與時並進的香港精神


最近重看電影《香水》(The Story of Murderer),它改篇自暢銷小說,幾年前上過畫,講一名香水師為了製造「天下第一香」,不惜殺害無辜少女,過程緊張刺激,兼而有之,但有一點想不通,主角在巴黎的魚市場出世,周圍污糟邋遢,令人作嘔,途人更恐佈,全部蓬頭垢面,好似幾十年無沖過涼,真係得人驚。

初時以為,草根生活艱難,無暇兼顧衛生,中產或以上的,應該好一點,於是問Google神,殊不知答案出人意表:歐洲人自黑死病後,以為水會傳染疾病,於是避免沖涼,每月一次算多了,每年一次也大有人在,例如路易十六,一年只沖兩次涼,皇帝尚且如此,何況平民百姓!

另一方面,由於城市人口暴增,下水道超出負荷,污水經常湧出地面,加上居民缺德,隨手將冷飯菜汁,甚至糞便拋出窗外,嚴重影響衛生。由於城內臭氣薰天,香水便成為暢銷品,不論中產或貴族,莫不人手一枝,方便有需要時拿來除臭(包括自己的體臭),也難怪主角要製造「天下第一香」了。

寫到這裡,讀者應該會覺得好掃興,不是嗎?歐洲一向予人的印象,是湖光山色,美不勝收,巴黎更有「花都」之稱,充滿浪漫氣息,宮廷生活,是你我的夢想,但實情是,按今日的衛生標準,封建時代的歐洲根本不是人住的,就連堂堂貴族,也是表面風光,內裡骯髒,Lolita要失望了。

情結源於偏見,偏見源於無知。很多歷史,我們沒有親身經歷,事後又無深入研究,於是人云亦云,把歷史任意美化(有時是醜化),總以為新不如舊,大嘆余生也晚,問題是,如果時光倒流,回到從前,生活真的過得比現在好嗎?

港鐵最近有個廣告,對白不斷重覆「不好意思」,有點像政府的宣傳片,加上背景音樂是《獅子山下》,批評者認為,這是消費「香港精神」,用以麻醉港人頭腦。因為今時不同往日,以前大把機會,只要肯努力,必定有回報,即使在工廠打雜,也可以升做廠長,然後自立門戶,成就一個白手興家的傳奇。反觀今日,工業北移,金融獨大,加上官商勾結,地產霸權,小市民只能任人魚肉,再無機會發圍了。

實情又如何呢?我想起另一個廣告,是廉署在零四年拍的,有幾個阿伯在酒樓一邊歎茶,一邊大話當年,「甚麼都係以前好」,鄰桌茶客看不過眼:「以前好?鹹水樓收黑錢貪官污吏奸商黑道全部返來,到時連粥水都無得你食!」事實上,五、六十年代的香港,福利遠遜今日,教育又不普及,大學只有兩間,公屋是少數人的福利,大部份人要住板間房,鹹魚青菜,八口一床(以前有套粵語長片,叫《一家八口一張床》),比比皆是,「粥水都無得你食」,可不是亂說的。

因為有希望,所以再辛苦也是值得?好難講,試想,一間工廠,一百個員工,幾個主管,一個廠長,由低做起,有幾多個可以脫穎而出?在街邊做小販,扣除成本,還有給警察的茶錢和黑幫的保護費,還有多少錢剩?如果穿膠花可以發達,政府就不用把生果金加到一千了。你看舊區的長者,他們年青時難道沒有穿過?但穿了幾十年,到頭來,還不是一貧如洗,要靠生果金開飯?當他們聽到現在竟然有人歌頌昔日美好,彷彿遍地黃金,見者有份,心裡會有何感受?

其實,每個年代都有機會,在於你能否把握,單靠一股蠻勁是無用的,還要審時度勢。比方說,香港在七十年代經濟起飛,工業產品暢銷世界,你卻停留在開埠初期,靠打魚維生,自然無運行了,對不對?但打魚都要出力呀,為甚麼回報比別人低?無他,因為時代變了,經濟早已轉型,你不跟住變,就會被淘汰。同樣道理,現在是知識型經濟,勞力(不論是打魚、耕田,還是穿膠花)已經不值錢,最緊要食腦。

海耶克(Friedrich Hayek)在《通往奴役之路》第九章「保障與自由」中說:「每當有新發明誕生,必會淘汰一批人,他們過去辛苦所學的技能,忽然間失去了價值,這個情況,過去一百年經常發生。」香港也不例外,由開埠前的小漁港,到港英時代的轉口港,之後發展輕工業,現在是金融、服務業,社會不斷在變,惟有適者生存。

世代之爭,自古有之,不要奢望上一代會退位讓賢,正如曹仁超所講:「我坐得好舒服,點解要讓給你?」這句話,無錯,是好難聽,傷害了很多脆弱心靈,但他有講錯嗎?撫心自問,如果上一代真的大發慈悲,給你讓位,你能否向天發誓,將來也發揮「雷峰精神」,未夠五十歲就提早退休,給下一代接捧?舉頭三尺有神明,你敢發誓?

是的,要成功,就要玩上一代不懂得玩的遊戲,友人宋漢生是一個典型例子。他是網上書櫃aNobii的創辦人,現時用戶超過四十萬(可能包括閣下),全世界都有人識,適逢電子書大熱,真是商機無限。當然,宋漢生是醒目仔,智商高,轉數快,講食腦的話,他絕對有資格做獨市生意。不過,其他人若能善用Web 2.0,一樣可以殺出條血路,簡單如網上買賣,只要有眼光,月入數萬不是天荒夜譚。

你可能認為,上述例子是一將功成萬骨枯,我同意,但以前那些白手興家的人,又何嘗不是萬中無一?除了人云亦云,有甚麼證據證明,以前的機會比現在多?退一步說,就算穿膠花真的可以發達,也非一朝一夕,過程既艱辛,又漫長,分分鐘要十幾廿年,如果有時光機,不知道現在的八、九十後,可有勇氣回去一試?

講到尾,所謂「香港精神」,貴乎與時並進,靈活變通,而非死做爛做。work hard不如work smart。那些以為「香港精神」已經過時的人,其實是自己過時也不自知。

原文刊於信報 10年11月17日號第43頁獅子山學會欄。

與時並進的香港精神” 有 39 則迴響

  1. 說出來你也不信,我在高登看到這篇文,覺得熟口熟面,但文章下面貼出了以前蘋果那個肥仔的相,令我為他就是作者。我覺得奇怪,便想到來這裡看看。哈哈,原來真是你的文🙂

  2. 薯﹐你個blog都荒癈好耐喇。

    你同阿宋生講﹐佢再唔upgrade anobii個infra-structure﹐不出二兩anobii就玩完。Anobii個website勁lag。當年friendster都係因為勁lag﹐慢到同唔到﹐先俾facebook搶晒D客。

    其實那些講舊時幾多機會既人﹐他們的問題是surviver bias﹐好多人仆左街依家見唔到﹐淨係講些成功故事。

    香港的問題出在制度﹐制度阻礙階級流動﹐貧富懸殊的問題﹐還不及缺乏向上流動的問題大﹐而最大問題是缺乏向下流動。大有錢佬可以扭曲制度﹐立於明搶錢的不敗之地﹐不論他們是決策是多麼差﹐總是有其他人幫他們埋單。其本上香港已經回到古代封建的貴族年代﹐只要國王批給你壟斷權﹐錢就自然滾滾來。

    香港制度出根本上出了問題﹐宋生就算再叻﹐香港就算有多一千個宋生﹐香港也不可能成為亞洲矽谷。

  3. hevangel:

    我無用過aNobii,不清楚你講的情況,不過,聽聞他最近有大發展,應該會改善呢個問題的,再不然,你可以直接和他溝通,你地應該會好好傾。

    向下流的問題,不用那麼快下定論,俗語有云,富不過三代,你看現在的富豪第二代和第三代副德性,就知此言非虛。

    不過,香港既地產業又真係幾特別,土地係有,但好多都用黎做左郊野公園(呢點我無異議),好似話只得兩成土地可用,加上高地價政策,於是起樓發過豬頭。問題是,樓價貴,地產商固然得益,但買左樓的市民都有著數,打擊樓價,好多市民會變成負資產,特別係高追果班,他們當中不少是自住,點搞?

    還有一個問題,香港只是一粒鼻屎,市場有限,容不下太多競爭,所謂財團壟斷,其實是否有點誇張,又或者,到底一個行業(例如地產)裡,要幾多個財團同時存在,才不算壟斷呢?

    我不是說沒有財團壟斷這回事,肯定有,原因也不外乎財大氣粗,還有你講的制度問題,但壟斷的程度有幾嚴重呢,才值得討論。比方說,現時香港有九大地產商,競爭是多還是少?我無研究過,不敢妄下判斷。但之前九龍塘義德道地皮拍賣,嘉里同華懋鬥過難分難解。前者早已投得一號地,卻被後者以高價搶走三號及五號地,結果兩敗俱傷,如此看,競爭又似乎好激烈。

  4. SPZ

    海耶克(Friedrich Hayek)在《通往奴役之路》第九章「保障與自由」中說:「每當有新發明誕生,必會淘汰一批人,他們過去辛苦所學的技能,忽然間失去了價值,這個情況,過去一百年經常發生。」
    ——————————-
    Of course Hayek would not tell you the other side of the story. Through breaking down the process of production using Taylor’s scientific management, the mass production and mass consumption nature of capitalism actively seeks to “deskill" the workers, making them much easier to control because they no longer possessed the knowledge of production like craftsman and artisans used to have. This “deskilling" has taken place on a global scale: Conceptualize the product in America for example, source the parts from Latin America and finally engage factories down the lower supply chain to assemble them in China. In the end, workers are “deskilled", left to do monotonous tasks like pressing the button and screwing the parts under close surveillance or even abuse from their foremen and the result is work alienation. Just look at Foxconn and the suicide cases. This real “road to serfdom" is something Hayek would not like to tell you.

  5. SPZ

    比方說,現時香港有九大地產商,競爭是多還是少?我無研究過,不敢妄下判斷。但之前九龍塘義德道地皮拍賣,嘉里同華懋鬥過難分難解。前者早已投得一號地,卻被後者以高價搶走三號及五號地,結果兩敗俱傷,如此看,競爭又似乎好激烈。
    ——————————————-
    Haha. Does having nine major developers matter? What matters is that they have oligopolistic control. Yes, they might compete with one another but they can still pass on the cost of competition to home buyers. The money flowing in from mainland China into Hong Kong property market doesn’t make it better. The Legco has been talking for donkey years to better regulate the property sector and protect the rights of home buyers and nothing substantial came out. Why? Just asked the legislators from the functional constituencies.

  6. SPZ

    講到尾,所謂「香港精神」,貴乎與時並進,靈活變通,而非死做爛做。那些以為「香港精神」已經過時的人,其實是自己過時也不自知。
    ———————————–
    This artificial construct of 「香港精神」is similar to the so-called “meritocratic" construct that right wingers in America like to talk about. 「香港精神」is part of the larger project of cultural hegemony which the privileged class love to perpetuate and propagandize because it brainwashes those in the lower social strata and legitimizes the position of with wealth and power. (i.e. We are rich because we worked hard, not because of birth, privileged access to quality education, care, networks or special favors)

    Let’s take 宋生 for example. I don’t know much about 宋生. However, let’s stretch our imagination a bit. Imagine 宋生 lives in a slum, born to a single parent family living from hand to mouth on a daily basis that struggles to pay for food, rent and utility bills. That means he may not even have a computer, internet access or mobile phone. How high are his chances of what he is today? It would be lucky enough if he completes primary and secondary education.

    Now if 宋生 is born to a middle class family with educated parents. He lives in district that gives him easier access to better schools and even afford quality private tuition. He can even have the latest version of all those IT gadgets. Would his life chances be higher? Absolutely.

    By manufacturing this construct of 「香港精神」, they want the lower strata to develop a false consciousness that plight is due to their own fault that they are mired in poverty because they are “undeserving" and not working hard enough and nothing got to do with structural factors that contributes to poverty (the poor child and his rich counterpart never have the same starting line in life but they want you to believe that any competition between them is fair).

  7. In the end, workers are “deskilled”, left to do monotonous tasks like pressing the button and screwing the parts under close surveillance or even abuse from their foremen and the result is work alienation. Just look at Foxconn and the suicide cases. This real “road to serfdom” is something Hayek would not like to tell you.

    If the workers only do brain dead tasks like pressing button or screwing parts, why don’t the capitalist simply replace them with robots and computers? In a capitalist society, only knowledge workers is required. Unskilled workers are not needed in a capitalist society.

  8. SPZ

    If the workers only do brain dead tasks like pressing button or screwing parts, why don’t the capitalist simply replace them with robots and computers? In a capitalist society, only knowledge workers is required. Unskilled workers are not needed in a capitalist society.
    ———————–
    Haha. Yes, it does seems like that case. But first, can ALL capitalists afford state-of-the-art machines? Will the pettier industrialists be able to swallow the huge fixed cost outlays from purchasing those machines? Can every capitalists reap economies of scale to break even the cost of those machines?

    Secondly, unskilled labour can be readily deployed and redeployed to do various kinds of manual and mundane tasks. Can you tell a coffee machine to fry fries? If you wanted to find out more about the role of unskilled workers in the so-called “new economy", you may want to read George Ritzer’s “McDonaldization of Society" (1993).

    Finally, you think there is no role for unskilled labour because you are living in the semi-periphery of the capitalist world economic order. There is plenty of room for the globalized scale of production to exploit the unskilled (even child) labour in the periphery (i.e. the developing countries) using very simple machines and tools to make the apparel (Nike, GAP etc) on the backs of many in the core and semi-periphery.

    LOL.

  9. SPZ

    In a capitalist society, only knowledge workers is required. Unskilled workers are not needed in a capitalist society.
    ——————————–
    Oh, if you take a walk along Hong Kong’s streets and shopping malls, you can find plenty of “McJobs" which may pay the workers less than HK$20. But isn’t Hong Kong also more or less a “knowledge-based" economy?

    More on McJobs from Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McJob

  10. The definition of capitalism is capital. What is capital? Production assets. Machine, robots and computer are production assets, labors are not. The problem of HK all the capital are tied up in the form of land, which does not produce anything per se, it’s just an enabler for production. (Without land, you can’t produce, because you need somewhere to work, but land itself does not produce anything)

    Fix cost or not is irreverent, as long as the total cost of ownership in machine is cheaper than labor cost, company will use machines. Thanks to the minimum wage, HK finally starts automation out alot of those mudane low skill works.

    All McJobs should be replaced by robots. There are coffee making machine, there are also fries machine. It is just matter of time before versatile humoid robots are cheap enough to handle most of the simple repetitive tasks done by low skill labors. The best robot in research lab can be program to anything a low skill labor can do, the only problem those robots are still very expensive. But technology moves fast, think about how much compute power we have in your cell phone. It has more computer power than NASA when they send men to moon.

    Hong kong is not really a knowledge-base economy. It’s more like a service base economy. What knowledge does HK has? We have no R&D, we have almost zero hi-tech industry.

  11. SPZ

    The definition of capitalism is capital. What is capital? Production assets. Machine, robots and computer are production assets, labors are not.

    Would say that this is a rather poor grasp of what most social scientists would define as “capitalism". Reducing the character of capitalism to solely “production assets" ignores the fact that historical circumstances under which capitalism emerged as a form of socio-economic organization and the logic that underpins it. To Max Weber, capitalism is the applying the logic of rationality to economic life i.e. the rational calculation of profit and loss over less rational motives such as allegiance to traditional values or traditional authority in the pre-capitalist era. In short, capitalism is way of organizing economic life according to the logic of bureaucratic rationality. On the other hand, Karl Polanyi, in his “Great Transformation", noted that capitalism is a historical anomaly whereby instead of economic relations being embedded in social relations (such as kinship, communal obligations and the principle of reciprocity), the reverse happens under capitalism where market relations now defines social relations. Of course, the biggest rebuke of your statement that labour has no role in capitalism comes from Karl Marx. In fact, wage labour was the creature of capitalism. Never in any previous stages of human history before capitalism was human labour being “commodified" and given a price in the form of wages. Wage labour was the one of the defining characteristic of a capitalist society.

    If labour is totally irrelevant to capitalism like you claim, that it is pretty strange that the most conspicuous symbol of capitalism, the multinational corporations such as Nike, GAP are engaging millions of unskilled workers in the developing world to produce their outputs. Aren’t “production assets" enough to tell the entire story of capitalism?

    Therefore, to say that capitalism is solely about “production assets" sorely misses the point that it is a specific form of socio-economic organization that emerged out of a unique set of historical circumstances.

    Fix cost or not is irreverent, as long as the total cost of ownership in machine is cheaper than labor cost, company will use machines. Thanks to the minimum wage, HK finally starts automation out alot of those mudane low skill works.

    Fixed or variable is absolutely relevant to the business. Labour costs can be readily cut through retrenchment, wage freeze or even wage cuts or shortened work hours. On the other hand, the huge cost outlays of machines cannot be adjusted in the same manner. Once you acquired the machines and robots, you should maximized its usage. Should you underutilized them or leave them idle, you are effectively suffering losses and excess capacity. Small and medium enterprises are even less likely to rely on sophisticated machines because they simply do not have the economies of scale to justify the cost.

    All McJobs should be replaced by robots. There are coffee making machine, there are also fries machine. It is just matter of time before versatile humoid robots are cheap enough to handle most of the simple repetitive tasks done by low skill labors.

    Yes, automation will make certain manual jobs redundant. But it can only do so up to a certain extent. Fast food restaurants not only sell food, they also sell a certain brand, a certain service, a certain image. Machines cannot alone cannot embody a brand, service or image. You go into a retail shop, you probably want a experienced retail associate to assist you or give you suggestions. If there is customer dissatisfaction, you want a human being there to react to situations or even build relations with regular customers. Salespersons can even engage in pressure selling to customers; tim sum restaurant staff may have rapport with old customers over time. Can machines do all that? Well, we will talk when one can make robots do that and even build relationships with humans. hahaha.

    Hong kong is not really a knowledge-base economy. It’s more like a service base economy. What knowledge does HK has? We have no R&D, we have almost zero hi-tech industry.

    Is the “knowledge-based economy" all about the hi-tech industry? Absolutely not. How about financial services? Financial innovation? Consulting? Investment advisory? Marketing techniques? Creative industries such as fashion designing? Are all these services heavily embedded with knowledge? I wouldn’t say Hong Kong’s economy is 100% knowledge-based but does Hong Kong have these above-mentioned services that are heavily embedded with knowledge? Absolutely.
    Some reading will tell you that the “knowledge-based" economy is more than the flashy and hippie gadget-producing “hi-tech" industry. See this link:
    THE ECONOMIC UNDERPINNINGS OF A KNOWLEDGE BASED ECONOMY
    https://www.bschool.nus.edu.sg/Departments/Finance/Bernard%20Yeung%20Publications/economic%20underpinnings%20of%20knowledge-based%20economy.pdf

  12. SPZ

    All McJobs should be replaced by robots. There are coffee making machine, there are also fries machine. It is just matter of time before versatile humoid robots are cheap enough to handle most of the simple repetitive tasks done by low skill labors.
    ——————————————-
    Oh, not to mention that that there is this thing called contingent work. Businesses can be very flexible using contingent workers (temp, contract, part-time). Can robots allow such nimbleness?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contingent_work
    Talking about flexibility in deploying, it remains me of the self-checkout machines that UK supermarkets have. It is definitely fast and convenient but it always have problems that requires a staff to be on standby to help the customers fix the technical problems. Also, cashiers are deployed to arrange and stock shelves on top of their cashier duties. Can a self-checkout machine double up as a stocking machine? I highly doubt so.

  13. 真係丫。佢本書幫寫序﹐竟然自己個網站都冇。我幫你加左個entry﹐睇下幾時anobii會有封面。去印度果程路過香港﹐見到你本書買了本﹐過兩個星期見你要叫你簽名。剛剛睇完﹐過幾日做完公司野得閒D﹐同你寫篇書評。

    海外睇蘋果要收錢﹐冇得睇。

  14. Actually, I am using Marx’s definition of capital to define capitalism. The very fundamental of capitalism is capital and private ownership of capital. Anything on top of that are not necessary capitalism’s criteria. I probably share some of your view on something is broken in capitalism as it is today, but our difference is I believe it is fixable, you believe capitalism is fundamentally wrong. For the sake of conversation, I would stick with Ayn Rand on the ideal form of capitalism.

    On the wage labor front, I have to disagree with you. Actually Marx is wrong. I have another paper (school homework) to argue that wage labor is necessary a feature of capitalism. No one is forced to become a wage labor in capitalism, they are choose to because wage labor give them a better than living, just pure economical calculation. The argument is pretty simple. Remember the definition of capital? Production assets. According to Marx wage labor does not own any production asset so they are forced to work for the capitalist. The weakest link in Marx’s argument is he forgot about computer. Everyone owns a computer, it is definition a production asset, as long as you have the right skill to right a program. In fact in the today’s world of iPhone apps, anyone owns a computer can start making money and become an self employed entrepreneur.

    Gap and Nike is not a very good model of capitalism, their business model belongs to the old world and should be obsoleted soon by technology. Look at the model of Microsoft, SAP, Simens or even Apple. Even people say Foxconn is a slave shop, but workers earns much more in Foxconn than any other jobs they can find. The problem of Foxconn is more like a managment issue than something’s wrong with capitalism.

    I think you release that you know that you don’t have buy machine and robots. You can simply lease them or rent them if your need flexible demand. Economy of scale is probably the real barrier, but as I said, technology will only becomes faster and cheaper and the barrier will get lower and lower. 30 years ago, only big companies can afford to buy a computer, now every little shop use one.

    Why would you want to build human relationship in a pure buy-sell transaction? Actually I prefer to buy from eBay exactly for that reason so I won’t get bug any annoying salesperson. If you go to a fine dining restaurant, yes, service and experience is important, but waiter and chef at fine dining restaurants are actually very skilled labors at what they are doing. If I go to fast food restaurant, all I care is speed, price, acceptable taste, hygiene and consistency, looking for branding experience from a fast food restaurant is the wrong expectation. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying robot can replace human in all service industry, but only the high-end part of the service industry is not replaceable but that part is not served by low skill labor anyways. Custom should be educated. If they want non-machine service, they should pay the premium and don’t expect any low skill labor can provide the level of service they are asking for at the price they are willing to pay today.

    Ha ha… whether fiance industry and marketing is actual a knowledge base is a good question. That goes to the epistemological question of what is knowledge. In my opinion, the finance industry and the marketing are simply crooks. The knowledge they have is not real knowledge, merely just rules created by man for no apparent use and just that they are very good at those rules. Fashion design is knowledge work, but I doubt how many fashion design left in HK. Probably not more than software programmers. HK has some software programmers but HK is definitely not a hi-tech city. It’s not about gadget and flashy device, it about basic science.

    You don’t have to buy a robot, you can rent one. And as I said, the holy grail of robot is humanoid robot, it can truly replace lots of low skill mundane tasks. The self-checkout machine cannot do stocking, but does it matter if the price of a self-checkout and stocking machine combine is still cheaper than hiring a person? I have seen 2 generations of self-checkout machine already, some supermarket in Canada already deploy the 2nd generation. The 1st generation is kinda annoying and require human step in form time to time, the 2nd generation machine is much better but still annoying sometimes. As I said, machine cannot totally replace human, but 1 worker can look after 4 self-checkout machines and probably more as the machine gets better and better. He definitely need more knowledge and skill than an old fashion cashier. That’s the way of capitalism to go. Low-skill labor is replaced by machine plus higher-skill labor. You just bring up the perfect example for capitalism yourself.

  15. SPZ

    I probably share some of your view on something is broken in capitalism as it is today, but our difference is I believe it is fixable, you believe capitalism is fundamentally wrong.
    —————————————–
    Haha. I think your interpretation of my intentions is only partially correct. I am critical of a specific kind of capitalism, i.e. laissez-faire (“anything goes”) capitalism of the neoliberal kind that opens the door to cronyism and monopolistic power by crusading privatisation and deregulation at all costs. It is only fixable with a return to embedded liberalism.

    Actually, I am using Marx’s definition of capital to define capitalism…… Remember the definition of capital? Production assets. According to Marx wage labor does not own any production asset so they are forced to work for the capitalist.
    —————————————
    Really? You must be kidding with us when you say you are using Marx’s definition of “capital". Look at this extract: The true scientific analysis of the category of capital was given by Marx: “Capital,” he emphasized, “is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed, vol. 25, part 2, pp. 380–81). And David Schweickart wrote, “To the question ‘what is capital?” Marx offered a straightforward answer: capital is “embodied labour”—the material result of past labour. The machine the worker is using , which so greatly enhances her productivity, is the product of other people’s labour.”
    Also “Marx argues its (surplus value) ultimate source is unpaid surplus labour performed by the worker for the capitalist, and that the surplus-value is the primary basis for capital accumulation.” In other words, for Marx, “capital” is actually the accumulated surplus value which is extracted from labour power.
    Looks like you are very confused with Marx there. You probably misunderstood “capital” as “means of production”.

    I have another paper (school homework) to argue that wage labor is necessary a feature of capitalism.
    ————————————–
    Wait a minute. Didn’t I say that “In fact, wage labour was the creature of capitalism. Never in any previous stages of human history before capitalism was human labour being “commodified” and given a price in the form of wages. Wage labour was the one of the defining characteristic of a capitalist society.”? So what are you talking about?

    Everyone owns a computer, it is definition a production asset, as long as you have the right skill to right a program. In fact in the today’s world of iPhone apps, anyone owns a computer can start making money and become an self employed entrepreneur.
    —————————
    Haha. Because you mixed up “capital” with “means of production” (you called it “productive assets"), the rest of your argument went into topsy-turvy. The computer you are referring to is made and assembled across many parts of the developing world and is the result of both the mental labour of its engineers and the physical labour of those in the Third World. The problem here is the latter probably can’t afford the computer themselves. (Of course, you haven’t even factor in the education one needs to receive to even begin to know how to use a computer and there are millions who are illiterate in the developing world where computer parts are made and assemble by them)

    Gap and Nike is not a very good model of capitalism, their business model belongs to the old world and should be obsoleted soon by technology.
    ————————————–
    Hahaha. That doesn’t made GAP and Nike any less capitalistic. Their products can be made with very simple machines and unskilled labour and they are mainly concerned about how to mass produce cheaply. It doesn’t make any business sense for them to have a robot to make a shirt that may cost less than a few bucks to make. How to mass produce cheaply? By engaging suppliers down the value-chain to produce the shirt using cheap unskilled labour from the periphery i.e. in Marxist terminology, extract ever more surplus value from the labour power of those in developing world where working conditions are poor and labour standards are almost non-existent and that working hours are unregulated.

    Even people say Foxconn is a slave shop, but workers earns much more in Foxconn than any other jobs they can find. The problem of Foxconn is more like a managment issue than something’s wrong with capitalism.
    —————————
    Hahaha. Capitalism is about how to extract the MOST surplus value out of wage labour. This can be done through extending work hours and depressing wages. Look at the number of hours a typical Foxconn worker works:
    “Yan Li, a 27 year old engineer, died suddenly at his home early on May 27, according to a statement from China Labour Watch, a U.S.-based activist organization.
    The statement said that according to his family, Yan Li had been working the night shift for more than a month straight, sometimes working 24 hours non-stop.”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6520K420100603
    That’s why MNCs engage in “regulatory arbitrage,” moving to countries with lax labor standards and low wage levels because it will allow them to extract even more surplus value from the labour power of workers.

  16. SPZ

    Why would you want to build human relationship in a pure buy-sell transaction? Actually I prefer to buy from eBay exactly for that reason so I won’t get bug any annoying salesperson.
    ——————————
    That’s what you see; the businesses think otherwise. They want people out there to coax and pester; they can’t get robots to do that. You can’t pay robots with commission to increase sales volume. But then who knows in future, you can get humanoid robots which can be motivated with commission-based pay. LOL.
    If I go to fast food restaurant, all I care is speed, price, acceptable taste, hygiene and consistency, looking for branding experience from a fast food restaurant is the wrong expectation.
    ————————————
    So why do you think McDonald’s spent money on things like uniforms and advertisement if branding is not important? Fast food restaurants trained their staff to greet people in a certain way and perform their job in a very fixated manner in order to project a certain image. If what you say is all that matters, then the people who pay loads of money to get the MacDonald’s franchise must be properly out of their mind.

    whether fiance industry and marketing is actual a knowledge base is a good question. That goes to the epistemological question of what is knowledge. In my opinion, the finance industry and the marketing are simply crooks. The knowledge they have is not real knowledge, merely just rules created by man for no apparent use and just that they are very good at those rules.
    ——————————–
    The important point here is not to judge whether finance or marketing professionals are “crooks” (a very serious attempt to digress on your part of course). We are not interested to judge whether they are “crooks” or “saints” here. What really matters is: What goes into that “advertisement”? What goes into that “financial product”?
    The bottomline is: The knowledge-based economy is more than just the hi-tech sector or even R&D. As the OECD glossary puts it: “The knowledge based economy” is an expression coined to describe trends in advanced economies towards greater dependence on knowledge, information and high skill levels, and the increasing need for ready access to all of these by the business and public sectors. Knowledge and technology have become increasingly complex, raising the importance of links between firms and other organisations as a way to acquire specialised knowledge. A parallel economic development has been the growth of innovation in services in advanced economies.”
    Then again, this is more than what you are willing to acknowledge.

    That’s the way of capitalism to go. Low-skill labor is replaced by machine plus higher-skill labor.
    ———————————–
    Haha. That’s because you live in the developed world and it seems that you have forgotten that the clothes, shoes, bags and even canned food you are consuming are nevertheless extracted from the blood and toil of millions of unskilled workers in the developing world. Maybe try listing the number of products that you can find in a Canadian supermarket that is made in the developed world using skilled labour and compared it to the number of products that you can find that is made in the developing Third world using unskilled labour in the same supermarket? That will give you a clue as to where capitalism is going.

  17. SPZ

    Actually, I am using Marx’s definition of capital to define capitalism…… Remember the definition of capital? Production assets.

    The definition of capitalism is capital. What is capital? Production assets. Machine, robots and computer are production assets, labors are not.
    —————————————
    “Capital is stored-up labour,"wrote Karl Marx in his Economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1884. LOL.

  18. 看得多,自然易認了🙂

    我的確是還在吃海南雞,不過留在新加坡的日子也不算多。至今日為止,我今年飛行的里數,是白金會籍要求的三倍有多。本來下星期打算去新加坡馬拉松的十公里組湊湊熱鬧,但舟車勞頓令身體急速老化,看來也是跑不成的了。

    你的blog近幾個月全靠老婆支撐大局,還未正式出關?

  19. 哈,你寓工作於環遊世界,真令人羡慕。

    十公里不難跑,只要每星期練跑兩至三次,加一次gym,強化肌肉,循序漸進,持續三、四個月,已經足夠應付。

    另,原本打算閉關一年,現在要延長了,因為我想經歷一次比較完整的「蛻變」。回顧以前,由網上討論到報紙寫稿,由蘋果到am730,經歷了幾次大大小小的「蛻變」,包括題材、內容及風格,現在回復自由身,在下一個機會來臨前,我想好好裝備自己,多看書、多思考,是不二法門。

  20. vlwedding2011

    Spz:

    You got both the idea of capital and surplus value wrong. Capital is stored labor only explain where capital comes from, but it does not explain what is capital. Capital has to be production asset. A broken machine is not a production asset (well, it is broken), but it is definitely the produce of labor (worker spent times building it, although it is not work at the end.)

    Surplus value is Marx’s explanation what profit of capitalist comes from. Your use of surplus value in consumer goods produced by 3rd world worker is totally out of context. There is no surplus value in my computer or my Nike shoes. According to Marx, all the surplus value goes to the packet of Nike or Apple or Lenovo. 3rd country worker cannot afford computer is not a problem of capitalism or not, it is rather their country simply screwed up. Remember, Marx’s theory only apply to more or less modernized industrialized society, how can you apply it to 3rd country whose workers do not know even how to read?

    Horace

  21. SPZ

    @hevangel
    Capital has to be production asset.
    ————————-
    Haha. No need to argue. Look at what you wrote:
    “Actually, I am using Marx’s definition of capital to define capitalism…… Remember the definition of capital? Production assets.

    The definition of capitalism is capital. What is capital? Production assets. Machine, robots and computer are production assets, labors are not. "

    But you totally choose to ignore what Marx had said.

    The true scientific analysis of the category of capital was given by Marx: “Capital,” he emphasized, “is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed, vol. 25, part 2, pp. 380–81).

    Yet, you claimed that you are using “Marx’s definition of capital". Nobody put words into your mouth.

    Your use of surplus value in consumer goods produced by 3rd world worker is totally out of context. There is no surplus value in my computer or my Nike shoes.
    I think you are putting words into my mouth. When did i say that “there is surplus value in your computer or your Nike shoes."?

    With regards to “surplus value", i wrote:
    “Marx argues its (surplus value) ultimate source is unpaid surplus labour performed by the worker for the capitalist, and that the surplus-value is the primary basis for capital accumulation.” In other words, for Marx, “capital” is actually the accumulated surplus value which is extracted from labour power."

    “By engaging suppliers down the value-chain to produce the shirt using cheap unskilled labour from the periphery i.e. in Marxist terminology, extract ever more surplus value from the labour power of those in developing world where working conditions are poor and labour standards are almost non-existent and that working hours are unregulated. "

    “Capitalism is about how to extract the MOST surplus value out of wage labour. This can be done through extending work hours and depressing wages. "

    “That’s why MNCs engage in “regulatory arbitrage,” moving to countries with lax labor standards and low wage levels because it will allow them to extract even more surplus value from the labour power of workers."

    See that? When did I EVER say that there is “surplus value in your computer or your Nike shoes"? I dared you to quote me. Nice try knocking down the straw men there.

  22. SPZ

    Remember, Marx’s theory only apply to more or less modernized industrialized society, how can you apply it to 3rd country whose workers do not know even how to read?
    ————————–
    This is even more laughable. Marxist theory is larger than Marx, there are many Marxist thinkers that came after Marx. Looks like Immanuel Wallerstein sounds like an alien to you.

    3rd country worker cannot afford computer is not a problem of capitalism or not, it is rather their country simply screwed up.
    ———————
    Really? Not a problem of capitalism? Here’s what Share The World’s Resources (STWR), a non-governmental organisation with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) got to say:

    “The (neoliberal) policies were most ardently enforced in the US and Europe in the1980s during the Regan–Thatcher–Kohl era. These leaders believed that expanding the free-market and private ownership would create greater economic efficiency and social well-being. The resulting deregulation, privatization and the removal of border restrictions provided fertile ground for corporate activity, and over the next 25 years corporations grew rapidly in size and influence. Corporations are now the most productive economic units in the world, more so than most countries. With their huge financial, economic and political leverage, they continue to further their neoliberal objectives ……………
    Global deregulation has created the transnational corporation, as business operations are increasingly moved abroad in the search of cheaper labour, tax incentives and less red tape. In effect, unemployment rises in the affluent countries that lose jobs, while corporations outsource these same jobs to sweatshops in developing countries where wages are relatively insignificant, employment standards are often irrelevant and there are very low environmental standards. Thus corporations increase their profits. In order to win back these corporations and create more jobs, the US and other countries also lower their standards and cut regulation. Thus the logical conclusion of liberalization and deregulation is a race to the bottom, where the lowest possible standards are sought after and legislated for globally, with little regard for individual workers, employment conditions, the community or the environment.

  23. 任何時代都有不同的機會, 睇你抓不抓得緊而矣.

    在香港, 發達未必咁易, 但係要安身立命, 也不算難.

    好奇怪D後生仔成日話「你地D大人係咁教我地架!」, 大佬,你發覺現實與書本是兩碼子事的時候, 識唔識轉個彎呀? 響度嘈嘈閉, 想「成年人」同你道歉嗎? 咁咪又係想現實去書上唔會發生的理想國!

  24. 對呀,但那些甚麼社運呀,政客呀,都致力散播「努力無回報」論,說穿了,還不是出於私利?當你覺得「努力無回報」,就不會努力,寧做廢青蝗蟲,等人打救,久而久之,就會變成社運的客源,政客的票倉。

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