Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты

The mind: epiphenomenon or factor?

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The mind: epiphenomenon or factor?

From this it follows that the mental constituent infuses a fundamental uncertainty not only into the planning system but into the market system, too.

This in turn gives rise to the exigency that the economic system, whether regulating itself by the market or by planning, must apply a method of some sort to handle the mental constituent. Those automatisms which are used to make production independent from the producer, and in general the material connections of economic life from the connections of the acting persons’ mind no longer function.

In my previous papers (see, e.g.: Strength and weakness of psychological science. Int. Soc. Sc. J. 25. 1973) I have presented the following aspects of the change in which the mental constituent was transformed from an epiphenomenon into a factor of the economic process:

In the first century of large-scale mechanized industry the operation of the machine needed abstract effort and abstract control. By the end of the last century, however, technical development had introduced mechanical equipment in the operation of which the abstract effort had to give way to speed, while abstract control got replaced by the coordination between reading various dials and operating several controlling gears. Technical development simultaneously resulted in an increase in both the speed and the complexity of mechanical equipment: due to increased complexity the machine operator needed more and more time to respond optimally, while due to the increasing speed he had less and less time to react quickly. Those persons who could coordinate these requirements working against each other had to be specifically produced.

In relation to this necessity there is a tendency both in the planning and in the market systems in that the proportion in the society of those who are not involved in the production of material factors but in the production, maintenance and administration of the personal conditions necessary to production is on the increase.

The rate of those working in non-material services rose from 27.6% to 30.2% of the population of the United States between 1969 and 1980, exceeding the rate of those employed in industry which dropped from 34.2% to 29.4%. This tendency is even more pronounced in Sweden where during the same period the former index rose from 24.0% to 34.7% while the latter dropped from 39.8% to 31.4%. Though at a slower pace, the tendency is gravitating in this direction in France, the FRG, Japan and the United Kingdom among others (Labour force statistics 1969-1980. OECD. Paris, 1982.)

As the personal conditions of the education which produces these per­so­nal conditions, of the medical care which maintains them, of all kind of ser­vices in general, of the administ­ration of public and private organiza­tions in which these services operate must also be produced, maintained and ad­mi­nistered, a chain reaction is generated in that the rate of those who ta­ke part in the post-capitalist social system of labor division as suppliers of activi­ty and not producers of things, is increasing at an ever growing pace. Con­se­quent­ly, a larger and larger portion of money payments is rendered for acti­vi­ty, that specific commodity of which we have already discovered that whe­ther it has an effective price or not depends on sociopsychological conditions.

Interestingly enough, this chain reaction is usually considered – if at all – from its technical aspect only, accordingly to the paradigm of the material production where one can put out more products with a machine than without one, and if the product happens to be the machine itself one can produce still more machines with it later, etc.

The transfer of this outlook from large capitalist industry to the socie­ty is aptly illustrated by Zola’s Vérité in which Marc the teacher brings up his children just as most of his pupils to become teachers, who in turn educate their children and most of their pupils to become teachers after Marc’s examp­le, and these will do the same again. So when Marc, having lived to the age of a patriarch, stays awhile at the end of the novel in the circle of his child­ren, grand­children, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren as well as his own pupils and those two, three, four removes away from him, he can be con­tent that his life was not in vain because – behold – the whole society has changed.

In actual fact, however, one can experience every day in the practice of pedagogy – even as a parent – that the same technique works with vary­ing efficiency depending on who applies it and to whom: whether father lec­tu­res to his son or teacher to his pupils; whether a parent drives his offspring to­ward the right path with a slap in the face or an elder brother does the sa­me to a younger; whether a mother pleads with her daughter or the latter with a girlfriend; whether an instructor tries to enforce discipline or a gang leader.

The necessity of the direct production, maintenance and administra­tion of the socio­psycholo­gical condition in post-capitalist formations in order that either the price or the plan directive should be effective is all the less avoidable because upon the above mentioned technical process in that the independence of the material relations of economy from the mental context of the persons involved ceases to exist, a social process is superimposed which gravitates in the same direction:

Producing the personal conditions of production required investment of capital just as much as the production of material conditions did. Already Adam Smith ranked among the components of fixed capital “acquired and useful skills of citizens” pointing out that as the person has to be sustained during his bringing up, training and apprenticeship, the acquisition of these skills always implies real costs; these costs are, as it were, capital fixed and realized in his person. These skills, Smith stated, constitute part of the wealth of the person who has acquired them and just as much of the society to which he belongs. The improved skill of the worker may be regarded from the same angle as a machine which makes work easier and shorter, and although it requires certain expenses, it refunds them with a profit.

The condition of this refund is that the person who invested should ha­ve disposal over the product, whether it is a machine or a worker. Only, when the product is manpower, the body and mind of the worker, the capi­tal invested into his training becomes incorporated in his skills inseparably from what is “inherently” there, thus, the investor can only dispose of the capital if he has total disposal over the body and mind of the worker.

On the other hand, we know that according to the formula of capitalism the worker disposes of his labor power freely. To extend this premise to the developing post-capitalist formation would mean that he would be the one who disposes of the capital organically incorporated in his labor power, too. This in turn would render the fate of the invested capital to be highly uncertain for there exists a contradiction in which one may detect the basic antagonism of all post-capitalist formations: notably that the more highly qualified the manpower, the larger the capital to be invested into its production and the more uncertain the fate of the invested capital due to the autonomy which the manpower lays claim to.

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