that capitalism deals with material
reality and human intercourse deals with sentiment. The majority of
commodities meet needs of the imagination, especially now as the social
surplus rises. Growth areas are in "quality" products that somehow have
associated with them the smell of social richness that capitalism actually
destroys. Designer labels give a sense of community with those to whom you
wish to belong. Electronic gadgets create groups across the internet.
Massive expansion of air tourism pollutes the atmosphere and carries people
to idyllic settings which they do not enter with any organic relationship,
but merely photograph for their cosy social charm and leave, without any
understanding of the contradictions which their hosts have to work through
to make their own social life process coherent. 

No the distinction is not that capitalism is about the material, and
socialists are about the spiritual. The critique of what capitalism does to
the spiritual/social, needs to grasp the essence of how commodity
production under capitalism eats like a cancer into all other compartments
of an organic "social life process".

Chris Burford


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