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That Other Great Class of Commodities: Repositioning Marxist Educational Theory

Glenn Rikowski

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference, Cardiff University, 7-10 September 2000


This paper is the fifth in a series of works that started with Education Markets and Missing Products (Rikowski, 1995) followed by Left Alone (Rikowski, 1996a) and Scorched Earth (Rikowski, 1997), and finally Education, Capital and the Transhuman (Rikowski, 1999b). The second and third works provided an external (Left Alone, Rikowski, 1996a) and internal (Scorched Earth, Rikowski, 1997) critique of the old Marxist educational theory flowing from Bowles and Gintis's (1976) Schooling in Capitalist America and Willis's (1977) Learning to Labour. Specifically, Scorched Earth (Rikowski, 1997) explored some of the doomed attempts to base Marxist educational theory on a synthesis of Bowles and Gintis-type neo-structuralism and Willisite resistance theory (e.g. Apple, 1985). It also critiqued the project of attempting to purge Bowles and Gintis's (1976) work of some debilitating defects in readiness for its re-usability for Marxist educational theorists (e.g. Livingstone, 1995). Both Left Alone and Scorched Earth pointed towards the concept of labour power as starting point for rebuilding Marxist educational theory.

The centrality of labour power for rejuvenating Marxist educational theory was taken up more explicitly in Education Markets and Missing Products (Rikowski, 1995). There the argument was that liberal Left critiques of education markets typically avoided the question of what constituted the 'products' of schooling. Thus: 'education markets and missing products' pertained in liberal Left critiques of the workings of education markets and quasi-markets. In Education Markets and Missing Products, it was advanced that if Marxist educational theorists explored capitalist education and training as a form of production (as productive force) then the significance of labour power as the commodity at the heart of this social production would be clear(1).

Education, Capital and the Transhuman (Rikowski, 1999b) took Rikowski (1995, 1996a and 1997) further still by exploring the nature of labour power and linking its historical development with arguments about its relations with capital and the future of 'the human'. Thus, Education, Capital and the Transhuman went beyond considerations pertaining to the narrowly 'educational'. It explored topics such as transhuman theory, the 'logic' within the unfolding of the capitalist labour process and previously uncovered forms of relative surplus-value production, the capitalisation of humanity and the critique of educational postmodernism - themes largely ignored in this paper. There is, though, overlap between aspects of the paper before you and Education, Capital and the Transhuman - but with this paper taking up some topics and ideas not taken up in the latter. There is development here out of Education, Capital and the Transhuman, but this can only occur if the reader is alerted to certain positions and arguments explored in that earlier paper. Those who have read Education, Capital and the Transhuman must endure some repetition of argument, though in places the original arguments have been refined.

This paper posits labour power as the starting-point for rebuilding Marxist educational theory. Labour power, briefly, is the capacity to labour. As we shall see, labour power is more than a capacity, a potential, when transformed into labour within the labour process. There it attains a social reality as real social force. It becomes 'fuel for the living fire' (i.e. labour, after Marx, 1858a) within the labour process. In this paper, Marxist educational theory is repositioned on the foundation of labour power: on its significance, nature and contradictions.

Section 1 explores three alternatives to this position. First, some such as Frith (1980) and Finn (1987), and more recently James Avis (2000), have advocated theorising capitalist education and training by starting out from the capitalist labour process. I first explored this position nearly twenty years ago as a research student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick(2). The reasons why I rejected starting out from the labour process - and labour process theory and studies were much in vogue in Left academic circles the late 1970s and early 1980s(3) - are significant regarding why, later and today, I argue for labour power becoming the first base. The labour process as starting point for theorising capitalist education and training is also discussed briefly in relation to state restructuring(4). This is followed by a discussion of the work of two leading Marxist educational theorists: Rachel Sharp and John Freeman-Moir. They pose alternative starting points for generating new Marxist educational theory. For Sharp, the world market becomes the effective starting point, and for Freeman-Moir, it is a particular text of Marx's: his Theses on Feuerbach.

Section 2 offers arguments for labour power as fertile ground for developing Marxist educational theory. These arguments rest upon empirical research (recruitment studies) and analytical considerations (the status of labour power within education as a form of production). As I have presented most of these arguments elsewhere (Rikowski, 1990, 1995; 1996b-d, 1999b and 2000a), they shall be summarised briefly. This paper seeks to push the argument forward; not dwell on points first advanced up to ten years ago.

Section 3 indicates that arguments for basing renewal of Marxist educational theory on explorations of labour power drawn from the conclusions of empirical research are not the most important ones. The argument from internality (within Marxism) is proffered as the principal consideration for starting out from labour power. Thus, starting to theorise the nature of education and training in capitalist society should begin from within Marxism itself, as a project that develops Marxist theory and politics. Of course, some may argue that Marx cannot be improved upon or extended, and Michael Lebowitz (1992, 1997) deals admirably with this regrettable tendency within Marxism whilst still claiming to be a 'fundamentalist' himself. Moishe Postone (1996), on the other hand, arguing against the kind of fundamentalist or 'traditional' Marxism that prioritises market relations (private property/lessness) over productions relations (value and surplus-value production), indicates the massive amount of theoretico-political space that Marx opened up through his critical theory of capitalist society. This paper seeks to make a contribution towards expanding that critical space through extending analysis of labour power and in turn capitalist education and training. This section also addresses those liberal Left social theorists, economists and educators (such as the Left economist Geoff Hodgson, 1982, 1999) who are squeamish about admitting that labour power is a 'commodity'. It shows that Hodgson's analysis of labour power confuses and conflates that 'two great classes of commodities' (Marx, 1863a): the general class of commodities on the one hand, and labour power on the other.

Section 4 provides an investigation into this weird, living and abominable commodity: labour power, the only commodity with the potentiality to become the foundation for a social universe beyond the realm of capital. Whilst the opening third of this section draws heavily from Education, Capital and the Transhuman (Rikowski, 1999b), the rest of the section either learns from errors made in previous papers (Rikowski, 1990, 1996c) or extends the analysis significantly beyond what I have so far provided publicly. The upshot is that labour power is presented as a severely contradictory social phenomenon. Labour power is the living, contradiction-ridden commodity that schools, colleges and universities are being urged to produce by the present New Labour Government (and previous administrations in England, at least back to the First World War). They are also being asked to socially produce higher quality labour power (relative to that of other countries).

Section 5 focuses on the actual production process of labour power. It provides some preliminary investigations into the social production of labour power in capitalism. Furthermore, it indicates how capitalist education and training enter into the analysis: as institutional forms within the social production of labour power. The social production of labour power is a process that can, in principle, be researched. Unlike surplus-value production, it lays much closer to the surface of capitalist society and can be observed more directly. Unlike surplus-value production (which is concentrated within the capitalist labour process), the social production of labour power is highly fragmented at the institutional and organisational level. In mainstream social and educational theory and research, such fragmentation is buttressed by multi-disciplinary fragmentation. The multitudinous disciplines and sub-disciplines of bourgeois social science function to hide or mask the social production of labour power in capitalism (Shaw, 1975). This section speculates on methods for researching the social production of labour power in contemporary capitalist society whilst holding no illusions that mainstream social research funders will take up research proposals that allow Marxist researchers to put this into practice, with a good will.

The Conclusion indicates work essential for the development of Marxist educational theory based on its repositioning within the orbit of 'labour power theory'. It also points towards the significance of revolutionary pedagogy as exemplified in the work of Paula Allman (1999, 2000) and Peter McLaren (1998, 2000; and with Ramin Farahmandpur, 1999, 2000) as the main strand of educational praxis that practically struggles against reducing education and training to labour power production.

1. Three Alternatives

This section explores alternatives to labour power as starting point for rebuilding Marxist educational theory after the critique provided by Scorched Earth (Rikowski, 1997). In that text, I critiqued the old Marxist educational theory flowing from the works of Bowles and Gintis (1976) and Willis (1977) and all the attempts to synthesise these and/or circumvent their deficiencies.

Three alternatives are put forward: the labour process; the work of Rachel Sharp (1980, 1986a-c, and 1988); and the proposition advanced by John Freeman-Moir (1992) that Marx's Theses on Feuerbach should be the methodological point of departure for rejuvenating Marxist educational theory (indeed, Marxism as a whole). Of course, many other possible starting points could have been discussed. Other leading contenders such as alienation(7), wage-labour(8), the state(9), social class(10), equality(11), knowledge(12) and un/productive labour(13), it could be argued, ought also to have been included for a truly comprehensive analysis of possible starting points for rebuilding Marxist educational theory. The long list of 'products' of schooling in the Appendix to Education Markets and Missing Products (Rikowski, 1995) (forty-three main categories of products, and more than 60) suggests that exploring each of these might hit the right note regarding comprehensiveness of approach. As shall become clear, pursuing a 'maximum programme' for exploring alternatives to labour power as starting point for rebuilding Marxist educational theory is pointless.

The three alternatives presented here were chosen for specific reasons. Regarding the labour process, it was something of an orthodoxy in Left and Marxist circles in the early to mid-1980s that understanding of capitalist schooling presupposed prior analysis of the capitalist labour process. Simon Frith's (1980) classic essay, Education, Training and the Labour Process constituted significant progress for this enterprise. However, it was precisely the success and extent of this work (see also CCCS Education Group 1, 1981; Finn, 1987) that exposed the limits of theorising capitalist schooling through exploring education-labour process relations. Today, when some such as Avis (2000) are suggesting a second round of this approach to theoretical understandings of capitalist schooling there is a need to tread over this old route.

Examination of Rachel Sharp's and John Freeman-Moir's work relates to a promise I made towards the end of Scorched Earth (see Rikowski, 1997, pp.570-571) to do this. The significance of the work of Rachel Sharp in the 1980s, and John Freeman-Moir's significance in the 1980s and early 1990s, was that they at least saw the need to start again with Marxist educational theory. This was at a time when others were content to re-cycle the old Marxist educational theory flowing from Bowles and Gintis (1976) and Willis (1977), despite the defects within these works catalogued (by Marxists and by non-Marxists) for many years. Admiring their instincts, but disappointed by their attempts to break successfully or decisively from the old Marxist educational theory, I held their efforts to keep Marxist educational theory on the map during the Thatcher-Major/Regan-Bush years in my heart. Ultimately, of course, they failed to provide a useful route out of the old Marxist educational theory. Works where they attempted to move beyond the old Marxist educational theory have not materialised; neither Sharp nor Freeman-Moir used these works to continue to rebuild Marxist educational theory (to my knowledge). Neither have others used their works as launching pads for such an enterprise (again, to my knowledge). This paper suggests how they came to present us with some dead ends for Marxist educational theory.

(a) The Labour Process and State Restructuring

... it is not the educational system per se that channels people into jobs. The specific range of occupations, their differentiation and hierarchies are determined outside the educational system in the organisation of the production process itself. (Sharp, 1980, p.124)

Rachel Sharp provides the classic statement regarding why Marxist educational theorists should start with the labour process when attempting to grasp the nature of capitalist schooling. Occupations (with their different skills contents and mixes) and hierarchies (skill hierarchies, but also gender and ethnic hierarchies) are determined in the labour process. Thus, for Sharp, analysis of capitalist schooling begins with prior analysis of the labour process. Employers' skill needs have to be understood, therefore, in terms of changes in the labour process, as these changes result in different demands on schooling (Frith, 1978).

Writing and research on the analysis of the relations between the labour process and schooling was very much a phenomenon of the late 1970s to mid-1980s, with Dan Finn's (1987) Training Without Jobs marking the virtual termination of such discussions in the UK(14). Any worthwhile discussion of the relationship between the labour process, employers' labour power needs and education should ideally go back to Simon Frith's (1980) seminal essay on the topic, Education, Training and the Labour Process.

In an earlier article, (Frith 1978) made some preliminary observations on the relationship between the labour process, employers' labour power needs and education. In his Education, Training and the Labour Process he discussed these in greater depth. He argued that:

What we need, analytically, is not a functionalist account of the match and mismatch of education and industry, but a dynamic account of the interaction between schooling and the labour process. (Frith, 1980, p.35).

He gave such an account through the labour process perspective of the Brighton Labour Process Group (1977) in his (1980) article. Frith's most pertinent conclusion was that capital has to treat labour as 'subjective' (as labour has consciousness) and this subjectivity is partly formed through ideological, political and educational processes. It is not just formed within the confines of the labour process. Ignoring the fact that Frith reifies 'labour'(15), he goes on to explain that:

... features of the capitalist labour process such as deskilling, the fragmentation of labour, the mental/manual split can't be explained by reference to the capitalist labour process alone (that would be to invite problems of technological determinism). (1980, p.37)

For Frith, the importance of education resides in the fact that it plays a part in the formation and creation of the subjective aspect of labour. It also plays a part in the formation and maintenance of the phenomena noted in the previous quotation. There is a dynamic between employers' labour power needs (ultimately resting on labour process requirements) and the processes of capitalist schooling. The state has to manage the tensions within this dynamic. As Frith notes:

My emphasis has been on the educational demands of industry, but I have also tried to show that educational processes put their own pressures on employers and I am not convinced that the state will be able to settle the resulting arguments, despite the post Great Debate consensus(16) among educational policy makers that schools must meet the employer-defined 'needs' of industry. (Frith, 1980, p.40)

However, the Thatcher/Major governments largely settled the arguments: in favour of the 'needs of industry'. As Hill (1999a) indicates, New Labour has largely continued the project of tilting education towards the interests of capital and the desires of business representatives of capital.

Unfortunately, there has not been an attempt to extend the analysis suggested by Frith (though the CCCS Education Group 1 (1981) provide more empirical detail than does Frith - but with no essentially new insights), except for the work of Barry Lovejoy (1981a-b). But then Lovejoy's work has remained largely unpublished, with its impact therefore much reduced. Lovejoy's work deals with the labour process and training; schooling does not feature prominently. Lovejoy developed Frith's work and his work with Caroline Bedale and Roger Halford (Lovejoy, Bedale and Halford, 1980) to produce an interesting paper on developments in the capitalist labour process in the building industry and the relationship between these and developments in training in the industry (Lovejoy, 1981b). This sort of analysis is still unique. By the time of Phil Mizen's (1995) The State, Young People and Youth Training arrived, the labour process was downplayed significantly, to be replaced by a re-emphasis on the 'training state'. The labour process has also given way to arguments about the recomposition of 'work' (Ainley, 1993; 1999), or indeed the 'crisis (or end) of work' (Aronowitz and DiFazio, 1994; Rifkin, 1995)(17).

After Frith's (1980) essay there was some superficial recognition that the labour process was important for understanding schooling. The CCCS Education Group 1 (1981), Sarup (1982), Apple (1985) and Buswell (1986), for example, all acknowledged the need to analyse the labour process in terms of its impact on schooling and/or in relation to a discussion of employers' labour power needs. Their work lacks the sophisticated approach of Frith (1980), and makes no headway in terms of using labour process theory to advance new insights on capitalist schooling and training. Rather, exposition of the 'labour process debate' (i.e. the debate about the significance of Braverman's (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital, and its various interpretations) rose to the fore (e.g. CCCS Education Group 1, 1981; Apple, 1985). This was supplemented by exposition on parallels between social relations in the labour process and schooling (Apple, 1985) with broad injunctions to start with the labour process in the analysis of schooling (as with Avis, 2000, now). Buswell (1986) was fairly typical of the 1980s educational theorists; she had only one eye on the labour process. She notes, but does not demonstrate, the importance of the labour process. After explaining how researchers need to take both the labour process and the labour market into account in understanding schooling and youth training, there is a brief exposition of the 'labour process debate'. This is followed by further broad injunctions to the effect that when we examine the 'nature of the training relationship' we must focus on the nature of the labour process. Also, argues Buswell, when we examine the effects of Manpower Services Commission (MSC - now defunct) youth training schemes on youth wages and employment, we need to focus on the labour market. Yet the ways in which labour process and labour market interact are not specified. There is, therefore, a perfunctory treatment of the labour process(18). In the 1990s, the labour process almost vanished from Left (or any) analyses of schooling, though there were a few more examples for the analysis of training (e.g. Neary, 1997).

The significance of the labour process, on the above accounts, is that employers' educational needs and the demands they make on schooling and training partly result from changes in the labour process. A number of writers have noted that changes in the labour process result in new needs and demands being made on schooling and training (Musgrave, 1967; Frith; 1978, 1980; Lovejoy, Bedale and Halford, 1980; Sarup, 1982). Frith (1980) points towards the danger of falling into a technological determinism here. He notes that changes in the labour process typically flow from problems of labour control resulting from class struggle. Changes in the labour process do not just result from crises of accumulation, the declining rate of profit, competition and the introduction of new technology (p.37). Employers' labour power needs are the result of all these elements, as they relate to specific labour processes. Furthermore, as Frith points out, there is a dynamic between schooling and labour process, no simple determination. The processes of schooling can affect the ways employers define their labour power needs. As Willis (1977) noted, the manpower requirements of industry and commerce do not simply determine the formation of particular kinds of labour power; it is not a causal relation (p.171). The theorisation needs, therefore, to be integrative, to take in all the social processes involved in the transition from school to work into account, and also it needs to be dynamic - referring to the changing relations between the labour process and schooling. There is general agreement within this body of 1980s schooling-labour process literature on one point; that the labour process is the starting point of analysis for Marxist educational theory, as:

The educational system, on the whole, relates its activity to the quantity and quality of the labour force required by the capitalist labour process. (Sarup, 1982, p.111)

As the labour process determines schooling to a greater extent than schooling determines the form of the labour process then we must start with an analysis of the former, it is argued.

Avis (2000) has divined that there is a need to 'bring the labour process back in' to our analysis of capitalist schooling and training. Specifically, for Avis, this dictum applies especially to post-compulsory education and training (PCET) analysis (p.195) - as the rapid changes in the nature of work should underpin analysis of PCET. However, it does not follow that the labour process is the necessary starting point for analysis of capitalist education and training, or for rejuvenating Marxist educational theory, on any of the arguments advanced in the literature. Although schooling and the labour process are institutionally split in contemporary capitalism they are in fact linked through a social process - the recruitment process (Rikowski, 1990). However, at the heart of the recruitment process is the selection and assessment of individuals on the basis of capacity to labour: their labour power - actual (at the point of recruitment), and potential (after further development through training and on-the-job development). This is illustrated empirically in Rikowski (1992) with reference to a study of apprentice recruitment in the engineering industry.

A focus on the labour process fails to capture the full spectrum or the complexity of what is involved. What is being advocated here, and consolidated in later sections, is that the starting point of the relation between schooling/training and the labour process is labour power. Its essential nature and attributes must therefore be ascertained. Starting with the labour process masks the issue of what schools actually produce for employers: what the 'products' of really schooling are. It makes a theory of education as production more difficult to form, as the labour power needs of industry and commerce appear to be 'given' directly by, or can be directly derived from, the labour process. There is no need, therefore, to explore the social production of labour power. Labour power needs (or 'skills') can be 'read off' from analysis of the labour process (as the old MSC believed, and the today's Government still believes). Thus, task analysis, job analysis, surveys of employers (asking them what 'skills' their workforces need, or what 'skills' school-leavers or graduates should have to make them 'employable' or 'work-ready') can provide the 'answers'. On the one hand, analysis of the labour process to determine industry's labour power needs sits uncomfortably close to the kind of technicism favoured by the Department for Education and Employment (discover the skill needs, and then set up - or modernise - education and training systems to meet them). On the other hand, focus on the labour process heralds the kind of functionalist account where the capitalist state steps in to restructure education and training in line with perceived labour power needs flowing from labour processes. State restructuring theory (as in CSE State Group, 1979) gels quite readily with analyses focusing on school-labour process relations. This is because without the activity of the state there appears to be a perennial non-correspondence (after Bowles and Gintis, 1976) of labour power attributes required by the labour process and those developed by schooling. Starting from the labour process, I am suggesting, carries with it an incipient functionalism, that I thought I had left behind in Scorched Earth (Rikowski, 1997).

Furthermore, as shall be clear in Section 5, as the social production of labour power encapsulates aspects of both labour process and schooling/training, then, rather than starting at one end of the spectrum, there is a need to theoretically grasp the process as a whole. A prior analysis of labour power itself - the phenomenon at the heart of this process - must be the starting point. In sum, the theoretical and empirical understanding of the overall relation between the labour process, schooling/training and labour power needs revolves around an appreciation of the nature of labour power and what is involved in its social production.

Finally, for each of the alternative starting points listed earlier - i.e. alienation, wage-labour, state, social class, equality, knowledge and un/productive labour - an account at least as lengthy as this would have been required to argue why labour power is a superior starting point for regenerating Marxist educational theory. Whilst I have provided brief critiques of these alternative starting points in the footnotes and in other writings (e.g. on knowledge, in Rikowski, 1995), some may argue that I am not entitled to move now towards a new Marxist educational theory starting out from labour power. After all, detailed critique of all the usual suspects is incomplete. Others may have their own starting point which is not in the list at all, or even in the list of multi-products of schooling in the Appendix to Rikowski (1995). But they must make out their own cases for alternative starting points. If convinced, I'll switch.

(b) Freeman-Moir: Education, Marxist Method and the Theses on Feuerbach

In Scorched Earth (Rikowski, 1997), I argued that there was a need to explore the works of Rachel Sharp and John Freeman-Moir as: 'the recent most systematic and far-reaching attempts to establishing new starting points for reorienting Marxist analysis of capitalist schooling away from the old social reproductionist-resistance paradigm' (p.569). This statement is far less true today. This is so for three main reasons.

First, Paula Allman's (1999) Revolutionary Social Transformation: Democratic Hopes, Political Possibilities and Critical Education 'puts Marx back into educational theory' to a much greater extent, on a deeper level and on a grander scale than either (to my knowledge) Rachel Sharp or John Freeman-Moir. Thus, the promise near the end of Scorched Earth (Rikowski, 1997, p.571) to explore their works on the basis that they provide alternative starting points for rebuilding Marxist educational theory is now not so binding. Paula Allman's (1999) text ensures that Marx 'gets back to where he once belonged' - at the centre of Marxist educational theory. He is no longer some bit player to Althusser, Bowles and Gintis or whoever. Allman shows how Marx inspired the pedagogical insights and practices of both Antonio Gramsci and Paulo Freire. Her chapters 2-3 illustrate Marx's mode of thought and analysis. The significance of this is that we too can think like Marx and integrate this critical thinking into our very personae to generate revolutionary 'critical, socialist and eventually revolutionary praxis' (Allman, 1999, p.50). The role of revolutionary educators is to work with people in providing them with the ability to do this too(19). Another book has also made a substantial contribution towards changing the landscape in Marxist education studies. On the first day of the new millennium Peter McLaren's (2000) Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution was published. This book indicated the crucial role played by Marx in the formation of the revolutionary pedagogies of Che (Part One of the book) and Freire (Part Two). In Part Three, McLaren provides a critique of the now largely domesticated Critical Pedagogy School (illustrating its tragic slide into liberalism and accommodation with neo-liberal economic outlooks) and outlines a revolutionary pedagogy: a pedagogy for revolution. Together, Allman (1999) and McLaren (2000) have changed the face of Marxist educational theory. They have given it new impetus, purpose and direction.

Secondly, in Left Alone (Rikowski, 1996a, pp.441-443 - originally drafted in 1995) I indicated a 'mini-renaissance' in Marxist theorising on education (indicating its various strands). Since then, this renaissance's energy and voices have both expanded. In recent years, the number of works and writers in Marxist educational theory has grown significantly. In addition to Allman (1999) and McLaren (2000), this work includes: Auerbach (1992); Adnett (1997); Cole (1998); Cole and Hill (1999a); Cole, Hill, McLaren and Rikowski (2000); Banfield (2000); Bertsch (1996)(20); Bourne (1999); Gee (1996); Harvie (2000); Hickey (2000); Hill (1999a-b, 2000, 2001); Kleinberg Neimark (1999); Longhurst (1996a)(21); Marginson (1997); Margonis (1998); McLaren (1997, 1998; 1999); McLaren and Farahmandpur (1999, 2000); Neary (1997, 1999); Raduntz (1999a-b); Rosenberg and Ovenden (1999); Sanders, Hill and Hankin (1999); Sparks (1997); Thorpe and Brady (1996); Willis (1999) and Yamamoto and Neto (1999) - a list is by no means exhaustive. To it could be added the explosion in educational works on Gramsci and Freire (e.g. Buttigieg, Borg and Mayo, 2000; Mayo, 1999; McLaren, 1996). Thus, in aggregate, this work shrinks the overall significance of Sharp and Freeman-Moir's texts.

Thirdly, my own work in Marxist educational theory (since 1995) has developed without much direct influence from, or reference to, the works of Sharp and Freeman-Moir (e.g. Rikowski, 1996a-d; 1998; 1999a-c; 1999/2001; 2000a-c). This was not the case from the late-1980s to mid-1990s. When I wrote Left Alone, I figured that their works would play a greater role in the development of my own and others' efforts in Marxist educational theory than they subsequently in fact did. However, for those new to Marxist educational theory these texts may still have the power to ignite ideas (as they did for me from 1988-1994). Furthermore, I shall keep the promise made in Scorched Earth: to explore Freeman-Moir and Sharp's alternative starting points for Marxist educational theory.


l h l

In 1986, John Freeman-Moir (with Hugh Lauder and Alan Scott) wrote an influential article called What is to be done with radical academic practice? They argued that Marxist and Left theorisations of schooling had lost their cutting edge and become divorced from radical pedagogical practice. After 15 years of 'sustained critique of Western education' (presumably the benchmark being Althusser's seminal essay on Ideological State Apparatuses - Althusser, 1971), that had shown clearly schools' 'capitalist nature' (p.83), Lauder, Freeman-Moir and Scott (1986) argued that:

... those in charge of doing the most harm are not the proponents of now totally discredited liberalism, but the academic Marxist, neo-Marxist, and just plain left theorists. (p.83)

With a strong claim like that, they had some explaining to do. They argued: 'left-wing academics have blundered into a dead end' (ibid.). These academics were engaged in re-cycling old material (from Bowles and Gintis and other Left writers). They put forward badly thought through proposals for radical change in education, incorporating the same naïve bourgeois optimism of liberal educationalists. They operated in the hermetically sealed environment of the university department unconnected with class or any other significant struggles. Thus: they had nothing significant to say to teachers in search of radical forms of pedagogy regarding 'what to do on Monday mornings'. Therefore, Lauder, Freeman-Moir and Scott stated that:

Our aim is programmatic - to argue for a halt to the current interminable and increasingly scholastic theorising which centres upon relative autonomy and resistance theory. In its place we suggest, radical education should be concerned with the theory and practice for radical change. ... In our view such a concern shifts the focus from explanatory theories about the school-society relationship under capitalism to issues of radical practice, for one thing is certain, current writing in this area is not concerned with these issues and as such is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the major questions of the day regarding the struggle for socialism. (p.84)

They provided analysis that showed: the isolation of 'Left' academics from radical practice; an over-concentration on formal education and imprecision about the central and wider struggle; an excessive generality in the works of 'Left' academics and neglect of specificities; the lack of any consistent reference to class struggle; the vagueness of 'Left' academics concerning revolutionary goals. On the other hand, they showed that they were aware of the structural constraints on radical academics (pp.92-100) that militated against the kinds of activities and outlooks they were advocating. In the Conclusion to their article, the three advocated three main starting points for rejuvenating Marxist educational theory and practice: recovering the tradition of revolutionary socialism; analysis of capitalist crises; and exploring the question of 'how does the working class, as a class, learn in the course of struggle?' (p.107). However:

As a first step in what is to be done we urge ourselves and our readers to go back and ponder the deep truth about revolution and education contained in the Third Thesis on Feuerbach: 'The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.' (p.108 - first emphasis mine, second emphasis original)(22)

The article received criticism from a few on the reformist Left who were stung by some of the accusations. Geoff Whitty (1987), for example, accused the three of revelling in an 'unreconstructed notion of socialist struggle every bit as implausible as some of the naïve suggestions for reforming capitalism which they rightly deride' (p.114). Whitty accused the three of 'sloganising', 'lack of specificity', 'crudity of argumentation' and an unwillingness (after Michael Apple) to 'face up to analytical complexity' (ibid.). Lauder, Freeman-Moir and Scott (1988) replied in similar spirit, arguing that:

... understanding the revolutionary tradition and the history of the labour movement, the current crisis, and drawing lessons from class struggles and class politics "are the crucial dimensions around which the reorientation of Marxist educational theory must be achieved" [p.108 from Lauder et al, 1986 - GR] ... Obviously this is not just the opposite of being unreconstructed. What we are calling for is that the theory of practice be constructed in coincidence with the real movement of history. This is an old point in the socialist tradition, it lies at the very centre of what socialist struggle means, and it is absolutely necessary to insist on it. (p.97)

In effect, argue the three, Whitty turned his back on 'the principal tradition of revolutionary practice' (p.98). They agreed with Whitty that the educational Left had to make 'links' with the constituencies outside the academy and to 'orient practice in the direction of real struggles, real problems and specific crises' (ibid.).

By the time of Looking Back at Education: the abandonment of hope (Freeman-Moir and Scott, 1991), Hugh Lauder had dropped out of the project. However, in this article, Freeman-Moir and Scott provided, for me, the most finely crafted, poignant, moving and beautiful article I have ever read in a mainstream education journal. The two writers provided a multifaceted history of 'what had gone wrong' with Marxist educational theory and with 'really existing education'. Their angry yet strangely sublime analysis was breathtaking. Direct quotes are in order:

The working class in all its diversity and differentiation - its women and men, its children, its Maori and migrant cultures, its retired and elderly - does not need to be studied endlessly to show that it is disadvantaged at school and work. (p.111)

Studies which freeze the 'origins' and 'destinations' of people can only really be absorbing to those for whom neither end of life is problematic, and in who the fragility of life forms no part of daily memory. (ibid.).

Supportive critique, while appropriating some part of the critical tradition and using a near-socialist language, does little more than seek the ear of those who hold elite positions in the state apparatus. Perhaps for the purpose of having a slice of the policy-making action, or as a way to secure new sources of finance for, naturally, radical research. (ibid.)

... to understand the paradox of liberal schooling is more than the coexistence of repression and liberation. It is that repression itself is a velvet glove, a curtain and not a chain. For schools are not factories nor are they prisons. Children are not clocked on or locked in. They are enshrouded, encapsulated, engulfed, immersed. It is like that everywhere and has always been so. For that is the meaning of repression. (p.121)

Likening contemporary classroom management practices to George Orwell's 1984, and castigating the entire gamut of educational organisations and (liberal) theories as undemocratic, anti-learning and inhuman - Freeman-Moir and Scott conclude that 'liberal reformist schooling' is unsustainable (p.123).

It is unsustainable, firstly, because it is logically unsustainable (ibid.). Thus, it appears that if the:

... driving force of liberal schooling is a belief in transcendancy and change, then it seems illogical to define certain categories as immutable. If it is possible to change the role of women or the lot of the Maori, which have both been established over long, historical time frames, then surely class can be transcended, or the social division of labour completely altered. To argue that society will always be stratified, as many liberals do, but that sexual or racial stratification can be removed is just plain odd. (ibid.)(23)

Secondly, liberal reformist schooling is unsustainable as it: 'posits what is the difficulty as if it were the unalterable fact', as: 'It suggests that the deadliness of the disease is the reason it cannot be cured' (ibid.). Arguments about 'human nature' as it is being 'unsuited' to socialism engender resignation regarding the horrors of capitalism and its supporting schools and colleges.

There is hope. Freeman-Moir and Scott (1991) end their article with the following:

For us the way ahead seems clear. All of us, whether liberals or radicals, have to speak of the future. We cannot act in the present on the strength of the past history of human nature. We must determine our actions on the basis of what people are to become. As never before we have to redraw the future and not history and reclaim for ourselves hope, promise and certainty. We must once again make the impossible possible. (p.124)

This stirring message had fantastic resonance for me up until 1999. In that year I wrote Education, Capital and the Transhuman. It was then that I realised that 'what people are to become' on the basis of what they already were in capitalist society was human capital: the 'human' as capital, humanity capitalised. Suddenly, Freeman-Moir and Scott's wish from 1991 was a chilling one. They had underestimated the seriousness of the situation(24). Their Romanticism rather than their 'unreconstructed Marxism' seemed to be their main hang-up. Nevertheless, from 1991, I looked forward to exploring their foundations for human liberation and renewed hope.

The wait was not long. The following year, Freeman-Moir (1992) - now on his own - had an article published in Educational Philosophy and Theory called Reflections on the Methods of Marxism. The strange thing was that he advocated starting out from Marx's (1845) Theses on Feuerbach (a strategy heralded at the end of the Lauder, Freeman-Moir and Scott classic of 1986). Now, rather than going through each of Freeman-Moir's comments on the eleven Theses (a task for a whole paper in itself) I shall make some general observations and target specific criticisms.

On the general observations, first, it seems strange to limit the starting point for Marxist educational theory (or Marxism in toto) to a single text. Second, why this particular text? The Theses were not published until 1888 (by Engels), five years after Marx's death. It could be argued that other texts say more on education (for example, the Critique of the Gotha Programme - Marx, 1875). Other texts provide more material for linking capitalist education and training to the creation of value and the generation of surplus-value: in particular, Marx (1847, 1858a, 1865a, 1866, 1867a) - especially when taken together. Other texts provide much better analyses on the class position of teachers and status of teachers' labour - e.g. Theories of Surplus-value (Marx, 1863a-c). Other texts could be said to provide more on Marx's method of analysis: e.g. Marx (1844b, 1857, 1858a, the famous Preface and Introduction to 1859; Marx and Engels, 1846). Thus, it must be the fact that the Theses are very dense and compressed that is their chief virtue for Freeman-Moir. But this either presupposes that harassed and stressed teachers, radical educators and researchers either have little time for reading more of Marx, or it supposes that the Theses provide 'a big bang for the bucks' - they summarise so much with so little text. Either way, placing them as the starting point for Marxist educational theory (or Marxism) requires us to interpret and expand on them if they are to be a useful guide to action. Fortunately, Freeman-Moir provides us with such a Thesis-by-Thesis guide (of which more later). Third, Freeman-Moir does not link his interpretation of the Theses to capitalist education in any systematic way. The relevance of some Theses for radical educational practice or Left education politics is spelt out, e.g. for Theses One (pp.105-106); Three (p.109); Five/Eight - which he runs together (p.111).

Specifically, first, in his interpretation of the Theses, Freeman-Moir resorts to citing many other of Marx's works (e.g. Capital, Preface to A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy), this suggesting that the Theses alone cannot bear the weight of what he really wants to say about Marx and Marxism. Secondly, when Theses (such as Three) raise questions specifically about educational strategies Freeman-Moir tends to underplay the educational discussion. Thirdly, solutions for the 'Monday morning problem', alluded to in the 1986 article, are at the most implicit. Whilst there is much interesting analysis and a voice for 'traditional' Marxism, radical teachers might say that the promise of 1986 remains largely unfulfilled. The sketch needs more red ink.

There is no doubt that Freeman-Moir produced a remarkable text. To have a 'hard core' Marxist discussion in an education journal (albeit a journal of educational philosophy and theory) is refreshing and in itself a symbol of hope (as it was for me at the time). However, Freeman-Moir does no favours to Marxism if he implies that we can have a 'Marxism made easy' through taking the Theses to heart. Of course, it is nothing of the sort. His interpretation of the Theses is not 'neutral': it bolsters a form of 'traditional' Marxism that elsewhere (Rikowski, 1996a, 1999b) I have argued against. Finally, the links between this text and the role that education can play in revolutionary social transformation are still very vague - perhaps partly a result of trying to do too much with one text of Marx's. On this last point, Paula Allman's (1999) Revolutionary Social Transformation makes the necessary links in a clear fashion. Why have Marx's Theses as the starting point for rejuvenating Marxist educational theory, practice and politics - when you can have the whole of Marx?

(c) Rachel Sharp and National Capitals in the World Market

The case of Rachel Sharp is quite different. With Freeman-Moir, I had to plough through several texts with a promise dangled before me - only to be impressed, excited, moved even, but ultimately disappointed. With Sharp, all the fireworks are in one small bag (Sharp, 1986a); but they fail to ignite.

In only fourteen pages (Sharp, 1986a, pp.ix-xxiii) of her Introduction to her edited collection of 1986, there is, firstly, a critique of traditional Marxist educational theory flowing from Bowles and Gintis (1976) and Willis (1997) and their whole legacy. Secondly, there is the most succinct, devastating and comprehensive critique of Bowles and Gintis's Schooling in Capitalist America in existence: I used it many times in teaching A-level sociology of education (pp.x-xi). Third, Sharp is ruthless (and rightly so) with liberal and positivist approaches to education theory and research (her remarks on Popper being particularly pleasing - "stunted ideologue" (p.xii), for example). Fourth, she deals with relativism, Left careerist ethnographers and proto-postmodernists (e.g. Andy Hargreaves) in a single sweep (pp.xii-xiv). She then gets to the pages (xv-xxiii) that outline an entirely new direction for Marxist educational theory. For Sharp:

The starting point for a redirection of Marxist analysis of education involves taking the notion of totality seriously, notwithstanding the criticisms of this concept regarding its Hegelian connotations implying essentialism and teleology. I argue that the precondition for developing an understanding of educational systems is via a holistic and historical understanding of the social formations in which they are embedded and the dominant mode of production which is structuring their development. In short, in order to realize its full potential, a Marxist sociology of education must first dissolve itself by confronting education's illusory autonomy. If it does not do so it will remain at the level of radical critique, imprisoned by the definitions of the criticised paradigm. (p.xv - my emphases).

Liberal thought and liberal problematics have defined the main terrain [of even 'Left' educational theory - such as Bowles and Gintis], giving rise to a central belief that a theory of schooling in capitalist society should be merely a theory about what we conventionally understand by educational institutions: i.e. schools, colleges, universities, etc. By assuming that it is theoretically viable to treat schools as a discrete area of study (albeit influenced by external forces) one confines oneself to the theoretical constraints of liberal theory which arbitrarily breaks up the social world into its component parts as they appear on the surface of bourgeois society. (ibid.).

Against such a view ... the notion of the educational system's relative autonomy is frequently invoked by neo-Marxists, i.e. it is maintained that, despite its interconnections with the rest of capitalist class society, it has its own logic and mode of functioning which warrant separate investigation. ... [But] ... the concept of relative autonomy is beset by problems ... (ibid.).

It is very misleading, however, to talk about the 'economic' requirements of capital as if they are somehow separate from political and ideological processes. Capital is a social relation. To refer to the 'economy' as a separate entity is to reproduce the arbitrary 'separations' of liberal thought which divides the social world into political institutions, economic institutions, cultural institutions, etc. (p.xvi - my emphasis).

What then should be our key focus? Here it will be argued that we need to find an analysis of schooling within a theory of capitalism as a mode of production. The analysis of commodity production and the course of the accumulation process should form the starting point. However, in order to proceed with the analysis, we need a new language which transcends the limitations of bourgeois thought. Insights into the nature of such a language can be gained from a re-appraisal of the language of Capital. (p.xvii - my emphases).

I am arguing ... that the reproduction of labour power within the context of a more general theory of capitalist reproduction has to be the central focus of a theory of schooling. Moreover, schooling institutions wherein the production and reproduction of labour power take place cannot be limited to those institutions which have traditionally preoccupied liberal theory - schools, universities and colleges. (p.xx - my emphases).

The process of labour power reproduction is not complete until labour power is converted into capital at the point of production. (p.xxi)(25).

These quotations from Sharp piece together many of the points I later developed as 'labour power theory' - implying the dissolution of Marxist educational theory (after Sharp above) and its recomposition on a new basis: labour power.

It should be noted, however, that in her Introduction to her edited collection (1986a), Sharp posits a number of starting points for Marxist educational theory: the notion of totality; commodity production and the accumulation process; and the reproduction of labour power. In the event, it is the first two that attain significance within the articles making up the edited collection. The emphasis moves towards capitalist states restructuring their education and training systems for the purposes of enhancing their competitive positions. The focus shifts towards various national capitals (states), and away from labour power as the special commodity at the heart of the process. Thus, we have, for example, Sharp (1986b) herself on Thatcherite Schooling: Break or Continuity? This is little more than an analysis of the relationship between Thatcherite economic and education policies and their consequences for class struggle. This was fairly standard fare for its day. We have John Freeman-Moir (1986) on the Capital Crisis and Education in New Zealand, which is basically a very detailed survey of the New Zealand economy from 1920-1980 and how changes within it led to processes of state restructuring of education (another state restructuring analysis). There is also some material on the consequences for the ideological containment of teachers and students. Freeman-Moir mentions the consequences of these developments for the types of labour power required, but the whole analysis degenerates into a familiar state restructuring enterprise with functionalist undertones. The other articles are similar; only the country changes (e.g. Wexler and Grabiner, 1986 - on America).

Rachel Sharp comes clean at the beginning of her Conclusion to the edited collection (Sharp, 1986c). She says:

The papers presented in this volume, whilst necessarily brief, have produced ample evidence of a marked convergence in the way state schooling systems are undergoing a structural reorganisation during the current crisis. (p.265)

This analysis would sit easily alongside Bowles and Gintis's (1976) Schooling in Capitalist America that Sharp had so brilliantly taken apart in her Introduction (Sharp, 1986a). Furthermore, to compound the deception undertaken by the articles in the collection she argues that: 'There is nothing perversely functionalist or determinist about the thesis elaborated here' (p.266). But the constituent articles speak otherwise: economic changes lead the capitalist state to attempt to meet the skill needs of the developing economy. The state functions (its operations are 'structurally determined' perhaps) on the basis of new skill demands thrown up by economic development and change. All we need is a "correspondence principle" and we are back to square one.

Sharp notes at the end that the 'struggle is not merely against educational reactionaries ... It is against the social relations which produce these phenomena and which will go on doing so as long as capitalism is maintained' (p.266). This is too little, too late. The promise of Sharp's incredible Introduction vanishes into 'Left' empiricism backed up by 'Left' structural-functionalism and held together by a familiar state restructuring analysis. The capacity for an analysis of labour power to illuminate capitalist social relations was lost within this morass.

2. Arguments for Starting Out from Labour Power

With the keen eye of an expert, ... [the capitalist] ... has selected the means of production and the kind of labour power best suited to his particular trade... (Marx, 1867a, p.179).

This section provides empirical, historical and policy-relevant evidence, reasons and arguments regarding why a Marxist theory of capitalist education and training should start out from labour power - the capacity to labour, or more simply (following Benade, 1984) the 'ability a worker has to work' (p.43). These empirical, historical and policy-related forms of evidence and argumentation are not, in my view, ultimately decisive regarding why labour power should take centre stage for Marxist educational theory. What this evidence and argument does effect is that it throws the onus on others as to why this evidence should be ignored. Certainly, to date it has been. This is because to accept this evidence implies the acceptance of a research- and theory-orienting concept that is at the heart of Marx's analysis of capitalism. It implies the acceptance - to a degree - of the significance and validity of Marx's social analysis for contemporary society, during an era when Marxism is allegedly 'dead'. In my experience of presenting this evidence, people prefer to ignore its message - and continue to mess with the inadequate concepts of 'skill' and competence, or to follow UK Department for Education and Employment totems such as 'employability' - rather than engage with what is before their eyes. As UK education research is gradually being subsumed under the project of raising the quality of human labour power (in the form of human capital), the tensions and deceptions involved in this strategy will become more apparent. As my evidence and arguments regarding why labour power should be the starting point for Marxist educational theory have been made a number of times in previous papers (e.g. 1990, 1996b,1996c, 1999/2001, 2000c), they shall be presented in summary fashion.

(a) Mediating Process: the recruitment process and labour power

The term 'qualification' or 'skill' covers so many characteristics of the applicant that it becomes vague, ambiguous and almost useless for an analysis of the recruitment process. (Hohn, 1988, p.83)

The recruitment process is the social site that links schooling and training with the labour process (Rikowski, 1990). The recruitment process is basically concerned with assessing the quality of potential labour power - the potential of young (or any) workers to labour effectively in the labour process. This is what constitutes a recruitment process (Rikowski, 1992). Thus, the recruitment process is an empirical, mediating link between education and the 'world of work'. On this basis, it is labour power - socially produced and developed, up to a certain degree, in an education system that is historically becoming increasingly an element in the social production of labour power(26) - that arrives as the focal commodity in the recruitment process. It arrives so within the personhood of the young (potential) worker. The 'transition from school to work' is essentially about the transition of labour power in its movement (within personhood) from school/college (and increasingly university) to work (the labour process), via the recruitment process. Labour power moves - as does labour, value, capital, indeed all the phenomena that constitute the social universe of capital (see Holloway, 1995a; Neary, 2000; Rikowski, 2000a, p.9). On this argument, Marxist educational theory should start out from labour power on the basis that it is at the heart of the recruitment process, and the recruitment process is the mediating link between education and work (and hence linked ultimately to value creation). Such a point of departure would aid understanding of how education-recruitment-work relate.

(b) Employers' Needs - as Labour Power Needs

This is a part-historical, part-conceptual point. James Callaghan's 1976 Ruskin College Speech sparked off lasting debate, research effort and commentary regarding the significance and nature of the educational 'needs of industry'. In a number of papers (Rikowski, 1990, 1996b-c, 2000a) but especially Rikowski (1999/2001), I have argued that these 'needs' are essentially 'labour power needs'. They are expressions of desirable forms of labour power (for the nation, for particular industries or firms) or list of desirable labour power attributes (what are perceived to be the itemised constituents of labour power - skills, personality traits and so on) - within the potential labourer. In Rikowski (1990 and in 1999/2001), I illustrated this point in the following ways:

I offer some examples of this evidence under these headings.

(i) Historical studies of employers' journals

During 1980-81, I made a study of the Institute of Personnel Management and the Industrial Society journals (mainly in the University of Warwick Modern Records Centre) during the 1918-1980 period. One of the purposes of the study was to chart changes in employers' perceptions of schooling, on young people themselves and most significantly for the purposes here - whether employers' 'needs' regarding the qualities and attributes sought in young people had changed over the period.

One of the most significant points for the argument here is that employers' statements of their 'educational needs' were often very broad. They were much broader than the concepts of either skill or competence could reach (unless these were defined imperialistically to cover almost any aspect of human capability). Here are some examples:

He [the industrialist] would look for increased adaptability, vision, the development of a sense of responsibility, accuracy, dexterity of hand and brain, and the provision of certain antidotes against the repression of initiative. (R.W. Ferguson and Miss D. McWilliam, 1922, Welfare Work 6(3), February, p.26)

Industry demands from its juvenile workers obedience, honesty, reliability, adaptability and, generally speaking a varying degree of manual dexterity. (K.E. Wilkinson, 1931, Labour Management XIII(134), February, p.258)

What we look for primarily [in office and factory trainees] is evidence of character, personality, enterprise, and initiative.(C.A. Harrison, Education Officer, Cadbury Bros. Ltd., 1934, Industrial Welfare and Personnel Management, XVI(190), October, p.25)

There are many and varied openings in the retail trade for the young person who is really prepared to work hard, who is alert, resilient, who enjoys the challenge of satisfying customers, and likes the fascination of handling different sorts of merchandise. (Mary Blair Zimmern, Staff Trainer, Peter Jones Ltd., 1963, Industrial Welfare, Vol.XLV, October, p.274).

These and many other examples led me to believe that the broad range of desirable attributes of young workers listed by these employers could most be conceived most adequately as labour power statements. That is, lists of desirable attributes of labour power, mere 'skill' or any other concepts not having the range to accommodate all these attributes.

(ii) My own research - the Midtown engineering employers' study (MEES)

The next piece of evidence comes from my own research. In the early 1980s, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 107 engineering employers in 'Midtown'. This study focused on the criteria, methods and channels of recruitment for craft and technician engineering apprentices amongst these 107 employers. At each firm, 'the person responsible for recruiting apprentices' was interviewed (sometimes with separate interviews for those recruiting craft and technician apprentices). Table 1 shows some data derived from this question. Each criterion listed amongst the responses to this question was weighted by the number of apprentices (for craft/technician at the firm at the time of interview). Furthermore, the criteria themselves were listed under 11 categories of recruitment criteria (substantially, but not entirely, following Cuming's, 1983, classification of recruitment criteria).

What is clear from Table 1, is that for both groups of apprentices work attitudes was the most important category of recruitment criteria. These were broken down in my study (but not in Cuming's, 1983) into 'general' and 'specific' work attitudes. The former referred to whether potential recruits had the 'right attitude' to work in general. The latter referred to whether they had the right attitude to working in engineering, or within a specific engineering trade, or the right attitudes related to specific aspects of the apprenticeship or eventual labour process destination. After work attitudes came personality traits in terms of significance. The importance of work attitudes and personality traits suggests that a broad concept is required to incorporate these as criteria of recruitment and attributes sought in potential apprentices. They don't come much broader than 'the capacity to labour' (labour power). Not all criteria of recruitment are attributes sought within the person at the point of recruitment (the circumstantial elements, for example, e.g. 'father in engineering'), but the vast majority of the criteria listed (in Rikowski, 1990, Appendix 1) were attributes pertaining to the person - hence labour power attributes.

Secondly, the broad nature of the 'natural statement' replies to the original question (prior to responses being split up as itemised recruitment criteria) suggest that only a concept as broad, and as specific (for future training and labour potential), as labour power could be adequate for incorporating the full range of personal attributes involved. The following examples make this clear:

Well, we need them interested in the job. I always look, for a neat, tidy and clean lookin' youth. Not that there's anythin' in some of these 'funny' ones that's about, but I like a nice tidy lad who's interested, an 'e wants ... [pause] ... 'e wants to work; that's the main thing. A lot of 'em come 'ere wantin' a job and they're not interested in an apprenticeship, or if they are interested in an apprenticeship they're not bothered in the job. Handle-pullin' jobs; there's a few of those jobs. And they may, at 16 or 17, pay more than apprenticeship, (they tend to, this handle-pullin'), but by 18 or 19 the interest has gone. (Jay Press Tools Ltd.)

(continued - more examples after Table 1)


Categories1 of Recruitment Criteria

References to Craft Related2 Criteria

(Weighted) (n=4325)3


References to Technician Related2 Criteria (Weighted) (n=4283)3


All Apprentices Related1 References

(Weighted) (n=8608)3


1. Work Attitudes (General)




2. Work Attitudes (Specific)




Work Attitudes (All)5




3. Social Attitudes




4. Personality Traits




5. General Ability




6. Learned Skills




7. Qualifications




8. Physical Qualities




9. Appearance




10. Social & Leisure Activities




11. Circumstantial Elements




NOTES: This data derives from responses to the question (Q): "what factors do you 'look for' in applicants for engineering (craft/technician) apprentices?" This question was addressed to 'the person(s) responsible for recruiting apprentices' in each of 107 engineering firms in 'Midtown'. The question was asked separately in relation craft and technician apprenticeships. Data was gathered by semi-structured face-to-face interview (mostly tape-recorded, otherwise notes made during the interview with post-interview telephone calls for any clarification). Fieldwork was carried out from November 1980 - September 1981.

1. Original categories of recruitment criteria derived (but adapted) from Cuming (1983). For a breakdown of the criteria designated to each category, see Appendix 1 'The Classification of Attributes' to Rikowski (1990, pp.35). This shows Cuming's (1983) original categories and their respective criteria and my own as used in the Midtown Engineering Employers Study (MEES). Rikowski (1990) also defines the categories (pp.6-7). Rikowski (1996c) also shows how the recruitment criteria were grouped in Appendix 2: 'The Classification of Attributes' (pp.12-15).

2. Some engineering apprentice recruiters did not differentiate regarding recruitment criteria for craft/technician apprentices. Craft related references to particular criteria when asked (Q) include those references that pertained to craft apprentices only (n=189) + those pertaining to craft and technician apprentices (n=354). Technician related references to particular recruitment criteria when asked (Q) include those references that pertained to technician apprentices only (n=42) + those pertaining to technician and craft apprentices (n=207).

3. Each reference (to a particular criterion) was weighted by the number of apprentices (craft-technician-all) in the firm at the time of interview. For example, if a reply after (Q) for craft apprentices included "must be co-operative" (a 'social attitude') at firm X, and firm X had 3 craft apprentices, then that would weighted as '3'. Weighted totals are the sum of these individual calculations group by categories of criteria 1.-11.

4. Calculations/percentages made on the basis of ... ∑(∑ r1x an ... rnx an)= c1...11 expressed as % of n = (4325 for craft apprentices, 4283 for technician apprentices, and 8608 for all apprentices). Where:

r = a reference to a specific criterion of recruitment,

a = the number of pertinent (i.e. craft-technician-all) apprentices in the firm relating to a specific reference,

c (category of recruitment criteria) = ∑(r1...n x a1..n) on the basis of criteria being grouped and aggregated into categories 1-11,

n = ∑(c1...c11).

5. Separate calculation made for 'All Work Attitudes' (General + Specific Work Attitudes).

6. All (and each) percentage(s) rounded up to nearest 0.1


Table 1 was adapted from Rikowski (1989, p.4).

E's got to be able to use 'is 'ands. 'E's got to be able to read a drawin', so at the same time I want a lad that's adaptable. Now, (all right), they teach ya 'ow to draw at school, but when you get a drawin' 'ere it's a drawin' as you're gonna make it as well ... 'E's got to almost prove to me that' e's sufficiently interested in makin' things like that. (A.R. Duff (Engineering) Ltd.)

It is a craft apprenticeship, so when I ask them about their hobbies and what-'ave-yer, you know, it's nice if they're interested in model-makin' for a start; that's one of the things that, uhm, immediately, er, helps. They've got to be able to work with their hands. I think that's the main thing, and when we're lookin' through their school reports we're lookin' to see if they've done woodwork or metalwork and art - where they're usin' their hands. Obviously, it requires a good maths grade as well - there's a lot of calculations goes on. (Star Pattermaking)

First of all they've gotta be keen for the job. Keen on doin' what we do (for a start). Prepared to go to the Tech (the second thing). Good time-keepin', good general appearance. That's about it I think. (B. Styles (Engineering) Co.)

A good family background. (Diamond Patternmakers Ltd.)

For a technician, uhm, the educational minimum is direct entry onto an OND course. That is established, you know, that governs that, you know; if they haven't got that then we will not take them as an apprentice. So that is the er, be-all-an'-end-all of it, however nice a guy he is and whatever work he's produced at school, we must say that unfortunately he hasn't reached the standard we're lookin' for. The craft apprentices, er ...[long pause] ... I don't really know (to be honest). I think we really look at the father's background - whether he's in engineerin' or a trained guy, or what. (Associated Panels Ltd.)

These examples (and there are many others) point towards an incredible range of attributes sought in young people at the point of engineering apprenticeship recruitment: a range best encapsulated by the concept of labour power. These statements by the engineering employers amount to summaries of labour power attributes desirable within applicants. They are assessing actual labour power attributes and prospects for potential regarding labour power development (through apprenticeship training).

(iii) Recruitment Studies: the importance of work attitudes

Studies of the recruitment process point towards an abandonment of notions of 'skill' or competence in order to grasp the nature of what exactly it is that employers are looking for at the point of recruitment - and hence, to some extent, what they expect schools to socially produce. Recruitment studies on young people (e.g. MSC, 1978; Ashton and Maguire, 1980; Hunt and Small, 1981; Cuming, 1983; Rikowski, 1990, 1992; Industry in Education, 1996; Meagher, 1998) have consistently indicated that employers look for work attitudes more than 'skills' or categories of skill or competence. These studies indicate that to view employers' youth labour 'needs' in terms of simple and narrow categories such as 'skills' is erroneous even at the level of appearance. Employers' needs regarding youth labour must be grasped through a much broader concept: labour power.

(iv) Education Research

Education researchers have generated broad conceptions of what employers 'need' from potential young recruits. For example, in The Guardian newspaper (22nd August, 1994) an article entitled 'University Swots Worry Employers' (p.4) set out some of the qualities that employers required from graduates on the basis of a research project carried out at the University of Central England in Birmingham:

Employers are worried about a new breed of swots emerging from university without having done much except study ... There are fears that increased pressure on students to achieve good degrees and often to earn money in term-time jobs is steering many away from the clubs and societies which have been a feature of British student life. But it is the kind of communication skills and teamwork nurtured in student societies and sports that employers value.

This example points towards the collective aspect of labour power: 'the ability to work in teams, communicate with others and so on' (Rikowski, 1999/2001, p.14).

(v) Employers' 'Needs' Frameworks

On the few occasions that writers on employers' educational 'needs' have devised frameworks for their analysis, they have done it in terms of labour power needs, without making this explicit. Although those that have devised such frameworks do not consciously set these frameworks within the context of labour power needs (for example: Musgrave, 1967; Landes, 1977; Cuming, 1983; Oxenham, 1984), nevertheless, these frameworks have labour power needs at their heart (Rikowski, 1990, p.11).

(c) Labour Power at the heart of education policy

As I argued in an unpublished paper entitled Education, Globalisation and the Learning Society: Towards A Materialist Analysis (Rikowski, 1996b), leading education policies, initiatives and movements have the enhancement of labour power as their focus. In Rikowski (1996b), I show how this is so for the 'Competence Movement' (pp.30-31) and what James Avis (1993) has called the 'New Consensus' in post-compulsory education and training (PCET).

The Competence Movement can be summarised as the drive to reduce work-based training to learning sets of competencies for specific occupations, and to institute this concept of competence within professional training and development too, and education more widely. It is demonstrated how (in Rikowski, 1996b) - at the level of intentionality - the aim of the Competence Movement is to increase the quality of UK labour power. The same could be said of the School Effectiveness/Improvement Movement and Government policies aimed at school improvement or effectiveness (Rikowski, 2000e).

Avis (1993) points to a 'new settlement' on PCET in Britain stretching from the Trades Union Congress, Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties, through to the Confederation of British Industry and elements of the Conservative Party. This New Consensus asserts the need to raise the quality of skills and competence amongst the British workforce (read 'labour power') in order to enhance British competitiveness in world markets. Particular factions within this New Consensus (still flourishing under New Labour Government: see Cole, 1998; Rikowski, 2000c) take shots at the policies, projected means and deliberations of attaining this goal. However, the goal of gaining ground in world markets through enhancing the quality of British labour power has takers from all sides. The New Consensus (extending to compulsory schooling in the last years of Thatcher, and to lifelong learning in the Major Government years onwards into New Labour's administration) is at the heart of New Labour's response to globalisation. Enhancement of the quality of labour power (i.e. human capital) is at the heart of education policies intended to make the nation competitive in the 'era of globalisation' (Rikowski, 2000c).

(d) The Significance of Labour Power in the Literature on the 'Needs of Industry'

Within the UK education theory and research literature, especially from the late-1970s to late-1980s, the debate about the needs of industry and employers' needs takes place primarily in terms of labour power needs and the attributes of labour power. As Frith (1978) notes: 'The dominant demand [from employers] is for generalised, semi-skilled labour power' (p.50 - my emphasis). Sarup (1982) states that: 'Schooling is basically to do with the production of the commodity labour power' (p.28). The recruitment process (noted earlier) is a labour market phenomenon. Curran (1988) notes, it rests in '... an arena in which labour power is bought and sold, where jobs are allocated to people and people are allocated to jobs ... the labour market' (p.335). In the 1990s, with the decline in usage of Marxist terminology, these kinds of statements became fewer and fewer. But they still post a challenge to all those who persist in analysing the recruitment process, employers' needs and the demands of the labour process in terms of narrow conceptions such as 'skill'.

The above arguments based on empirical and historical studies and observations on education policy are significant, but not ultimately decisive in justifying why Marxist educational theorists should start out from labour power for rebuilding Marxist educational theory. It is unlikely that non-Marxist education researchers will be impressed by the evidence and arguments provided. After all, they may maintain that all the phenomena I point to may be better explained or understood than by recourse to an 'outdated', vague and general concept such as labour power. Some traditional or fundamentalist Marxists, on the other hand, may feel that I have adulterated the works of the Master by effectively re-defining labour power to include work attitudes, personality traits and the like. Section 4 examines this issue. For me though, the really clinching arguments as to why Marxists rebuilding Marxist educational theory should set out from labour power depend on none of the points made above; it is arguments internal to the development of Marxist science that are ultimately decisive. It is to these we now turn.

3. The Argument from within Marxism

We need a new revolutionary theory and a new way of expressing it. (Michael Neary, 2000a, The Hyundai Motors Strike 1998-1999, p.7)

As in physics, social energy is permanently being transformed. (Ana Dinerstein, 1997, Marxism and Subjectivity: searching for the marvellous, p.83)

[Capitalist society generates] a fragmentation of subjectivity in which psychological propensities are separated from individual personalities and constitute objective processes through which individuals construct limited and fragmented consciousness. (Graham Taylor, 1999, Labour and Subjectivity, p.8)

What the working man sells is not directly his Labour, but his Labouring Power (Karl Marx, Wages, Price and Profit, 1865b, p.55).

In the previous section, the arguments for starting out from labour power in the enterprise of rebuilding Marxist educational theory were based on empirical and historical evidence and arguments. These did not come from within Karl Marx's outlook on the social universe. They did not flow from problems or issues internal to Marx's work. This section begins to reposition Marxist educational theory on the foundation of labour power, a strategy that constitutes a fundamental break with the old Marxist educational theory. It does so, however, from within Marxism. It explores labour power as a problem for Marxism, and as an essential but underdeveloped concept in Marxist science. Indeed, the underdevelopment of labour power as a concept can be viewed as key to understanding the failure of Marxist educational theorists to move beyond the old Marxist educational theory. Capitalist education and training are vital components of the social production of labour power in contemporary capitalist society: it is this fact that configures capitalist education and training as precisely capitalist in form.

The section has three main arguments for starting out from labour power in order to reconfigure Marxist educational theory. First, it is argued that there are two great classes of commodities: the 'general class' (all commodities except labour power), and the 'class of one' - labour power (the unique commodity). It shall be argued that the development of a theorisation of labour power is intimately linked to capitalist education and training. Labour power has become a kind of 'lost commodity' of Marxist theory: many aspects of it are uncharted. Thus, reconfiguring Marxist educational theory on the basis of labour power would aid the development of Marxist theory, as well as set out the former on a new path within Marxism.

The second argument is that labour power is the most significant commodity in capitalist society. It is the commodity on which the whole capitalist system rests, as the transformation of labour power into labour in the capitalist process produces value and surplus value, the lifeblood of capital. Education and training are implicated in the social production of labour power. This fact underpins the importance of education and training in capitalist society.

The third argument stands the previous one on its head. It is argued that capitalist education and training socially produces labour power. This process of production defines and validates education and training as capitalist social forms.

These three arguments are explored in turn. Collectively, they provide a route out of the old Marxist educational theory that simultaneously seeks to develop Marxism.

(a) The Two Great Classes of Commodities

It is well known that Karl Marx begins his first volume of Capital with the commodity, not capital. Marx first of draws our attention to the fact that:

The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities," its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity. (Marx, 1867a, p.43)(27)

For Marx, the analysis of capitalist society begins with the commodity as it is the 'economic cell-form' (Marx, 1867b, p.19) of that society. It is the most simple and basic form that can enlighten us about more complex phenomena springing from it, in the same way that human DNA provides significant data on the more concrete features of humans in general and particular individuals. Moreover, value is not something that can be directly observed. Thus:

In the analysis of economic forms ... neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both. ... [And to] ... the superficial observer, the analysis of these forms seems to turn upon minutiae. It does in fact deal with minutiae, but they are of the same order as those dealt with in microscopic anatomy. (ibid.)

The commodity was the perfect starting point for Marx as it also incorporated the basic structuring elements of capitalist society: value, use-value and exchange-value posited on the basis of abstract labour as measured by labour-time (Postone, 1996, pp.127-128). It was the condensed 'general form of the product' in capitalist society (ibid., p.148), the 'most elementary form of bourgeois wealth' (Marx, 1863a, p.173), and hence the 'formation and premise of capitalist production' (Marx, 1866, p.1004). Commodities were also 'the first result of the immediate process of capitalist production, its product' (Marx, 1866, p.974).

In Theories of Surplus Value - Part One (Marx, 1863a), Marx makes it clear that there are two classes or categories of commodities within the social universe of capital:

The whole world of "commodities" can be divided into two great parts. First, labour power; second, commodities as distinct from labour power itself. (Marx, 1863a, p.167)

Labour power was defined earlier in this paper simply as the 'capacity to labour'. Marx has a formal definition of labour power that is very interesting. This is that labour power is:

...the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description. (Marx, 1867a, p.164).

On this definition, labour power has real social existence when it is transformed within the labour process into actual labour. It has a dual mode of social existence. On the one hand, labour power exists as a virtual entity (a capacity, a potential) within the labour market, or to be more accurate, the market in labour power (McNally, 1993). On the other hand, in the capitalist labour process, labour power has real social existence; labourers call forth and activate an array of capacities, attributes and capabilities within their personhoods as they set about the process of labour. Hence:

Labour itself, in its immediate being, in its living existence, cannot be directly conceived as a commodity, but only labour power, of which labour itself is the temporary manifestation. (Marx, 1863a, p.171 - my emphasis)

Finally, on the basis of the previous section, the 'mental capabilities' include also the pertinent work and social attitudes and personality traits as constituents of labour power in action within the labour process. Thus: the concept of labour power has here been refined to include these.

Though Marx distinguishes 'two great categories' of commodities, he was at pains to point out that they have the same status insofar as the value of both is determined by the quantity of labour-time expended in their production (Marx, 1863b, p.403). The two categories of commodities are distinguished essentially on the following consideration:

A commodity - as distinguished from labour power itself - is a material thing confronting man, a thing of a certain utility for him, in which a definite quantity of labour is fixed or materialised. (Marx, 1863a, p.164 - original emphasis)(28)

Later on in Theories of Surplus Value - Part One, Marx criticises Adam Smith for holding that the commodity, in order to incorporate value, has to be a physical material thing. Value is a social substance; it has therefore a social mode of existence. Thus:

When we speak of the commodity as a materialisation of labour - in the sense of its exchange-value - this is only an imaginary, that is to say, a purely social mode of existence of the commodity which has nothing to do with its corporeal reality; it is conceived as a definite quantity of social labour or of money. (Marx, 1863a, p.171 - my emphases)

Unfortunately, Marx confuses the issue by referring to "material commodities" and commodities as "objects" elsewhere. It should not be forgotten that Marx wrote Capital for the workers (whilst also trying to impress German professors). The examples he uses in Capital to illustrate his arguments relating to commodities were nearly all of the material, 'object' kind: coats, linen, iron paper and so on. In the first volume of Capital, Marx states that: 'A commodity is, in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another' (1867a, p.43 - my emphasis). Here, he seems to be ruling out products such as transport, drama performances and education (examples that he had ruled in as commodities in Theories of Surplus Value - Part One) as instances of commodities. He rules out immaterial commodities. Without going deeper into the issue here, I would maintain that a really radical and significant interpretation of Marx would start out from the commodity as inclusive of material and immaterial forms (and Lazzarato, 1996 contains an interesting discussion on this issue). Indeed, the distinction between material and immaterial commodities is practically dissolving on a daily basis. The commodity form (commodification) is taking hold of all spheres of social existence.

This last point is crucial. Marx's original distinction between labour power and the 'general class' of commodities was that the latter were external to the person of the labourer, whereas labour power was incorporated within personhood itself. However, with people buying cosmetic surgery, the market in spare body parts and the future beckoning big business in human design and re-design facilities (Joy, 2000) the physical externality of the 'general class' of commodities to human beings is no longer what it was in Marx's day. These developments herald the breakdown of this aspect of Marx's original distinction between the two great classes of commodities. What, then, is the distinction between the two categories of commodities if the externality criterion is no longer what it was?

It could be argued that a distinction still exists between the two great classes on the following considerations. First, labour power is an aspect of the person; it is internal to personhood, in a special sense. It is a unified force flowing throughout the person. The installation of a new heart - an object originally external to the person in question, or an artificial hip joint - does not change this. Labour power has no specific location within personhood; it is a force within the totality of the person. Labour power has reality only within the person, whereas general commodities have social existence external to the person (though they can also become elements of persons as increasing numbers of medical products become incorporated within the human). Labour power, as a human force, cannot leave humans and, for example, act as the same force within bricks. As Marx noted, labour power does 'not exist apart from him [the labourer] at all' (Marx, 1858, p.267). It cannot be external to the person (though items of the 'general class' of commodities can be part of personhood). Marx notes the 'uniqueness' of labour power in this respect (1863a, p.45). Thus, the internality criterion still applies, but in modified form. Secondly, labour power (unlike bricks) is under the sway of a potentially hostile will. Internality and consciousness distinguish labour power from the general class of commodities and itself.

However, it could be argued that some animals have a capacity to labour (e.g. pit ponies, dray horses, police dogs) and also have consciousness. A final point presents human labour power as qualitatively different from animal labour power: socially average human labour power uniquely constitutes value. Humans are enmeshed in the totality of the social relations of production within capital's social universe, animals are not (e.g. they do not consciously create use-values; though they can be use-values). It is labour performed by socially average human labour power that is the foundation of the abstract labour that forms value. Abstract labour rests upon the socially necessary labour time required to produce any use value under conditions normal for a given society, and this presupposes socially average human labour power (Marx, 1867a; Neary and Rikowski, 2000, pp.20-21). Human labour power (at the socially average) constitutes value, not concrete (directly observable) labour (Marx, 1867a). No other commodity (either living or dead) has this unique capacity. Wo(men) are the 'measure of all things'; the social universe of capital is constituted, and its most fundamental social forms (value and capital) are created and mediated (in their transformations), by us. Yet capital, as social force and relation, comes to dominate us, its progenitors (Postone, 1996).

Marxists writing about capitalist education and training have failed to recognise the existence of two 'great classes of commodities'. Furthermore, Marxism in general has not made good Marx's lack of interest in exploring 'that other great class of commodities': labour power. Both these points have created difficulties for generating a Marxist educational theory starting out from labour power.

The failure to distinguish between the 'two great classes of commodities' has generated some monumental confusions and dead ends. For example, Geoff Hodgson (1982) argued many years ago that: 'labour power is the only commodity which is inseparable from its owner, and under capitalism it is produced under non-capitalist conditions' (p.84). Neither, argued Hodgson, is labour power produced for profit - hence it is 'not produced under capitalist conditions' on this basis either (p.169). In another book written 17 years later, Hodgson (1999) argues that capitalism is generalised commodity production and also that labour power is a commodity (p.121). Thus: labour power, produced as a commodity, appears to be 'produced under capitalist conditions' i.e. an element within generalised commodity production.

A second example is a debate regarding whether labour power is a commodity at all. This particular debate started with Reuten (1988) and Williams (1988). These theorists view labour power as merely an 'input' to the 'bourgeois mode of production' (Reuten, 1988, p.51). Labour power is socially produced outside of capitalist social relations (in the family, in education etc.). However, this assumes a certain view of the capitalist mode of production where there is a non-capitalised social sphere between state and labour process - something like 'civil society'. Labour power is simply 'not produced within the bourgeois mode of production'; it is 'an input from outside that, from the sphere of the household' (ibid.)(29). This has sparked off critical replies from Cartelier (1991), a reiteration and counter-critique by Williams (1992) and counter-counter-critique by Dixon and Kay (1995).

A third example is Dunn (2000), who argues that only commodities within the 'general class' can have labour embodied in them (p.11), thereby putting labour power's commodity status at risk (and this has serious consequences, not to be pursued here). A fourth example is where Ian Hunt (1989) argues that labour power is essentially no different to machines (thus reducing it to an instance of the 'general class' of commodities).

The point I wish to make with these examples is that these theorists confuse or conflate the 'two great classes of commodities'. Typically, labour power is seen as not conforming to Marx's definition of the 'general class' of commodities (i.e. it is not external to the labourer, it is not sold for profit(30), it is not produced for the market etc.). Therefore, it is viewed as not being a commodity (which reinforces the views of those with liberal moral sensibilities who view talk about labour power as a 'commodity' distasteful, and can't hack considering education and training as part of a commodity-producing process). This undermines the whole of Marx's theory of capitalist society. This is premised upon labour power being sold to representatives of capital as a variable commodity for a fixed (in various ways - e.g. piece work, daily rates, salaries etc.) wage. The wage represents the value of labour power, therefore value greater than that represented by the wage (surplus value) can be produced: the basis of capitalist profit.

Such confusions point towards the need for a special study of labour power. This point has been made by others too (e.g. Lebowitz, 1992, 1997). In his three volumes of Capital, Marx was mainly concerned with labour power insofar as it informed about the creation of value and surplus value. Thus, he was particularly interested in exploring the value of labour power for his studies on surplus value. Marx was not especially interested in labour power per se, much less its social production. Lebowitz (1992) is quite right in drawing our attention to the need to extend the work of Marx through enquiries into labour power, and I see my own work as part of this effort in developing Marxist theory. In terms of exploring the social production of labour power, an examination of the ways in which education and training play their parts in this process is vital. As Marx notes: 'education produces labour power' (1863a, p.210). On this project, Marxist educational theory becomes an offshoot of a fundamental analysis of labour power that seeks to uncover the production of this 'unique commodity' as a parallel enterprise to Marx's analysis of the 'general class' of commodities in Capital. This project extends and deepens Marxist theory in general.

(b) Labour Power in the Social Universe of Capital

Labour power is the special commodity that generates value (the substance of the social universe of capital - Neary and Rikowski, 2000), and hence capital itself, as the latter arises on the basis of surplus value. Labour power is the unique commodity. It is the only commodity that has the capacity to generate value over-and-its own value; to create new, surplus value. Without human labour power, there is no capital - no matter what the level of technological development. Labour power is the most important commodity in capitalist society, the living commodity on which the existence of the whole capitalist system rests. As Marx notes, labour power is a 'presupposition of capital' (1858, p.320). Thus:

... the basis for the development of capitalist production is, in general, that labour power, as the commodity belonging to the workers, confronts the conditions of labour as commodities maintained in the forms of capital and existing independently of the workers. (Marx, 1863a, p.45 - Marx's emphases)


The activity of labour power, i.e. labour, objectifies itself in the course of production and so becomes value. (Marx, 1866, p.1016)

Labour is the activity of labour power (ibid.). In the capitalist labour process, this activity generates value and surplus value (the first form of capital). This makes labour power the most significant commodity in capitalist society. It creates the substance of the social universe of capital: value, and generates the capacity of this social universe for expansion (surplus value). It is the commodity on which the whole capitalist system rests, as the transformation of labour power into labour in the capitalist process produces value and surplus value, the lifeblood of capital. Education and training are elements in the social production of labour power; therefore rebuilding Marxist educational theory on the basis of labour power uncovers their strategic significance within capitalist society. They are one of the foundations of the existence and maintenance of capitalism today.

(c) The Social Production of Labour Power and Capitalist Schooling and Training

What does capitalist schooling and training actually 'produce'? Labour power is the 'essential product' of capitalist schooling (Shaw, 1975, p.32; Matthews, 1980, p.185; Banfield, 2000, p.23). The social production of labour power through capitalist schooling and training defines the specific capitalist nature of schooling and training in capitalism. To acknowledge this allows an answer to the question of what, precisely, makes capitalist schooling (and training) specifically capitalist schooling (and training) - when schools and training institutions existed well before capitalist society. It pins down the social form that education and training comes to assume in capitalist society. This social form (of schooling and training) develops over time in the history of capitalism - in definition and in intensity, and increasingly as productive systems of labour power. The intentionality and social drive to reduce education and training to the social production of labour power in capitalism also grow stronger with time. We are driven to socially produce labour power in capitalism with a growing intensity as capital (as social force) takes increasingly hold of the whole of social life, for this is how it becomes a totality (Marx, 1858, p.278).

This is the most important of the three reasons (examined here) for starting out from labour power for a project of rebuilding Marxist educational theory. The capitalist nature of these institutions is uncovered. Their innocence is exposed as a sham. Liberal education and the liberal Left (with its 'education for its own sake', its bleeding heart 'niceness' and its fragile pluralism) are uncovered as the last refuges for the those who wish to hope, but cannot articulate, any grounds for hoping beyond wishful thinking. As David Yaffe (1976) indicated nearly a quarter of a century ago:

Those who are engaged with training productive workers are involved with changing the special commodity labour power itself. (p.12)

Teachers and trainers have this responsibility; and hence they also have opportunity for critical education (Allman, 1999). The following section provides a brief analysis of the unique commodity - labour power - here proposed as the centre of gravity for the new Marxist educational theory.

4. That Other Great Class of Commodities: Labour Power

Reiteration: [Labour power is] ...the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description. (Marx, 1867a, p.164).

Labour power, as the aggregation of those mental and physical capabilities existing within persons that they exercise whenever they produce use values, is a unified force within human beings. In selling herself to the capitalist the labourer sells her abilities and talents (Marx, 1878, p.285) as the basis for value creation. The specific use-value labour power has for capital is that is creates more value than that represented by the wage (Marx, 1865a, 1867a). This has some unfortunate consequences for owners of labour power (labourers), for labour power preserves 'its property of producing value only so long as it is employed and materialised in the labour process' (Marx, 1865a, p.381). The longer labour power is away from the labour process, the more its quality deteriorates - a fact borne out in studies of unemployed people. It 'comes alive' as active value-creating force only when consumed by capital in the labour process (Rikowski, 1999b, pp.62-63). The notion of labour power as a social force that exists within individuals as the life-force, or vitality of individual labourers, underpins Marx's conception of labour power (see Reiteration above). The life-force of individuals as labour power is expressed through, and as, those 'mental and physical capabilities' activated by the labourer when producing use-values which, in the capitalist labour process, is also the act of producing value. The capitalist labour process is a process of valorisation as well as a process for producing use-values. There are not two types of labour involved here, but one labouring activity that expresses two different results: use-value and value.

This preliminary account of labour power (see Rikowski, 1990, 1999a and 1999b for a fuller account) brings us to one of its key features. Although it is a unified social force, labour power is nevertheless a highly contradictory phenomenon. Furthermore, as labour power cannot be separated from the 'bodyliness of the worker' (Marx, 1858) then these contradictions become incorporated within personhood itself. We are screwed up: by capital. The contradictions inherent within labour power flow from the existence of capital as a mode of being within labour, or labour in capital; what I have called aspects of labour power. By aspects here, I do not mean that labour power is composed of different 'parts'; it is a unified social force. Furthermore, to split it up into 'parts' or 'bits' would reify these as discrete elements of labour power, thus denying and destroying its characterisation as a unified social force flowing throughout personhood. Rather, these aspects can best be viewed as different modes of expression of this self-same unified social force: labour power. Three labour power aspects that are expressed as capital within labour are presented here: the use-value, exchange-value and value aspects of labour. Two labour power aspects expressed as labour within capital are presented here also: the subjective and collective aspects of labour power. The first three exist as modes of labour power expression flowing from forms of value. The other two exist as modes of labour power expression flowing from labour's alienated existence within the capitalist labour process.

This discussion of these labour power aspects begins from Marx's important distinction between 'quantity and quality'. It was misreading this distinction that led me to confuse and conflate exchange-value and value in an earlier paper (Rikowski, 1990). This confusion was partly a result of following Cressey and MacInnes's (1980) distinction between use-value and exchange-value aspects of labour, where their rendering of use/exchange-value confused the latter with value. So: to begin with Marx on quality/quantity.

On the first page of Capital - Volume 1, Marx (1867a) asserts that: 'Every useful thing, as iron, paper, &c., may be looked at the two points of view of quality and quantity' (p.43). A thing's utility constitutes its use-value. Use-values have the property of "usefulness" 'independent of the amount of labour required to appropriate its useful qualities' (Marx, 1867a, p44). In capitalist society, notes Marx, use-values are also 'depositories of exchange-value' which 'at first sight presents itself as a quantitative relation, as the proportion in which values in use of one sort are exchanged for those of another sort' (ibid. - my emphasis). However, commodities can only exchange with each other on the basis of something they have in common. Marx argues that their commonality is socially average labour power (that yields homogenous human labour). It is this form of labour that is the social substance of value, and it is value that inheres in all commodities in capitalist society on the basis of this equality of labour powers (and hence of labours). Therefore:

... the common substance that manifests itself in the exchange-value if commodities, whenever they are exchanged is their value. ... [And] ... exchange-value is the only form in which the value of commodities can manifest itself or be expressed. (Marx, 1867a, p.46)

On this basis, a commodity has value 'only because human labour in the abstract' (as the labour of socially average labour power yielding homogenous labour) 'has been embodied or materialised in it' (ibid.). The magnitude of value within commodities is measured by the quantity of this labour expressed through socially average labour power. This quantity is measured by its duration, the labour-time (on the basis of socially average labour power) it takes to produce the commodity. Thus:

The labour-time socially necessary is that required to produce an article under the normal conditions of production, and with the average degree of skill and intensity prevalent at the time ... We then see that that which determines the magnitude of the value of any article is the amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour-time socially necessary for its production. Each individual commodity, in this connexion, is to be considered as an average sample of its class. (Marx, 1867a, p.47).

The value of a commodity changes on the basis of the socially necessary labour-time it takes to produce it. It changes with the 'productiveness of labour' (ibid.) and this in turn is determined by:

... various circumstances, amongst others, by the average amount of skill of the workmen, the state of science, and the degree of its practical application, the social organisation of production, the extent and capabilities of the means of production, and by physical conditions. (Marx, 1867a, p.47 - my emphasis)

The quantitative aspect of labour is set by the following considerations:

In general, the greater the productiveness of labour, the less is the labour-time required for the production in that article, the less is the amount of labour crystallised in that article, and the less is its value; and vice versa, the less the productiveness of labour, the greater is the labour-time required for the production of an article, and the greater its value. The value of a commodity, therefore, varies directly as the quantity, and inversely as the productiveness, of the labour incorporated in it. (Marx, 1867a, p.48)

If a capitalist enterprise produces a commodity at a value below the average for its class (by raising labour productivity) it can, for a while, sell it below its value and clean up in the market place. That is until other enterprises start to adopt the new technology or new training programme and a value for the product is established on this basis. This summarises the quantitative aspect of labour (and also labour power): the drive to produce commodities at a value below the social average for their class. On the other hand, the qualitative aspect is significant in terms of realising value produced. For:

If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value. (ibid.)

As Marx notes in the Grundrisse:

Use value is concerned only with the quality of labour already objectified. (1858, p.363)

Marx argues that labour (like commodities) also has a dual character, a two-fold nature: use-value (its qualitative aspect) and value (its quantitative aspect) (Marx, 1867a, pp.48-49). This establishes two aspects of labour: the use-value and value aspects. However, I wish to maintain that there must also be quantitative and qualitative aspects of labour power too: the use-value aspect (qualitative) and the value aspect (quantitative) of labour power. This must be so, for there must be two modes of expression of labour power for the generation of these two aspects of labour. Labour power must be flexible and adaptable enough to express itself in these two ways. Furthermore, when it does this simultaneously the labourer experiences a contradiction within her concrete existence. When labourers have regard to the quantity and quality of their work, then a tension, an irresolvable conflict is set in motion. Whether to spend labour-time on a commodity's quality or to spend less labour-time on it (thereby raising productivity): in this way the worker is faced with a contradiction. Managers of labour power are subject to this too, both in terms of the transformation of their own labour powers into labour and in terms of managing the labour powers of others.

In the social production of labour power, therefore, the various labour power attributes - the itemised constituents of labour power, the skills, attitudes and so on - also have this contradiction flowing through them. Thus: it could be expected that in schooling and training in contemporary capitalist society, where raising the quality of labour power has become increasingly significant as a strategy for increasing labour productivity, this duality could be demonstrated. Furthermore, the same duality would run through the labours and labour powers of teachers and trainers.

Finally, the exchange-value aspect of labour also carries with it an exchange-value aspect of labour power. This establishes the equality of labour, of labour powers and the equal social worth of labourers. On the basis of exchange-value our labour is equal (Rikowski, 2000b). This is the only form of equality recognised, or socially validated, in the social universe of capital. This form of equality has nothing to do with 'morality', as capital is 'without ego' (Postone, 1996). Furthermore, we are of equal 'worth' only if our labour powers are of equal value. Again, this has nothing to do with ethics or morality. An argument could be made out that social justice can only be equality of labour power values: labour powers that have the capacity to produce value to equal degrees on standard labour-time, implying equality of development on the basis of education and training. This was argued in Rikowski (2000b). But on reflection it is difficult to see in what sense this could be something that we ought to strive for without introducing values that have no currency within the social universe of capital (like all other values). Further thought is required here.

Next, there are the two aspects of labour power deriving from labour's existence in capital. The subjective aspect of labour power is labour power in its individual and will-determined moment. Labour is the subjective element in the labour process. Its expression, the transformation of the labourer's labour power into labour, depends upon the labourer's activation of her labour power. This active moment (i.e. 'which he exercises') is built into Marx's definition of labour power. Cressey and MacInnes (1980) rightly noted that Marx makes the human will a 'defining characteristic of all human use-value creating labour. The attributes, or 'powers' as Chris Arthur calls them, that constitute the labourer's labour power:

... can only be externalised if they are objectified in production, and this latter requires, not the exclusion of ... [the labourer's] ... will but the use of ... [her/his] ... powers, however grudgingly (1980, p.12)

Insofar as the will of the labourer is subordinated to the purposes, desires and ends of capital and its human representatives then it is incorporated within labour power itself as it expresses itself in production through acts of labour. To the extent that this occurs, the labourer becomes capital. This subordination is never complete; the will of the labourer is capricious (as the labourer also has social existence against capital, labour against capital - see Rikowski, 1999b). The fact that in capitalism workers do not own the means of production partly forces them to submit to the dictatorship of capital in the labour process. As Marx notes, because of this, the labourer 'activates his life to acquire the means of life' (1844a, p.269).

The collective aspect of labour power reflects the fact that in capitalist society labour powers are co-ordinated (through co-operation and division of labour). Thus, labour power can be viewed through its collective aspect, as 'an accumulation of labour powers' (Marx, 1858, p.585). This is where the quality of co-operation between labour powers is brought to the fore. Such co-operation forms a significant collective force within the labour process, a force that capital and its representatives seek to control and channel into the value-form of labour, into value creation. The collective aspect of labour power can be viewed as an agglomeration and amalgamation of the individual labour powers of workers set in motion for capital. As Marx noted, this...

... collective power of labour, its character as a social force, is therefore the collective power of capital. (1858, p.585)

Hohn (1988) has explored the collective aspect of labour power (thought he doesn't call it that) to explain the social exclusion of some ethnic groups from the workplace on the basis that the quality of the aggregated labour powers falls if the workgroup is less homogenous. Thus: this constitutes a starting point for an explanation of some forms of racism in the labour market.

What this section has shown is that labour power is a complex phenomenon with inherent contradictions (use-value/value aspects), and tensions created by its subjective aspect - labour power's fusion with the person of the labourer, and hence subject to her will. As I have explained elsewhere, the subjective aspect of labour power helps to explain labour recruiters' obsessions with the work attitudes of job applicants: will workers subsume their labour powers under capital and work sufficiently hard?

Labour power: it is this living commodity that schools and training organisations are in the business of socially producing. This social production occurs on the basis of the labour powers of the producers also being subject to contradictions and tensions flowing from the nature of labour power(31). The next section outlines briefly the social production of labour power.

5. Social Production of Labour Power: Preliminary Investigations

The social production of labour power was a process that Marx hardly recognised. Its social existence was very hazy in his time, with state schooling just emerging. Indeed, its lack of social definition in Marx's day led him to conclude that:

Labour as a social and natural force does not develop within the valorization process as such, but within the actual labour process. It presents itself therefore as a set of attributes that are intrinsic to capital as a thing, as its use-value. (1866, p.1056)

Thus: the labour process itself is a force that develops labour power. Marx (1863c, p.148; 1865a, p.292) distinguishes between the costs of production of specific labour powers and their reproduction on occasion. But the social production of labour power remains shadowy. I have argued elsewhere (Rikowski, 1999b) that there are basically two aspects to the social production of labour power:

First, there is the development of labour power potential, the capacity to labour effectively within the labour process. Secondly, there is the development of the willingness of workers to utilise their labouring power, to expend themselves within the labour process as value-creating force. This is manifested in all the studies that pinpoint work attitudes as the most sought after and significant attribute of workers in recruitment studies, and the exhortations of employers that schools must produce 'well motivated' young people, with sound attitudes to work and recruits who are 'work-ready' and embody 'employability' - though these points would need to be driven home through focused empirical and historical studies. (p.77)

The social production of labour power refers to a process that is fragmented in capitalist society. Today, it typically includes compulsory education. However, it can include training (on- and off-the-job), various forms of personal development programmes, further and higher education, computer-based training and many other elements. It also develops through labour itself, in the labour process - as Marx notes above. This last is labour power's "automatic" production, though various 'learning company' strategies are attempts to formalise this.

The argument here is that a repositioning of Marxist educational theory onto the ground of labour power means that the social production of labour power becomes a key focus: for theory, for research and for educational politics. This 'educational politics of labour power production' appears to be complex (as the social production of labour power is fragmented). Essentially though, it is simple. It is a politics of human resistance to processes of de-humanisation generated by the social production of labour power. This is resistance to becoming capital, human-capital; the social form labour power assumes in capitalist society. A politics of human resistance also has a deeper significance. It is a politics aimed at an open future. This is a future where capital's social relations and forms do not foreclose the meaning and substance of the 'human'. It is therefore a politics that seeks the abolition of the value-form of labour, and hence capital itself.


This paper has argued that Marxist educational theory should be reconfigured and recomposed on the basis of an analysis of labour power as capitalist education and training are involved in the social production of this commodity. The significance of this form of social production is that labour power is the unique commodity in capitalist society: it generates more value than it takes to reproduce itself. It is the basis of the maintenance and expansion of capital. Secondly, therefore, this new focus for Marxist educational theory should include an exploration of the social production of labour power.

There is much to do regarding developing this work. Further analysis of labour power is required. Abstract and empirical forms of labour power production need delineation, on the basis of qualitative, worker-biographical and ethnographic studies (of sites of labour power production). This would mean a whole new approach to researching schools. Work on the method of researching the social production of labour power is essential. Historical study examining labour power production in particular sectors of industry (for comparative work) is crucial.

Finally, this reorienting of Marxist educational theory is nothing if it does not connect with critical and revolutionary pedagogies seeking to exploit the weak points within the social production of labour power on the basis of working for revolutionary social transformation. Thus, a politics of human resistance must incorporate pedagogies that disrupt, re-wire and subvert capitalist schooling and training as labour power production. The significance of revolutionary pedagogy as exemplified in the work of Paula Allman (1999, 2000) and Peter McLaren (1998, 2000; and with Ramin Farahmandpur, 1999, 2000) has re-radicalised the American 'Critical' Pedagogy School. These writers have put Marx 'back to where he once belonged' (trading on an old Beatles number). Their works articulate the main strand of educational praxis that provides strategies for practical struggles against reducing education and training to labour power production. The merging of labour power theory with revolutionary (truly critical) pedagogy and the formation of new Left educational organisations embodying a politics of human resistance - such as an International Forum for Radical left Educators - would maximise hope amongst forces for an open future.

We are the enemies of the closed society.

We struggle against a closed enemy and its society.

We live in a social universe that has no opening.

So we cause its implosion.

Dr. Glenn Rikowski is Senior Research Fellow in Lifelong Learning, Faculty of Education, University of Central England in Birmingham. Comments and observations on this paper to: or to


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Contact: Dr. Glenn Rikowski, Senior Research Fellow in Lifelong Learning, Faculty of Education, University of Central England, Westbourne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3TN, UK. E-mail: or


1. Education and Missing Products (Rikowski, 1995) was either rejected for publication or I was advised to re-draft it beyond all recognition by a number of education journal referees in the UK and elsewhere. On reflection, its challenge to the liberal Left orthodoxy in education studies, and its refusal to take postmodernist versions of commodification in education as seriously as some referees had wished, were its sticking points. By liberal Left orthodoxy in the literature on education markets, I mean the following. First, that the advent of educational marketisation generates or increases a stream of educational inequalities (class, gender, race etc.). Secondly, on the basis of the first point, educational marketisation is 'unethical' (so should be terminated and reversed) in the search for 'equality' in education. Thirdly, this implies that social justice in educational arrangements is logically possible within capitalist society. I reject this third point (see Rikowski, 2000b). This does not mean that I am 'for' education markets; rather, I am against them on entirely different grounds. Education markets open up educational sites to capital and capitalist social relations, and it is the capitalisation of education (and all other spheres of human life) that I am against. Whilst having no illusions that 'equality' is an option within capitalist society, even though we are driven (Rikowski, 2000b) to realise social justice on the basis of a 'fairness' that can only be virtual in capitalist society, in communist society its reality becomes possibility. These points are expanded in Rikowski (2000b) and Rikowski and Rikowski (2001 - in relation to gender inequalities at work). On the second count (on tracing postmodernist forms of commodification), I was advised to read Lyotard, Jameson and other postmodernist or quasi-postmodernist, Marxist-postmodernist or post-Marxist writers. This was despite that fact that it was quite obvious that Education and Missing Products was written within Marxism (although not of a traditional variety resting on the base/superstructure foundation). Thus: I was being offered the 'opportunity' to develop a form of 'Marxism' that postmodernists were at least willing to contemplate. I declined these offers. The experience of attempting to 'move too fast' with works such as Education and Missing Products led to a strategy of slowly building up towards what I really wanted to say on Marxist educational theory. Thus, Left Alone and Scorched Earth provided better lead-ins than the full frontal attack of Education Market and Missing Products. The bulk of the reading and notes for this paper was completed in the summer of 1995, after writing Left Alone and prior to writing Scorched Earth and coterminous with writing Education Markets and Missing Products. An earlier, and very different, version of a paper with the same title as this one was presented as a "Future of Education" Research Seminar paper in the School of Education, University of Birmingham, in May 1999.

2. Most of these papers were originally written for PhD supervisions (with Peter Fairbrother - now a Professor in sociology at Cardiff University, and Simon Frith - now Professor at the University of Strathclyde). In terms of my development and the arguments advanced here they are significant. The most important for me, and for the arguments developed in this paper's Section 1, are: (1) Studies on Schooling and the Labour Process (January, 1980); Education and Economy (supervision paper, October, 1979); (2) From Brighton to Birkbeck: critique of the Brighton Labour Process Group and post-Althusserian tendencies (supervision paper, November, 1979); (3) Marxist Theorisations of the Labour Process (paper presented to the MA Labour and Industry Seminar, November, 1979); (4) The Labour Process, Labour Market and Education (supervision paper, December, 1979); (5) Labour Process, Labour Market, Youth and Education (supervision paper, December, 1979); (6) Labour Process, Labour Market and Education in a Capitalist Crisis (paper for self-clarification, January, 1980); (7) Theoretical and Empirical Issues Raised by Readings of Employers' Literature since the First World War (supervision paper, undated, cMarch 1980); (8) Schooling, Training and the Labour Process - the engineering industry (a paper presented at the British Sociological Association Young Sociologists' Conference, University of Lancaster, April 1981); (9) Engineering is what They make it (paper for the 'Transition from School to Work' Research Workshop, Education Group, NYB/SSRC, University of Leicester, March 26-27th, 1981); (10) Theoretical and Empirical Issues Raised by a Short Survey of Government Publication on Education and Training Since 1918 (supervision paper, Spring 1980); (11) An Enquiry into Aspects of the Relationship between the Capitalist Labour Process and the Capitalist Schooling Process (Research Proposals, March, 1980); (12) Theoretical Developments - A Chronological Account, cDec. 1979 - Oct. 1980 (supervision paper, October, 1980); (13) Prolegomena (summary of theoretical and empirical work on the recruitment of engineering apprentices undertaken, with section on 'More Marxist Approaches: the labour process debate and theories of capitalist schooling', 1983). As can be seen, I was pretty much obsessed by relations between the labour process and education from 1979-1980. Having concluded that the labour process was not the place to start for a Marxist theorisation of education twenty years ago, it is crucial for me not to fall back into such a position. The result of this work was a focus on the recruitment process - the social site where employers' articulate their labour power needs - and an empirical study of apprentice recruitment in the engineering industry (see Rikowski, 1991 and 1992 for more on the 'Midtown' engineering employers' study).

3. Harry Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) was the seminal text for a revival of interest in the labour process. Subsequent work by the Brighton Labour Process Group in this country (1977) and the emerging work on labour process theory in the Conference of Socialist Economists (e.g. Elger, 1979; Cressey and MacInnes, 1980).

4. The original Abstract pointed towards 'State Restructuring Theory' having its own section in the paper. However, the arguments against starting out from the state (and exploring state restructuring of education and training) have now been incorporated into the arguments on the labour process and on Rachel Sharp's (1986a-c) work in a reconstituted Section 1.

5. This conclusion is based on a study of UK Government publications on education and training and employers' journals - principally those of the Industrial Society and the Institute of Personnel Management - undertaken during 1980-81.

6. My other paper presented at this Conference - Messing with the Explosive Commodity - contends that the social drive to enhance the quality of labour power in contemporary capitalist societies is infinite (Rikowski, 2000e). The clash of social drives and practical limits to making this abstract (but real - a socially 'real abstraction') social drive concrete, of course, ensure that its social expression is not infinite.

7. Madan Sarup (1978) devotes a whole chapter to the significance of alienation in the analysis of capitalist education, for example.

8. The work of Michael Lebowitz (1992, 1997) suggests that the category of wage-labour may be a useful starting point for exploring education and training in capitalism. I shall critique this view in future work. Basically, the category of wage-labour is too concrete (as compared with labour power) to do the necessary work. It fails to relate adequately at the most fundamental level to value and surplus value production. Furthermore, Lebowitz argues that the way forward regarding the overthrow of capitalism is to adopt a critique from the 'standpoint of labour'. However, as I argued in Rikowski (1999b), no such standpoint exists. After Bonefeld (1994, 1995, 1996, 1999), Holloway (1995a-b), Hudis (1997, 2000a-b) and Postone (1996), it is clear that labour's social existence depends just as much on capital's existence as capital's does upon labour's. Both are locked together in struggle. They have no separate social existence. Furthermore, to argue for taking up revolutionary socialist transformation on the basis of 'labour' de facto commits us to celebrating a form of labour perverted by its ties to capital. Rather, the task is to abolish this form of labour altogether through the simultaneous abolition of capital as proposed by Marx (see Postone, 1996; Neary, 1998, 2000b; and Rikowski, 1999b). Dick Pels (1996) provides an interesting analysis and critique of 'standpoint theory' - with special attention being paid to the 'vicious circularity' (p.88) embedded within 'standpoint epistemologies'.

9. There are many examples of this, but the CSE State Group (1979) and Sarup (1982) are probably two of the most significant attempts to provide a critique of capitalist schooling starting out from a prior analysis of the state. The CSE State Group's (1979) chapter 6 explores relations between the labour process, schooling and the state. The resulting analysis yields the sort of functionalist and structuralist form of social theory I was arguing against in Left Alone (1996a) and Scorched Earth (1997) - so no real progress there. See Hill (2001), for an excellent overview of some of the issues at stake.

10. The work of Mike Cole and Dave Hill (Cole, 2000; Cole and Hill, 1999a-b; Cole, Hill, Rikowski and McLaren, 2000; and Hill, 1999a-b) and Tom Hickey (Hickey, 2000) has expanded significantly the work on social class and education in the last few years. The essay by Sanders, Cole and Hankin (1999) - with its important distinction between economic and social class - shows how Marxist class analysis can move the debate on education and social class forward. Discussion by Mike Cole (in Cole, Hill, Rikowski and McLaren, 2000) on the relations between surplus-value production, social class and education deepens the analysis of social class/education relations. Cole provides a perspective on social class that starts out from value (rather than Registrar General-type or neo-Weberian status groups). Cole's radical analysis indicates that, far from receding and declining, the working class is growing absolutely and relatively on a global scale. The problem with starting out from social class - and ironically the progress that Mike Cole and Tom Hickey (2000) make with the concept shows this - for an analysis of capitalist schooling, is that it starts out from too concrete a level. Marx, after all, did not start out in his great work Capital from social class. He did not even start out from capital. Rather, he began from the commodity: the 'economic cell-form' of capitalist society (Marx, 1867b, p.19). Only in the third volume of Capital (Marx, 1865a) did Marx start to systematically address social class - though, of course, Capital volumes II and III were assembled by Engels on the basis of a vast amount of material left by Marx. Nevertheless, Marx's note on social class at the very end of volume III is left unfinished, and the manuscript famously 'breaks off'. Some, such as John Holloway (1991a-c) argue that the three volumes of Marx's Capital articulate the social forces making for class struggle, 'classification' (Holloway, 1999) and the social constitution of class and class relations (Bonefeld, 1999). From the work of Mike Cole, Dave Hill, John Holloway and Werner Bonefeld it appears that further work on social class will have some purchase for understanding the nature of capitalist schooling. The role of class in the constitution of class and class struggle may turn out to have substantial political significance, as opposed to its more usual role of underpinning analyses of distribution (of opportunity, money, status, occupations etc.). However, I would contend that at the level of value and valorisation, starting out from social class misses some of the fundamental processes going on that allow us to say what is specifically capitalist about 'capitalist' education and training. This paper (and Rikowski, 1999b) illustrates the benefits of starting out from a more fundamental level: labour power and its social production.

11. Similar objections apply to equality as to social class (see ftn.10). As starting point for theorising capitalist education and training the analysis would mask deeper relations based directly on value. Furthermore, it would miss some crucial relations between exchange-value, education and social justice (uncovered in Rikowski, 2000b, and Rikowski and Rikowski, 2001). For Left and Marxist perspectives on relations between education and social equality, see Cole (2000), Cole, Hill and Shan (1997) and Cole and Hill (1999b).

12. See my Education and Missing Products (Rikowski, 1995) for a critique of the view that 'knowledge' should be the starting point for rebuilding Marxist educational theory.

13. This is probably the most significant alternative starting point for rebuilding Marxist educational theory in this list. Theorists starting out from this point have produced work that has taken Marxist educational theory forward. Ross Longhurst (1996b), for instance, locates Marx's work on productive and unproductive labour and complements this work with an analysis of 'further education as a commodity' (1996a). However, it is precisely because Longhurst starts with un/productive labour that he sees nothing odd in saying that further education (FE) itself is a commodity rather than a site of commodity production - i.e. an element in the social production of labour power. He fails to trace the movement of production and sale of 'further education' in England (which is not surprising, as this does not take place). Longhurst uses the un/productive labour distinction for an interesting class analysis of social relations in FE (see 1996a, pp.56-63). When Longhurst (1996a) returns to English FE as a commodity (near the end of his 1996a article, p.63) he views labour power as the 'very important commodity' produced by FE teachers (ibid.). Thorpe and Brady (1996), whilst initially starting out from an analysis of labour power then drift onto the un/productive labour distinction, the finance of education and then labour process theory. Despite some very interesting insights, their work ends up confused. On the basis of their analysis of labour power and un/productive labour (pp.2-5), they conclude that education is 'productive' and can be viewed as a form of capitalist production, in that it socially produces labour power. This makes education a key site of class struggle. On the basis of their analysis of the capitalist labour process and state finance of education, they conclude that 'Education is a social service ...[and is] ... unproductive so is not "production" in an economic sense... ' (p.8). Helen Raduntz (1999b) provides a stimulating account of teachers' work starting out from the un/productive labour distinction. Raduntz's work shows that it is possible to get something from this starting point - though it lacks a clear analysis of what it is that teachers actually produce (while nevertheless providing a succinct account of the nature of teachers' labour and labour power). There may well be much more mileage in this approach, and Peter Howell's (1979) blockbuster Once Again on productive and Unproductive Labour is still largely untouched by those looking to generate Marxist educational theory from the un/productive labour distinction. Howell summarises Marx's discussion of un/productive labour in Theories of Surplus Value - Part One (Marx, 1863a). He places labour power at the heart of the distinction: 'The productive labourer, for Marx, is one whose labour power is first exchanged directly against money-capital and then consumed by the capitalist in the process of production' (Howell, 1979, p.52 - original emphasis). He follows this up with a quotation from Marx (1863a in Howell, ibid.) to drive the point home: 'Productive labour is only a concise term for the whole relationship and the form and manner in which labour power figures in the capitalist production process' (ibid., from Marx, 1863a - Marx's emphases). Thus: from this, it appears that analysis of labour power is necessary prior to an understanding of the un/productive labour distinction.

14. The work of Rosemary Lucas (1996, 1997) has forged a new link in work on labour process/education relations. She explores the phenomenon of full-time students working part-time during term time, at weekends and vacations. Lucas approaches the theorisation of this phenomenon through the work of Braverman (1974) and the subsequent Labour Process Debate. My article The Rise of the Student-Worker (Rikowski, 2000f) summarises Lucas's work.

15. Labour is a process, an action or practice (i.e. labour process, after all), labour itself does not have 'consciousness' - though the labourer does, and consciousness is logically connected to labour power as the latter is incorporated within personhood (Rikowski, 1999b).

16. Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan's (in)famous Ruskin College Speech of 1976 that ushered in a Great Debate on education (including regional conferences). Callaghan's charge was that education had become out of step with the 'needs of industry'. As I have indicated in a number of works (Rikowski, 1990, 1992, 1996b-d, 1999/2001, 2000a), the 'needs of industry' in question are labour power needs, in all but name.

17. Caffentzis (1999) demonstrates that if the 'end of work' theorists such as Aronowitz and DiFazio (1994), Rifkin (1995), Finn (1987) with his 'training without jobs' slogan and Ainley (1999) with his post-Finn slogan of 'education without jobs' were correct, then this would spell the end of capitalist society itself. Caffentzis argues that the same applies to Hardt and Negri (1994) who posit a future of anti-capitalist cyborg workers, and for others who conjure up a form of technological determinism where the result is 'capitalism without workers' or 'capital without labour' (e.g. Joy, 2000 - on 'why the future doesn't need us' - and Touraine, 2000). The problem with this perspective, argues Caffentzis, is that it celebrates technological determinism. Secondly, capital will not implode automatically, for it: 'cannot will itself into oblivion, but neither can it be tricked or cursed out of existence' (pp.35-36). Theorists like Rifkin, argues Caffentzis, attempt to 'trick the system into believing that a viable way out of the unemployment crises he foresees is to abandon profit creating sectors of the economy. ... But this scenario could hardly pass the eagle eyes of the capitalist press much less those of the boardroom without ridicule. So it cannot succeed' (p.36). Thirdly, capital 'is without ego' (Postone, 1996). It is a blind social force, and cannot 'think its way out of a crisis'. Its human representatives - on which it is parasitical - that is, humans capitalised by this social force (humans capitalised), can think on behalf or for capital - or think and work for its destruction, to destroy the social universe of capital. Fourthly, capital's existence depends on a specific form of labour, the value-form - where the creation of value and surplus value is presupposition for capital in all its forms (commodity, money, state etc.). To get rid of human 'work' in the general sense, in capitalist society, would involve the abolition of capital in the specific sense, as surplus-value rests upon the difference between value created to secure the social reproduction of labour power and the total value produced in any time frame. Like turkeys at Christmas, it is difficult to see capitalists willingly allowing this to happen. Furthermore, the alternative, on Rosa Luxembourg's cards, might be barbarism. Basically, the 'end of work' theorists attempt to provide an automatic or spontaneous end to capitalism (brought above by permanent but benevolent technological revolution) where the working class is a passive bystander. Thus: 'capital will eat itself' - but Caffentzis, and myself, believe otherwise.

18. And this occurs after Buswell had castigated others for not relating labour process and labour market. Her explanation for this was that: '... since the labour market and the labour process tend to be studied by writers from different theoretical perspectives and interests the connections between the two are often under-emphasised' (1986, p.67). Unfortunately, Buswell is correct on this point. Dale, Esland, Ferguson and MacDonald (1981) illustrate this trend even more sharply. In a section in their book entitled 'Education, the Economy and the Labour Process' (Section Two), only one of the seven articles has anything all (Athar Hussain's) to say on the relation between education and the labour process. Even Hussain's article focuses mainly on the relation between education and the labour market, leaving the triadic relation labour market/process-education unexplored. Each of the other articles focuses on just one of the three elements.

19. See my Review Article in Education and Social Justice (Rikowski, 2000d) for a fuller account of this remarkable book.

20. There is a number of other interesting articles on education on the Bad Subjects web site: .

21. Ross Longhurst's Marxist analysis of English further education (FE) after the Incorporation of colleges in 1993 is the best analysis of the FE sector we have today. It moves within an altogether deeper and more sophisticated level of analysis than anything else written on FE. It asks penetrating and worthwhile questions (unheard of within almost all writing on English FE) and provides interesting answers - even though I don't agree with them all (see earlier discussion of Longhurst's work).

22. This flags up Freeman-Moir's later bid to ground Marxist educational theory on Marx's (1845) Theses on Feuerbach alone in his 1992 article.

23. At this point Freeman-Moir and Scott are blown off course. They fail to see that, as noted by Sanders, Hill and Hankin (1999) and Rikowski (1996a), that class is a necessary feature of capitalist society. It is part of the constitution of capitalist society. Racism and sexism and other forms of oppression do not have this same significance - which does not mean they are 'unimportant' (as some Left postmodernists and anti-Marxists feminists would bitterly wish us - frantically will us - to say). As McLaren (2000) notes: class, 'race' and gender - and other forms of oppression, differentiation and categorisation - are linked as overlapping, enveloped and multifaceted forms of being in capitalist society. Capitalist society can withstand a certain degree of race/gender equality. There is nothing logically precluding equality in the value of male and female labour powers (the only form of social justice validated on the basis of capital itself - but supremely difficult to socially engineer). 'Class equality' is an oxymoron, a logical and social contradiction. Capitalism presupposes class, is grounded upon it.

24. On the other hand, the same article posits a way out of our predicament. Indeed, it locates a social-psycho dynamic that drives us towards human liberation. In this sense, Education, Capital and the Transhuman is infinitely more hopeful than Freeman-Moir and Scott's dour analysis (with 'hope' tagged on at the end).

25. This is true and not true. In terms of the social production of labour power as a process incorporating the movement of the developing labourer to the point her first expression of her own labour in the labour process - it is true. It is untrue in the sense that labour power development necessarily ends at that. Labour power development/deterioration is a process 'unto death' (Rikowski, 1999a). Furthermore, there are many cycles and instances of the social production of labour power for individual labourers (re-training, new development of labour power in the labour process and so on). Finally, labour power development goes on continually within the labour process - a point Marx credited Adam Smith for elaborating on (Marx, 1863a).

26. After all, this is what the 'modernisation' of education actually entails (Cole, 1998).

27. Marx had made this point earlier in A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy (1859, p.27) and also in the Grundrisse (1858, p.881).

28. See also: 'The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities, satisfies human need of whatever kind (Marx, 1858, p.125). Labour power, though, is internal to personhood.

29. Such views lead Aumeerudy, Lautier and Tortajada (1978) to conclude that: 'labour power cannot be produced as a capitalist commodity' (p.49)

30. Though lower league football teams survive on transfer fees deriving from selling the labour power of their promising young players.

31. There is another set of contradictions flowing from clashes between social production and reproduction of labour power. These are not dealt with here.



This document was added to the Education-line database on 05 December 2000