Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Anti-Intellectual Mentality of Herr Ludwig von Mises

"The vain arrogance of the literati and Bohemian artists dismisses the activities of the businessmen as unintellectual moneymaking. The truth is that the entrepreneurs and promoters display more intellectual faculties and intuition than the average writer and painter. The inferiority of many self-styled intellectuals manifests itself precisely in the fact that they fail to recognize what capacity and reasoning power are required to operate successfully a business enterprise.
The emergence of a numerous class of such frivolous intellectuals is one of the least welcome phenomena of the age of modern capitalism. Their obtrusive stir repels discriminating people. They are a nuisance. It would not directly harm anybody if something would be done to curb their bustle or, even better, to wipe out entirely their cliques and coteries."

And so the word “sustainable” dies. Killed by the NY Times magazine.

Climate Progress
"Maybe you thought ’sustainable’ meant something like “capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.”  How wrong you were.  Apparently, to the Times, ’sustainable’ means being the biggest consumers in the world.  George Orwell would be proud."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Accounting and Control of the Labour Process: the juicy bits!

"For Marx, the transition to socialism begins with a transition in mentalities. The capitalist mentality minimises necessary social labour to maximize surplus labour. The socialist mentality is not utopian but turns the capitalist development of calculation and accountability to other ends. It shares the capitalist focus on the management of production to minimise socially necessary labour time, but instead of handing the surplus to the owners of capital it maximizes the surplus time at every individual’s disposal. Under socialism, 'necessary labour time will be measured by the needs of the social individual ...[and] production is now calculated for the wealth of all, disposable time' (Marx, 1973, p. 708)."

Accounting and Control of the Labour Process

by Rob Bryer  Critical Perspectives on Accounting Volume 17, (2006), 551–59.
Textbooks and business managers presume that accounting is the most important management control system, but modern scholars think its role and status are problematic. Most argue that although accounting is important, it is inherently subjective and is only one among many control systems. The paper uses Marx’s theory of the labour process to argue that accounting is the premier control system because it provides senior managers with objective measures of the generation and realisation of surplus value that they use to hold workers accountable for the circulation of capital. Prima facie support for Marx’s theory is that it gives us a theoretical foundation for textbook presentations of management accounting that resolves controversies over the allocation of overheads and the role of accounting information in decision-making and performance evaluation. The paper re-evaluates some key aspects of the ‘labour process debate’ sparked off by Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital [Braverman H. Labor and monopoly capital: the degradation of work in the twentieth century. London: Monthly Review Press; 1974]. It highlights misunderstandings of Marx caused by neglect of accounting. It concludes that accounting is the key to controlling modern business organisations in the interests of capital, that social scientists have too readily jettisoned Marx’s labour theory of value and his theory of class.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Really Wondrous Errors and Confusions

"Classical political economy took over from industrial practice the current conception of the manufacturer, that he buys and pays for the labour of his workers. This conception had been quite adequate for the business needs, the book-keeping and price calculations of the manufacturer. But, naively transferred to political economy, it produced there really wondrous errors and confusions." -- Friedrich Engels, Introduction to the 1891 edition of Wage Labour and Capital explaining the significance of revisions to Marx's original text.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Accounting for the Current Economic Crisis and Inadequate Political Responses

The day before yesterday, while searching for an online copy of an article on the rhetoric of Polish accounting he had cited many years ago, Sandwichman stumbled upon an old email list exchange from thirteen years ago between himself and the inestimable Miracle Max. The exchange illuminates the present economic crisis and the inadequate  political responses to it from the left as only "a tiger's leap into the past" can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Comment from William Leiss on Peter Victor's Nature Commentary, "Questioning Economic Growth"

William Leiss

"Given the size of the increase in the human population over the last century, and more recently the scale of the first stages of creating an industrialized, high-consumption economy in China, it's surprising how hard it remains to get a serious discussion about the issues raised in Peter Victor's little paper – or, obviously, to get any serious consideration of them at a "political" or public policy level.

The Politics of Social Accounting...

UPDATE: "Accounting and Control of the Labour Process," Rob Bryer, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 17, 2006. Working paper.

"The Politics of Social Accounting: Public Goals and the Evolution of the National Accounts in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States," Mark Perlman & Morgan Marietta, Review of Political Economy, Volume 17, Number 2, 211-230, April 2005.

Capitalism and the Curse of Energy Efficiency The Return of the Jevons Paradox

John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York

The curse of energy efficiency, better known as the Jevons Paradox—the idea that increased energy (and material-resource) efficiency leads not to conservation but increased use—was first raised by William Stanley Jevons in the nineteenth century. Although forgotten for most of the twentieth century, the Jevons Paradox has been rediscovered in recent decades and stands squarely at the center of today’s environmental dispute.

Questioning economic growth

Peter Victor
Nature 468, 370-371 (18 November 2010) | Published online 17 November 2010
Our global economy must operate within planetary limits to promote stability, resilience and wellbeing, not rising GDP, argues Peter Victor.
The idea that governments of developed countries should no longer pursue economic growth as a primary policy objective is widely regarded as heresy. Yet a growing number of scholars, policy-makers and citizens are coming round to the idea that the planet cannot sustain continued global economic growth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's "growth" got to do with it?

The following estimate is from a letter to the editor of The Times of London from Sir William Armstrong, spokesman for the employers during the 1871 engineers' strike in Newcastle, England for the nine-hour day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Broken Odometer: What's Wrong with the Economy and How to Fix It.

Let's say you need a vehicle and you're in the market for a low-mileage used car. The salesman takes you to a sporty-looking model and assures you that it gets unbelievable gas mileage". The odometer reading seems to confirm that the car was only used by its little old lady owner to drive to church on Sundays. The upholstery looks almost new. Or... wait... maybe it IS new.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Ecological Headstand

Karl Marx is said to have stood Georg Hegel's idealistic philosophy on its head by proposing – following the lead of Ludwig Feuerbach – that material circumstances shape ideas rather than the other way around. William Rees co-developed the concept of the Ecological Footprint, an estimate of the impact on ecosystems imposed by human activity.