[OPE-L:2475] Re: Re: the employment contract and capitalism

From: Prof. Ernesto Screpanti (screpanti@unisi.it)
Date: Thu Mar 02 2000 - 14:44:09 EST

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Jerry wrote in [2469]
>The LOV, according to my understanding, does not claim that all
>commodities will exchange at their real value or at their prices of
>production. Rather, it was claimed that commodities *on average* will
>exchange at their value. This, along with the process whereby PofP are
>formed, means that there will be a *systematic* deviation of values from
>market prices with one set of commodities being sold above their value and
>another set of commodities sold below their value.

This occurs when commodities exchange at production prices.

>How true or untrue this
>is as an empirical matter is another question in which Paul C and Allin
>have done some research.
>> Does this mean that you do not believe a state ownership system to be a
>> capitalist system?
>Where state ownership is the predominant form of ownership, I believe you
>are no longer talking about a social formation where the capitalist mode
>of production dominates.
>I agree with Riccardo when he stated elsewhere that generalized commodity
>production, the market, and wage-labour and capitalists are all (amongst
>other characteristics) distinguishing features of capitalism.

These characteristics hold in a state capitalist system (e.g. the Soviet
Union). There might be doubts about the presence of capitalists, but if you
accept Marx's definition of the "working capitalist" (a manager or
functionary who is not an owner) as the real capitalist, then any doubt

>> But I would say that the employment contract necessarily defines
>> the boundaries of authority with some imprecision that gives the workers a
>> certain degree of freedom to oppose and resist commands. For instance they
>> can "shirk", "strike", "sabotate" etc.
>Well, I don't think this is a matter of imprecision in the employment
>contract. Indeed, most employment contracts state very explicitly what
>are "management prerogatives" and "shop rules" (and "labour law"
>established by the state) specify what constitutes "insubordination".
>Thus workers know that they are not "allowed" to "shirk" or engage in
>"sabotage" but they do it anyway if they think it is in their interests
>and if they think they have the power to pull it off successfully. This
>highlights, once again, how the employment contract *by itself* is
>insufficient to establish the command over labor in the production
>process. Thus, for example, "supervision" is required to ensure that
>workers don't "shirk" and are punished if they do.

I agree. In fact I say that the employmet contract is a necessary condition
for capitalist exploitation, not a sufficient one. About shirking and all
the rest, of course they are forbidden. But they are possible because the
boundaries of authority are defined incompletely and information is
asymmetric. This is one of the reasons why supervision is necessary.

In solidarity,


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