… if I write a blog post while here?

Dumb, I know. But these last few archive trips that’s totally what I’ve done or wanted to do. It’s partly boredom, I’ll be honest. But it’s also partly that looking at this old stuff gives me ideas. I expect this will continue some, and to deal w/ that I need to be conciser. Or more shorthandy anyway. I’ll try that now, in these notes on abstract labor. <!–more

Abstract labor is a theoretical category, a category of/in reflection on social relations. It is not in social relations, such that one could measure social relations as being themselves abstract. That is, there is no actually instantiated abstract labor (including labors of abstraction). Talk of abstract labor as an actually existing phenomenon – as opposed to as an implied understanding or a social logic – can obscure as much as it clarify. This sort of abstract labor talk does track onto important phenomena, however, such as financialization/monetarization, de-skilling, and immaterialization (and perhaps other changes in labor processes as well).

Somewhat related to financialization/monetarization, about wages, I think "abstract" is a particularly bad term with regard to wages. I'd prefer to say that wages are payment with many possibilities, or payment the uses of which are underdetermined by the form of payment (this is to some degree always true – payment in kind in wood, say, could be used to build or to burn or hit someone with, say). On the other hand, workers may well have their wages spoken for due to various types of commitments – legal contracts to pay debts, or things that they value. Also addictions. I've heard a sentiment expressed many times along the lines of "working to put my kid through school" or "working to pay the mortgage" or "saving up for that vacation."

One aspect where I am willing to get on board with the abstraction stuff and with the immaterial labor stuff is that spending wages involves or can involve a sort of calculation of how the money will be spent, a labor of accounting as part of managing the reproduction of one's labor power.