[OPE-L:2390] Re: Re: Re: the employment contract and capitalism

From: Ernesto Screpanti (screpanti@unisi.it)
Date: Tue Feb 22 2000 - 09:17:14 EST

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Cipolla wrote wrote [in 2389]:

>Regarding the role of supervisors in producing or not producing surplus
>a debate that is engaging Jerry and Ernesto, the chapter on Profit of
>Enterprise is certainly of some help. There Marx suggests that there are two
>sides to the labor of supervision: one related to the antagonistic character
>of the social relation under capitalism or any system based on social
>the other related to the labor of coordination, which in Marx's view is as
>productive as a maestro is indispensable in an orquestra, that is, it is
>which securs the coordination of a divided labor process. This two activities
>may well be undertaken by a single person, in which case it is not certain
>that, as Jerry says, workers will know in which side those supervisors
>are. It is then the coordinating part of the labor of supervision that which
>generates surplus value. The other part of his or her (most probably his)
>labor is there to make sure that whatever was bought is used, be it a
slave or
>the labor of somebody for x number of hours: to make others produce surplus
>does not make the slave-driver or the supervisor (under capitalism) to be the
>producer of surplus (!) as Ernesto would like us to believe.

When Marx speaks of the role of a Maestro in an orchestra he is talking of
what he defines a "working capitalist" as distinguished from the capitalist
as a shere owner of capital. He says that the role of the working
capitalist is to direct the labour process to extract value from labour. He
is the real capitalist, while the capitalist as a shere owner is no
different from a rentier or a monetary capitalist. The latter earns an
interest (and benefits from exploitation), the former, even if his income
takes the form of a supervision salary, earns a real profit (and is the
real exploiter). In general, see the extraordinary chapters 23 and 27 of
Capital, III, where Marx anticipates Bearl & Means of more than a half

The question I rised is different. I am talking of "team production", a
notion uknwon to Marx (or at least not precisely known). There is team
production when the productivity of any member of the team is not
independent of that of the other members. In this case coordination is
needed to obtain the highest possible productivity from the team activity
(you cannot separate the productivity of the team members). Therefore the
coordinator contributes to the production of surplus value !!of the team!!
 and you cannot separate his contribution from that of the other members.

Bt the way, in the Roman system the slave-drivers were normally slave
themselves. The owners used thenm to increase productivity.

One could be tempted to distinguish a coordinatioin function from a control
function, the latter intended to face information asymmetries (the slave or
wage-earners tendency to "shirk"). But in team production shirking is a
form of coordination failure, because the shirking of a team members lowers
the productivity of other members too. The whip rises coordination!!, and
thus the team productivity, in such a way - let me insist - that you cannot
distinguish the production contribution of single membrs (including the

Hic Rhodus, hic salta.
Marx is not omniscent. There are phenomena he did not know. Otherwise
science should have stopped with Capital. You cannot investigate a lot of
phenomena, that have been brought to light by recent research, by using
instruments that were not construed for them.

In solidarity,

Ernesto Screpanti
Dipartimento di Economia Politica
Piazza S. Francesco 1
53100 Siena
tel: 0577 232784
fax: 0577 232661

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