By Jakob Rigi
(Associate Professor ; Central European University ; Budapest)
A brief response to Chris Land’s and Steffen Bohm’s Short Essay: “They are exploiting us! Why we all work for Facebbok for free” (see: http://oowsection.org/2012/02/22/they-are-exploiting-us-why-we-all-...)
The gist of the essay is the following hypothesis: The users of Facebook produce value in the same way as wage workers produce it. Hence, Facebook exploits users by expropriating this value.
Although I have a great respect for Land and Bohm good intentions and sympathize with their anti Facebook sentiments their thesis on Facebook exploiting users is wrong.
Facebook definitely exploits someone. But whom? The answer is the total world wage labor which is exchanged with capital (variable capital) . It is only this labor that produces surplus value. To claim that Facebook users produce value is to deny the role of wage laborers and their antagonism to rent-extracting entities such as faceebook and google.
Marx, in Vol. 3 of Capital, demonstrates that the surplus value produced by different sections of workers become a total pool and then is redistributed among industrial and commercial capitalists ( in the form of profit), Bankers (in the form of interest ), and land owners (in the form of rent). We use banks on daily basis and banks lend our money (savings, pensions..) in exchange for interests. It would be absurd to claim that users of banks produce value for banks. We spent time and energy to use bank services, even when we use credit cards. But this energy -time does not produce value, it is not exchanged with capital. Even when the users pay fees to banks for using the services they do not produce values but buy values which are produced by bank workers. It is equally absurd to claim that the users of Faceook and google produce value. The extract rents that are parts of the total surplus value which is produced by the wage laborers worldwide.
Actually the knowledge economy rests on the shoulders of the wage labor which is exchanged with capital outside it, though knowledge workers themselves also contribute to the total surplus value to the extent that their labor is exchanged with capital (variable capital).
Hence, claiming that users produce the rent which sucked from wage labor by google and Facebook, has the following practical implication: the user should expropriate the rent, the user should exploit the working class instead of Facebook.
To conclude users producing value for facebook is a very bad thesis. We should not fight to become rent suckers but to abolish wage labor, surplus value, in all its form including rent.
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