[OPE-L:2391] Re: Re: the employment contract and capitalism

From: riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Date: Tue Feb 22 2000 - 11:22:07 EST

[ show plain text ]

At 21:18 +0100 19-02-2000, Gerald Levy wrote:
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 20:56:23 +0100
>From: "Prof. Ernesto Screpanti" <screpanti@unisi.it>
>Jerry wrote in [2379]
>At 09.01 17/02/00 -0500, you wrote:
>>Re Ernesto's [OPE-L:2377]:

>Right. But I would say that what one buys in an employment contract is the
>workers' freedom during the labour process. Once this has been bought, it
>becomes the employer's power.

I don't understand both the notion of workers' freedom and the notion of
employers's power.
>>> It produces the conditions for exploitation
>>> in the production processes independently of the way property rights are
>>> distributed.
>>But, are they "independent"? Why *do* workers work for capital? Isn't
>>the answer to that question related to both the ownership of means of
>>production by the capitalist class and the *non-ownership* of means of
>>production by the working class? Thus, property rights (and the absence of
>>property rights) *directly* relates to why workers enter into a
>>"employment contract" to begin with.
>I am not so sure. Workers can be formally the owners of the (or some) means
>of production, for instance through pension funds or the public ownership of
>the "workers' state", yet they can be exploited if they have no control of
>the labour process. The institutional conditions of exploitation can be
>independent from the distribution of property rights. The owners can be
>shareholders without control. The exploiters can be managers or bureaucrats
>without ownership.

I guess that not all the situations where the workers have no control of
the labour process are capitalist. Am I wrong?
>>> The employer can be a private capitalist or a public company
>>> or a state company or whatever else. There will be capitalist exploitation
>>> anyway, provided the power relation is used to make workers produce a
>>> surplus value usable for sustaining capital accumulation. This implies,
>>> among the other things, that also a system based on state ownership of the
>>> means of production can be a capitalist system (like the Soviet Union!).
>>This also implies that state employees rather than being paid out of
>>*revenues* and performing unproductive labour, are productive labourers
>>who create surplus value. Yet, this seems to me to obliterate the
>>productive vs. unproductive labour distinction and the production vs.
>>distribution of surplus value distinction.
>I am not so convinced of that distintion. If productive labour is that which
>produces surplus value, a foreman who controls, punishes and coordinates
>workers thus obtaining from a team a value which is higher than what would
>produced in the absence of the foreman himslef, then the latter is
>productive. If so, also a policeman in a state capitalist system is
>productive .

I guess that surplus value is in some way linked to the market, not simply
surplus labour. Or are you referring to some kind of indirect productivity
of policemans?
>>I will pass on a discussion of the former USSR at this point (although,
>>others can discuss it if they wish). Let me only note here that the
>>question of whether the USSR was capitalist is a *much more* concrete
>>question than the question we are discussing now. Also, let me note, that
>>a position one way or the other on whether the USSR was capitalist or
>>socialist or a transitional economy can not *determine* our perspective on
>>the much more abstract question.
>I agree.
>>> The basic reason why the ownership of the means of production does not in
>>> itself suffice to produce the conditions for capitalist exploitation is
>>> that the right to residual control it grants is not a right to control the
>>> workers but just to control the machines. These do not produce anything if
>>> they are not handled by workers. But then you need an institution to compel
>>> the workers to do what the capitalist likes. This institution is the
>>> employment contract.
>>The "institution" that compels the wage-earner to perform a certain
>>standard of work in the labour process is ultimately the understanding
>>that since the capitalist has the right to hire and fire (a consequence,
>>in part, of the ownership of the means of production),
>No, it is a consequence of the employment contract and labour law.

I guess it is the real subordination of labour to capital (inside the
capitalist labour process). Neither the 'law' nor the 'ownership'.


        Riccardo Bellofiore
Office: Department of Economics
        Piazza Rosate, 2
        I-24129 Bergamo, Italy
Home: Via Massena, 51
        I-10128 Torino, Italy
e-mail bellofio@cisi.unito.it, bellofio@unibg.it
tel: +39 035 277545 (direct)
        +39 035 277501 (dept. secr.)
        +39 011 5819619 (home)
fax: +39 035 249975

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 21 2000 - 09:47:46 EDT