This topic started as a thread on the German Oekonux list discussing use-value, utility, and usefulness. One question that came up was whether use-value is a synonym for usefulness, or whether it is a limited kind of usefulness specific to goods made as commodities. It didn't seem possible to answer this rather abstract question without concrete examples of how usefulness can be limited, and creating a list works better on a Wiki than on a mailing list - so here it is.

There are also some Use Value References. And the beginnings of something on FetishismOfUseValue.

fn = FranzNahrada, gs = GrahamSeaman. Not sure what the WikiEtiquette is for adding names to an imported discussion.

Please either:

* add to the list * comment on an item in the list * add a new page to expand on a phrase * do something else!

Producers are not regularily standardizing their products so they fit together --fn

But that's something the system does usually manage to sort out eventually. From the struggle to get screw threads standardized in the 19th century, to software standards now - eventually it gets done. --gs

See [http// Wired] for the screw standardization saga, and [http// Spiked] expanding on the counterview that standardization both deskills and reduces innovation. --gs

Once a product is sold it does not bring any more benefit to the producer (example of chinese doctors who are paid for health instead of being paid for sickness) --fn

OK, there's plenty of non-commodity production counter examples: from free software on; in fact ANY gift-exchange based system, where the gift grows in transit. --gs

Useful non-commodities are simply not made. Example: Russian work on bacteriophages which can target specific bacteria (so, no problems with resistance as with antibiotics). Usefulness depends entirely on being not mass produced but bred for one specific outbreak of disease, therefore abandoned with end of USSR. --gs

That means a lot of production which is useful is not happening because the industrial production based on mass-copying. The "flooding" (Ulrich Sigor) kills meaningful products en masse. Here it is even an analogy: antibiotics kill masses of more meaningful "species" of products --fn.

Are there any good links to UlrichSigor 's writings? --gs

Cheap copying is the basis for free software, (potential) free medicine, free books, etc. This implies that free software methods are not sufficient for an alternative MOP. --gs

Products which cannot be repaired but must be thrown away when faulty (almost all modern electronics). Repairability is useful, but has no use-value. --gs

Unless Repairability is "the use-value" itself. Repairability can be marketed. Then again we have this question of TransitionMode versus SystemicMode. --fn

I have never seen any product marketed as being repairable. Has anyone? --gs

Modern british toilets have flat tops, so they fit together in a warehouse when stacked. In use, urine stays on the flat surface and leaves a stain which needs to be cleaned (older toilets had slightly sloping tops which tended to chip when stacked). Usefulness in production has taken priority over usefulness to the purchaser.--gs

Its not the "usefulness in production" but the "usefulness in circulation", or rather the "costs of warehousing" reduction. The same goes for meat: hormones, fast breeding, shorter production. Then it should last at least 14 days in the shelf - more chemicals added for both things. One could say "use-value destroyed" or "Thats use-value".--fn

That argument maintains the separation between production and consumption. Either the warehouseman needs to suffer for the needs of the consumer, or vice versa. Is it not possible to design for the whole process? --gs

Products are designed not to be understood by users (being understood does not add to their use-value), making user innovation and understanding impossible --gs

That is the dependence mode of production. Selling support with the product. It is masked as "useability". Something very relevant to the flaws in IT development. In reality, its stealing life-time.--fn

A related problem: all electronic products once came with schematics. Now none do. --gs

Computers which resist high levels of humidity are not made, because the African market is too small --gs

That is where the the end of Capitalism comes from: Only with very large capital nowadays it is possible to successfully produce commodities.

So more and more people understand that there is a different mode of production which needs no capital or almost no capital: ours. The costs of development shared, the costs of production in small series becoming affordable again: thats GPL-society.

Maybe GPL society will begin to rise in Africa?? --fn

The problem isn't the scale of the capital needed: the problem is the small size of potential market relative to the capital needed. It's a variant on the problem that proprietary software developers have. -- gs

A new underground station has been built near my house. The train embankment is quite high, and this building sits at the side of the embankment and includes the stairs to reach the train line, so it is quite high. From outside, it is an elegant building, with structure designed to be visible: a steel framework, light plastic skin, wooden roof with wooden supports. Inside, it is a single large hall, with ticket desks at one end and ticket machines across the middle of the hall. The steps are in the half behind the ticket machines and so quite steep; the walls at the side of the steps to the top of the building are covered in marble. There is also a lift, but it is behind a steel grid, and normally locked (you have to ask for permission to use it, but there is normally no-one available to ask). I often see people slip on the steps; and although it would be a good meeting point, there are no seats inside, and if you stand waiting for someone you inevitably get in the way of people coming through the ticket machines. People generally stand in the street outside when waiting for others.

It seems the main purpose of this building was to reduce the number of people paid to collect tickets (before there were no machines). It does this very well.The use-value to the proprietors (london Underground) is there. For the users, the usefulness is far less than it could be. It seems London underground also felt this, and put in the marble slabs to compensate for this with a supposed feeling of luxury; but they are so out-of-place with the rerst of the building the result is worse. --gs

Old manufacturing plants (eg old chip fabs) cannot carry on in parallel with new ones because they will make no profit, although their production could still be useful. This point was IIRC discussed wrt. textiles in:

/Bettelheim, Charles. Class Struggles in the USSR: First Period, 1917-1923/

where it was the ONLY concrete example he could give of a point where the Bolshevik economy worked more sensibly than the capitalist ones. --gs

Possible keywords for re-factoring this list: StandardIzation, RepairAbility, ScaleOfProduction, DependenceModeOfProduction, UseValueDestruction, ProducerBenefit, ProductFlooding. I guess we wait a bit to expand this list before trying to refactor. --gs

other points

untility and usefulness

do not idealize German. We have the same terninological diversity. There is "Nuetzlichkeit" and there is "Nutzen". (and from this cometh "Grenznutzen" in marginalist thinking ~FranzNahrada

Oekonux/Glossary/UseValue/Talk (last edited 2006-06-06 18:58:30 by StefanMerten)

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