The Third Place: Household Appliances (Pt. I of II)

The characteristic applications of Technology, not to mention its intended aims and functions, are dependent on an increasingly apparent affinity with each of the three Modes of Production. Technologies developed under Production for Profit are designed to eliminate the ability of Arbeit to be converted into Geld by providing new ‘Incentives’ for increasing the Quantity of Kapital in existence. The sacrifice of Arbeit in the production process compliments Kapital in order to minimize the Quantity of Schuld, thereby amplifying the “Exchange-Value.” Technologies under Production for Utility, conversely, focus more on another set of ‘Incentives’ that revolve around enhancing the inherent usefulness of the production process. For instance, the deployment of automated technologies in Production for Utility would be designed to enhance the “Use-Value” by resulting in far less Zeit (Time) in the overall workweek.

Author’s diagram of Production for Profit. This diagram was added here to provide an easy frame of reference. In a Liberal Capitalist Market/Mixed Economy, Profits are made from selling Products for Kapital. Sometimes, when the Firm does make a Profit, the Customer ends up creating Schuld by spending more Kapital than they actually have. If the Customer manages to earn more Kapital, the Firm’s Profits may diminish, and it will start creating Schuld by earning less Kapital from the Customer.
Much like the preceding diagram, this Author also made an accompanying one that pertains to Production for Utility. The Customer creates Schuld for the Parliament by earning Kapital from the Utility of having goods and services more easily accessible to them. The Firm relies on the Parliament for a steady stream of Kapital to continue sustaining the Utility of the Customer or risk accumulating Schuld.
My diagram depicting Production for Utility is arguably best personified by the organizational framework of Tripartism (otherwise known as “Social Corporatism”) for most Social-Democracies, as shown in this above photo. Here, the “Trade Unions” are the Customers, the “Employers” the Business Community, and the “Government” the Parliament. As stated earlier, the State Corporatism of Fascism and the Social Corporatism of Social-Democracy function will differently in theory and practice.

How Presence-at-Hand yields an Unreadiness-to-Hand

Going back to the first empirical case study, the Kitchen Debate, I cited the “lemon squeezer” as a valid example of how Household Appliances can be influenced by each of the three Modes of Production. Even though one could squeeze lemons by hand, a lemon squeezer could hasten the process by allow somebody to squeeze more of them in less Zeit. Production for Profit argued that the lemon squeezer bolstered the Exchange-Value by increasing the satisfaction–the “Marginal Utility”–from squeezing the lemons this way. Under the Neoliberal Utility Theory of Value (UTV), there is an “Opportunity Cost” between squeezing lemons by hand or with a lemon squeezer. Clearly, the Opportunity Cost would tell us that the Quantity of Kapital is far higher from using the lemon squeezer than using one’s hands. Production for Utility, meanwhile, focused on the Use-Value that comes with decreasing the “Surplus Value” associating with having to squeeze the lemons. The “Socially Necessary Labour Time” is a lot better with the lemon squeezer than by hand.

Where Production for Dasein differs is when it starts raising an important question about the significance of having to choose between squeezing lemons by hand and using the lemon squeezer. In the context of the original historical discussion, it was suggested that if a housewife were to use a lemon squeezer, it would make her a “better housewife.” But Production for Dasein asked whether the lemon squeezer is in fact a better way of squeezing lemons, when there are plenty of other ways to do it by hand. Here, we encounter the Presence-at-Hand as the suitable replacement for the Use-Value. Based on its original concept from Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, Presence-at-Hand begins as soon as someone stops to deliberate over whether to squeeze the lemons by hand or with a lemon squeezer. It also occurs when the housewife begins to perceive hand-squeezing lemons as tedious or when the lemon squeezer finally ceases to function. Either event can happen, and when it does occur, there is an “Unreadiness-to-Hand.”

Unreadiness-to-Hand in this context means that the housewife has stopped squeezing the lemons and is beginning to ascertain whether there is another option beyond the one that she had initially chosen. It is the polar opposite of Readiness-to-Hand because the mere Presence-at-Hand of the knife (if she chose to squeeze by hand) or the lemon squeezer has prevented her from continuing further. From here, the next logical decision is to find a better way to squeeze the lemons. That might involve having to use the lemon squeezer, but it might also entail finding another way of squeezing lemons by hand, and I am certain that there are a multitude of other ways. Human creativity and ingenuity are what will win the day in Production for Dasein.

But the empirical study of the lemon squeezer in the Kitchen Debate is not the only case where we can expose the true meaning of Technology, which essentially refers to a specific “technique,” hence the term ‘Technology’. If there is anything else to be taken from this two-part Entry, it is that Technology represents a way in which something can be done. The Presence-at-Hand of two or more competing Technologies signifies the two or more different “techniques” at completing a task. Always remember that Presence-at-Hand will always occur whenever one is presented with the choice of deciding between different “techniques.” Until one makes a final resolution on what to do next, expect to be stuck in Unreadiness-to-Hand for the foreseeable future.

There are a number of valid examples in previous Entries where a Presence-at-Hand can arise in Production for Dasein. In the “Small Businesses,” “Department Stores,” and “Supermarkets” Entries, I presented three different Enterprises where one could plausibly shop for everyday goods in the Tournament. Think back to the context of shopping for apparel, where one may choose between buying clothes which were made by a tailor and those which were produced en masse and available for sale at a Department Store. The latter can even be supplemented by the Supermarket, which in America could be a Walmart or a Target. Alternatively, there is even the choice of deciding to buy clothes from an eCommerce website like Amazon.com or Esty.com.

What makes all of these choices for buying clothing possible is the State of Total Mobilization itself. Every action in economic life has the potential to introduce the Presence-at-Hand and ipso facto its Unreadiness-to-Hand. Include some increasingly sophisticated forms of advertising and things will be even more complicated for anyone involved. Before diving straight into something, always take some Zeit to deliberate on which option compliments one’s sense of Authentic Dasein. The Price in Actual Geld should not be one’s only consideration; there may be sizes, styles, and designs which may or may not be available at the Department Store or even on an eCommerce website. Sometimes, visiting the tailor and getting something custom-tailored is the best option.

Another Example of Presence-at-Hand

In addition to clothing, I did provide another contextual example from the very beginning of The Third Place (1st Ed.). One of them was the Presence-at-Hand over the smartphone and the various other technologies that it helped render redundant. A single smartphone is capable of fulfilling the roles of cellphone, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), pager, MP3 player, radio, GPS (Global Positioning System), and so forth. It can connect somebody to the World Wide Web (WWW) and allow them to browse it as though they were using an actual computer or laptop. While it is true that the Smartphone has replaced some of the technologies that I just listed, it has not caused others to become obsolete.

The smartphone, despite its ongoing development since the late 2000s, is not poised to fully replace the more versatile PC and laptop, where it is more comfortable to use a keyboard and mouse in front of a large screen instead of having to use a simple, yet tiny touchscreen. The smartphone also has not replaced all usage of cellphones, as evidenced by continued Presence-at-Hand of throwaway burner phones that are cheap and easy to use, and the fact that there are certain people who never had any real need for a smartphone. Speaking of cellphones, the satellite phone continues to be practical in remote parts of the world where it is neither practical nor ideal to have any telecommunications infrastructure. And while the pager is nowhere as popular as it was back in the 1980s and 1990s, it still has its intended purpose in relaying short emergency messages.         

The Intent that I am trying to convey in the first half of this Entry is that different technologies have functions and roles which are influenced by one of the three Modes of Production. In Production for Dasein, it is true that Technology will generally entail finding ways of creating additional sources of Arbeit or minimizing the impact of the Attrition Rate, but these are not the only purposes. It is possible to envisage Technology as being able to amplify the Authentic Dasein of the Self and improving the overall performance of their Vocation. In essence, provide the Self with additional options in which they can complete their daily tasks, encouraging creativity, artistry, and mastery of the chosen Profession. At the same time, it is also important to realize that every new Technology is not necessarily going to be better than what came previously. Sometimes, the older ways of doing things are a lot better than having to adopt the newer ones.

Furthermore, for the practitioners of MTEP (Mission-Type Economic Planning), the research and development of new Technology needs to be anticipated by Economic Planners and its performance evaluated by the Inspectors. Their integration into the SSE, like the VCS Economy in general, should be adopted with the utmost care so as to not cause too many disturbances among the affected Professions. Although the best techniques are always meant to be widely adopted, some special reservations deserve to be made to facilitate other techniques and promote unique ways of getting the same tasks done by different Professions within the same Enterprises. Whichever way someone decides to complete something, what matters in the end is whether the Intents of the tasks at hand were fulfilled.

In the next half of this Entry, we will be investigating how the Equipmentality concept, when applied to Technology, is capable of introducing the ability to “Repurpose” something into being capable of achieving other functions by dint of its “Reference” and “Relevance.” There are all kinds of items throughout the Work-World where something can be converted into efficient tools needed to create Actual Arbeit, Digital Arbeit or Military Arbeit as part of a given Domain. The items which I intend to cover in the second half are everyday Household Appliances that one might probably find inside their own Household but whose Value is not always appreciated in Production for Profit or even made readily apparent in Production for Utility. For the Student Body of an SSE, this represents another instructive lesson on how Technology can be mobilized as part of Production for Dasein and a potential opportunity for future Economic Planners and Inspectors to train themselves as part of their educational curricula.  

Additionally, I will demonstrate how Technology, when properly applied in Production for Dasein, can open up additional sources of “Meaningful Work” among the Domains of the Work-World, allowing for the introduction of new Professions. The establishment of new Professions, if it does not result in any Professions becoming redundant by Technology, will improve upon the already existing techniques of creating Arbeit and Geld under the Work-Standard.



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