Developing the Socially Useful Economy by Stephen Bodington

By Stephen Bodington

"[Based on a sequence of] seminars ... organised by way of CAITS (Centre for replacement business and Technological structures) and Middlesex Polytechnic employees [in 1984]"--P. ix.

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The impression one gets when it is spoken of as a praiseworthy goal, is that the pains ofthose who live by the sweat of their brows will be eased. But what does a manager mean when he says a new method of production increases productivity? In a market economy there is only one meaningful measure of productivity - exchange value of commodities produced divided by exchangevalue of commodities used in production (labour, materials, plant). 5, that is productivity doubles. In the commodity exchange system the only 32 Defining the Problem meaningful measure is exchange value.

Thus exchange value is equated with use value. The more goods and services we produce the more we are able to satisfy human needs only so long as they can be sold at a profit. Thus the market system distorts our notion of wealth by excluding many of the unpaid activities which are regarded by many as being socially useful. ange and therefore are excluded from the calculations of wealth and gross national product. Thus need becomes part of the ghetto of extreme poverty, such as that in Ethiopia, which must be seen to be addressed in a short term and compartmentalised manner, in this case through the provision of socalled 'aid'.

Although this is in accordance with free market theories it will mean that only those that can afford to pay for education, for health, or to provide for old age, will get these services. The remaining population, millions of whom are already in poverty will be denied the fulfilment of basic needs. Many basic welfare needs occur outside the market framework at present. But more and more they are falling within a framework of market values. Hirch ll has commented on the effect of commercialisation of medicine in the United States; the weakening of the doctor/ patient relationship is a matter ot common experience and widespread comment.

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