When the totalitarian states collapsed, the “natural” or “logical” alternative was the democratic state formation which treated persons as sovereign beings and not raw materials of transformation by this or that norm, or objects that such transformations produce for capital.
The “nature” and “logic” that became manifest in this change were, however, those of the totalitarian state for which, as we have seen, the personal conditions of the operation of the economic system can only be produced as things, so the handling of persons as things cannot be got rid of unless the question of producing the personal condition is radically removed from the agenda. So the economic considerations could in no other way be raised than in relation to the production and allocation of material conditions. As if the sole question had been how to make production and allocation more reasonable: by a planning that controls the volume of the value-in-use of things, or by the market that does the same with their value-in-exchange.
While for both economic systems the criterion of economic rationality is a kind of material efficiency (the increasing volume of the produced value-in-use, or the accumulating value-in-exchange) it is a global tendency that the number of those employed in industry and agriculture, that is in the production of material goods, is continuously decreasing: in the most advanced private capital economies by the early 80s less then 50% of the total labour force was employed in this areas.
In the most advanced capitalist countries this rate was below half the total labour force by 1969 and further dwindled by 1980: in the USA from 38.9% to 33%, in the UK from 46.9% to 39.4%, in Sweden from 48.3% to 37%. In the FRG, France and Japan this rate fell below 50% by the beginning of the ‘80s. (Labour force statistics 1969-1980. OECD. Paris, 1982.)
And whereas the application of the paradigm of measuring material efficiency in the areas of material services has at least a use in that the merits of the individual can be measured in order that society could accommodate to them the equitable remuneration of the individual, in the spheres of non-material services (for whose changing rate in modern society see note at p. 6) the measure of material efficiency cannot be applied at all. It can be calculated how much larger the merit of transmitting l0 million kwh electric power or cubic meters natural gas to the consumer, of loading and unloading l0 thousand wagons, distributing l0 mugs of draft beer is than 2 million kwh or cubic meters, 2 thousand wagons or 2 mugs of beer. This calculation, however, cannot be applied to non-material services for their stakes always include interpersonal relations which, as has been pointed out, do not obey the logic that operates with the things’ properties.
To verify the general validity of the above argument let us take as our example a representative of non-material services such as the boxing coach. Let us suppose that he is in charge of ten boxers of the same weight category whom he drills to encounter opponents fighting in various styles. Using the paradigm of material efficiency one could calculate how much smaller the merit of a coach is if he achieves the same result with only two athletes, let alone the case when he does it with only one boxer. Only, there is no chance of drilling two boxers in a realistic setting to perform against opponents fighting in various styles, while a single boxer cannot be trained even to hold his ground against a fighting opponent (for the sake of illustration we disregarded the possibility of the coach entering the ring).
It is becoming more widely recognized in various branches of non-material services that relations of this type must be reckoned with. The attitude of the Palo Alto school toward psychotherapy is not to find the cause of a psychic disorder in some internal property of the patient or in the material conditions of his environment, but in the interpersonal relations within a social structure (e.g. family): in that the patient differs from the others, or contrarily, wants to resemble several people at the same time who are dissimilar; in that he heavily depends on others, or conversely, keeps others tightly under control, etc. In this way, if the illness as a material state of the patient is eliminated without altering the particular relationship, it happens more than once that another person falls ill within the given structure (see Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson: Op. cit.; Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch: Op. cit.) Ironically, this relation may be conserved by the fact that someone has made consistently for years his therapeutic efforts aiming change; at other times the therapist’s mere entering with the intention to heal the ill into the pathogenic relationship is enough to really change it. Neither of these cases are such that the merit of the person supplying the non-material service could be measured by the paradigm of material efficiency.
It appears as if the psychological “irrationalism” corresponds to an economic “irrationalism”: the activity has no effective price, and also only a dwindling ratio of it has such material product that would have a price corresponding to its real value; what is more, it allows for the merit of the individual who exerts the activity to be measured and recompensed according to the paradigm of material efficiency to an ever decreasing extent.
Nevertheless, there exist two interpretations of this tendency in that an ever growing proportion of the total labour force is not employed in areas producing material conditions of production. One may interpret it as if in various countries an ever increasing ratio of the GNP were used as the material condition of consumption and not of production.65 But personally I would argue for the following interpretation: this growing rate produces the personal, and not material, condition of production.
The rationality of producing the personal condition cannot be evaluated according to the logic of producing material conditions. If one cannot establish for non-material services how much input results in how much output by using the material standard measure, then not only the above outlined dilemma (whether the capital itself or the produced labour power will dispose of the product when the capital is invested into producing a labour power?) remains unsolved. Similarly unanswered will be the following traditional question: if the capital employs wage work to produce this special product, namely labour power, in what proportion is the produced value shared by capital and the producing labour power? A third unsettled question is what the economic relationship is like between the labour power that produces and the labour power that is produced (between those teaching, curing, directing and those being taught, cured, directed, etc).
These three questions refer to the very basic relations of modern organizations of education, health care, administration, in general, public service organizations. These are the relations between the organization’s clients, employees and those who dispose of the means of human investment.
To characterize the economic relations between these factors is theoretically impossible in the categories of material efficiency. It is theoretically impossible to establish how much material value is represented by the labour force produced by education within a definite period of time, or by the labour force saved by medical treatment, or the labour force pushed to (or prevented from) operation by the administration. Consequently, it is theoretically impossible to calculate how much the labour power of those doing the education, healing, administration, etc. is worth.
These calculations cannot be replaced by the knowledge that the annual Hungarian state expenditure on a university student is Ft 66 741, on a student in a technical secondary school Ft 22 515, in a vocational school Ft 16 732, in a grammar school Ft l4 577, in elementary school Ft l0 536, for the actual question is how much more (or perhaps less) output this much input produces.
Therefore, as a result, the only possible point of departure for establishing the equitable wage for this kind of work is to consider how much the pay is by which the supply and demand of services is just balanced.
This is, however, rendered impossible by the fact that this type of activity has no effective price.
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