[OPE-L:3424] Re: Re: objectivity of value

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 02 2000 - 06:25:34 EDT

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In [OPE-L:3400] Fred wrote:

> And no one has done anything to account for different INTENSITIES
> of labor.

Certainly, it is very difficult to calculate the intensity of labor
(for reasons I will shortly note) and it is probably impossible to
come up with reliable figures for the average intensity of labor
within a country or globally.

Although it is true that one can time the speed with which workers
can accomplish specific tasks (and this desire to measure the
intensity of various *concrete* operations by labor is part of
the "scientific" basis of Taylorism's attempts to *increase*
the intensity of labor and thereby *surplus value*), it is
questionable whether one can time the average intensity of labor
*even within an individual manufacturing plant* where there is
a high degree of specialization associated with an advanced
division of labor (as, for example, is the case in most assembly
line operations). Yet, these differentials in labor intensity
do *in fact* exist even if it is difficilt to *measure*
precisely because of the heterogeneity of tasks performed. Indeed,
such diffences in labor intensity are commonly known -- most of
all! -- to the *workers themselves* (often this is the major
factor for why workers come to view certain jobs as more
"desirable" than others within a plant).

Furthermore, workers who have worked at more than one
manufacturing facility *know* that there are *very real*
differences in labor intensity among plants. This is the case
*even within* the same *region*. This is the case *even where*
the *composition* of the workforce remains essentially the
same. This is the case *even within* different but similar
manufacturing facilities owned by the same corporation (and
even when they are in close proximity to each other). These
*facts* are all well known to the workers themselves even if
it remains impossible to accurately and precisely quantify.
The workers themselves often have less precise ways of
measuring this change in intensity -- including a change in
perspiration (sweating), muscle fatigue, and heart rate [of
course, heart rate can be precisely measured but creating
statistics on how exertion changes the heart rate in thousands
(or millions) of workers would be a daunting task and would
only partially address the question of exertion].

Yet, it is *not* the case that "no one has done anything
to account for different INTENSITIES of labor". There has,
in fact, been quite a bit of research on this topic in the
form of "case studies" that compare different locations and
the change in intensity at an individual location over
time. Many of these studies are in the field of the
"sociology of work". It is, of course, true that these
individual studies are different that aggregate empirical
studies. Yet, they provide useful information that seems
imo to confirm much of what Marx's theory (BUT NOT
namely, that changes in the intensity of labor can most
frequently be explained in terms of the degree of

I should note, in passing, that it is often difficult
to precisely measure the extent to which the *productivity
of labor* has changed as a *result of* technological
change since technological change and changes in labor
intensity often occur together. How then can we separate
out accurately the increase in s caused by technological
change from the increase in s caused by an increase in the
intensity of labor? I don't think it's possible.

In solidarity, Jerry

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