[OPE-L:2398] Re: Re: Re: the employment contract and capitalism

From: Ernesto Screpanti (screpanti@unisi.it)
Date: Wed Feb 23 2000 - 11:32:07 EST

[ show plain text ]

Riccardo wrote in [2392)

At 17.58 22/02/00 +0100, you wrote:
>At 11:43 +0100 22-02-2000, Gerald Levy wrote:
>>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 09:37:07 +0100
>>From: Ernesto Screpanti <screpanti@unisi.it>
>>Jerry wrote in [2386]
>>>Ernesto wrote in [2383]:
>>>> 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.
>>>I think this confuses the lack of control by the producers of the labor
>>>process in general (which occurs in all class societies) with the
>>>specific social form that it takes under capitalism. Under capitalism,
>>>the relationship between capital and labor in the labor process is
>>>conditioned by the value-form imperative. I.e. the imperative to produce
>>>and sell commodities and thereby actualize the surplus value that existed
>>>only as an abstract possibility at the time of the employment contract.
>>I agree with this. I do not see the confusion. The employment contract is
>>typical of capitalism, not of slavery or serfdom.
>I agree. The point is that the employment contract opens the way to the
>transformation of the labour process in such a way that the compulsion to
>labour and surplus labour is 'objective', i.e. built-in into the technology
>and the organization of labour. This is the truly *capitalist* mode of
>production. The stress on the employment contract is right as long as it
>does not compress the specificity of capitalism at the only point of the
>labour market. The differentia specifica of capitalism is that 'labour' as
>a potential is sold on the market and that 'labour' as activity is
>extracted through the real subordination of labour, i.e. the objective
>compulsion to labour and surplus labour.

I agree.

>>>> 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.
>>>Ownership vs. exploitation?
>I agree with Ernesto, but not for the same reasons. It is a fact that
>labour is 'other-directed', alienated etc. whatever the ownership system. I
>guess that the reason is that so called socialist society have not built a
>technology and/or a competition system and/or an organization of labour
>system radically different from capitalism.
Yes, but it is deeper than that. Capitalist exploitation can occur even in
"public companies" owned by pension funds owned by the workers! I insist:
the real problem is - who really controls the labour process -. If it is
not the workers, then these can be exploited. If those who control it aim
at capital accumulation, then it is capitalist exploitation.

>>>Are you suggesting then that the owners of a capitalist firm are not
>>>necessarily the exploiters?
>Of course, yes and no, if we simply define exploitation without reference
>to the market (not Marx's definition). What exploits is capital. I guess we
>may have capital(ism) without capitalists, i.e. exploitation without
>capitalists. If capitalist do not exists, they are not the cause of
>exploitation. I strongly doubt we may have capitalists without
>capital(ism). Hence, if there are capitalists, we have capitalism, and
>exploitation, and the capitalists are exploiters

Right. But the question is: are the capitalists the formal owners?

>>>Yet, if one receives the benefits of
>>>exploitation and owns (a non-nominal share of) the capitalist firm, isn't
>>>one the exploiter just as surely as a slaveowner was the exploiter
>>>of her/his slaves?
>>No. One who receive the benefits of exploitation is one who receives the
>>benefits of exploitations (e.g. rentiers, orphans and widows etc.). An
>>exploiter is one who controls the labopr procesa and therefore is capable
>>to make the workers produce more than they earn. The institutions through
>>which exploitation can be implemented are many. In capitalism the most
>>important and the typical one is the employment contract.
>Except for the last phrase, which is only partially true, here I agree with
>>>> 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.
>>>No, "foremen" and supervisors -- while employed in the labour process --
>>>do not produce surplus value. Rather, their function is to *represent the
>>>interests of capital in the labour process* by extracting work from
>>>workers. They are an intermediate layer (part of the so-called "middle
>>>class") between capital and labour in the employment of capitalists. Their
>>>function is very similar to the *overseer* under slavery. Unlike the
>>>overseer, corporate managers don't use a whip since that form of control
>>>is not needed under capitalism with "free labour". Rather, the threat of
>>>being fired, and thereby the threat of joining the industrial reserve
>>>army, takes the place of the whip and other more violent forms of
>>Consider a team of workers in which team production prevails. You need a
>>"supervisor" who controls and coordinates the team. The surplus value
>>produced by the team with the supervisor is higher than that produced by
>>the team without the supervisor. Therefore the supervisor contributes to
>>the production of surplus value. Or do you beleive that coordinating
>>activity is not work? How can a factory of 1000 workers function without
>>coordination activity? If the supervisor receives a wage which is lower
>>than the surplus value he contributed to produce he is an exploited worker.
>>I am enjoying very much this discussion. I would like other people to
>Here I am. I hope this interventions are out of the focus of your

Very good, let's enlarge the discussion group.

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

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