[OPE-L:5286] Re: Re: how is SNLT measured?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com)
Date: Thu Mar 29 2001 - 05:07:03 EST

Re Allin's 5279]:

> It's a statistical issue.  If you want to know,
>  How much SNLT did  worker X perform in
> the last 2 hours?  then there may well be no
> good answer (although if X is working in a
> production line context, or otherwise closely
> supervised, and if she's working for an employer > of  roughly average
profitability, then "2 hours
> worth" is probably not  too far off).  But if the
> question is, How much SNLT is embodied in,
> say, a Ford Taurus, then the clock-time measure > is quite reasonable:
the car embodies a wide
> variety of different sorts of labour, and, in
> the absence of information to the contrary, it's
> reasonable to suppose  that divergences
> between actual hours spent and SNLT will
> roughly  cancel out.

As Rieu [5284] suggested,  this doesn't really
confront the issue I raised.  To begin with,
this is not most fundamentally a "statistical
issue" -- rather, it is an analytical issue.

Your example of a Ford Taurus is interesting.
This model, an example of a "world car" (a
trend that began in the early 1980's), is built
-- I believe -- in a number of different plants
in different countries.   In the case of all such
instances of the production of "world cars" by
transnational automobile corporations, it has
long been known that *even where the
technology remains the same* the assembly
labor requirements differ very significantly
depending on what country the production
facility is located in. What accounts for this
divergence?  Most fundamentally, it is a
result of significantly different intensities of

What, then, determines the divergence in the
intensity of labor in different firms, regions,
and/or nations?

I would assert that the two main determinants

1) *the size of the industrial reserve army* as a
proportion of the total working population.
Viewed internationally, there are very wide
divergences in the size of the IRA and,
relatedly, the prevalence of mass poverty.
An increased size in the IRA helps capitalist
firms to raise the intensity of labor because
it increases their bargaining power vis-a-vis
workers. In the case of countries where the
size of the IRA is particularly high (NB: where
often trade unionization rates are relatively low)
the loss of a job can come to represent more
than a short-term hardship -- it can be
tantamount to a death sentence (not only for
the worker but for other members of her/his

To the extent that the IRA is systematically
larger in less developed capitalist economies
than in more advanced capitalist economies,
this can be expected to lead to systematic
and significant variations in the intensity of
labor internationally, ceteris paribus.

But, the ceteris paribus assumption must be
dropped so that we can comprehend the next
major determinant, which unlike 1) above, does
not primarily concern the logic of capital alone
but instead concerns the dynamics of class

2) While capital everywhere attempts to
increase the intensity of labor, its success
depends critically on the *resistance of the
working class*.  The resistance to speed-up
is a major part of the day-to-day struggle
between capital and labor whether that
struggle takes place on the factory floor or
in an office.  The resistance of the working
class to attempts to increase the intensity of
labor varies *in terms of its effectiveness*
on two critical related factors:

a) the solidarity of the workers;
b) the militancy of the workers.

Of course, a major factor for a)-b) is whether
the workers are organized in trade unions.
This should, after all, be remembered because
it is *not* the case that the majority of workers
in all regions and nations of the world economy
are members of trade unions. Moreover,
trade unions vary significantly internationally
in terms of "quality"  (i.e. a-b). Thus, there
are significant differences in labor intensity
internationally that are attributable to how
effectively workers organize against speed-

The extent to which there is or is not    
*international solidarity*  is also a major
determinant of the intensity of labor which 
should not be forgotten.

What 2) helps us recall is that what is "socially
necessary" is determined in large part by
class struggle.  And it helps remind us that
workers in different nations have different
"cultures" that are in large part a consequence
of the history of class struggle in each nation.

This might mean, in consequence, that the
more advanced capitals in terms of the
productivity of labor due to technological
change might at the same time have a lower
intensity of labor *if* the size of the IRA is
smaller in the region and/or country *and* if
workers are less successful in terms of resisting
attempts by capital to increase the intensity
of labor.

To ignore these factors is tantamount to assuming
a uniform percentage of the working population
in each country that  are members of the IRA in every capitalist nation
*and* that the solidarity
and militancy of the working class is uniform
across regions and nations. Both of these assumptions are clearly
counter-factual and can
be easily refuted by the empirical and historical evidence.

For the above stated reasons, I don't find your
answer to be satisfactory. This, then, returns
me to the original questions asked:

*how is SNLT measured?

* what is the "solution" to [this aspect of] the
  "SNLT problem"?

In solidarity, Jerry

PS to Charlie re [5283]:  you ask: [measuring
value] "cannot be done in an anarchic capitalist
economy, no?".  You haven't given me enough
of a reason why you believe that value can't
be measured for me to respond to yet. Please
expand upon what you wrote. Thanks.

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