[OPE-L:3433] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: objectivity of value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Sun Jun 04 2000 - 18:50:21 EDT

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The labor reduction problem seems to me to be more theoretically difficult
and practically relevant.

1. How can labor time itself be the social content of value if the day's
labor of skilled worker equates a week's work of another? There would seem
to be no truth to the idea that value of a commodity is determined by labor
time alone.

2. Marx can counter that the reduction is a dynamic social process so that
skilled labor which results from either special training or use of a better
machine is dynamically reduced over time to some multiple of simple average
labor, as rationalized training courses are made widely available and
skills are progressively built into the machines (e.g., CAD)

3. But there seems to be no empirical evidence that wage differentials have
been reduced to say differences in training and reproduction costs; skilled
labor's relative wage advantage may simply result from the scarcity of
ability or some other heritable attribute, which then vitiates this thesis
that labor time is the sole basis of value.

4. Marx can counter that instead of invoking dubious scarcities, we can
look for the interference to the law of value. The rate of surplus value
may indeed not be uniform as certain groups of workers enjoy *relative*
immunity from immigration and trade pressures.

In technologically dynamic activity centers there is an artificial shortage
of skilled labor due to at least the following reasons: immigration
restrictions, arbitrary professional licensing and refusal to or technical
difficulty in transfer of proprietary technology through the assimilation
of which the suppy of skiled would increase on a global scale (learning
from doing and all that)

This has not only reduced the rate of exploitation for a specific group of
skilled workers (high wages do not mean high rates of surplus value
production, which is why capital fights for H1 visas and attempts
outsourcing to that old British cantonment) but also created a scarcity of
and thus monopoly price of skill intensive goods.

Persistent differentials of wages and divergence of product prices can only
be understood in terms of interference with the law of value, not any
reference to a natural skill scarcity. Marx underestimated or abstracted
from all this. There is no clear bridge from his theoretical enquiry
conducted on the basis of several idealized assumptions (no national
interference, uniform rate of surplus value) and real world dynamics.

One only thinks what would happen to the wages of America's vaunted skilled
economists (the physcists of the social sciences) if Indian postgraduates
who can already speak English just fine were allowed to compete with them
on the basis of an ability to handle problems in matrix algebra and
econometrics. I can think of no greater way to rid ourselves of bourgeois

Yours, Rakesh

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