[OPE-L:5295] Re: Re: how is SNLT measured?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Mar 30 2001 - 07:17:53 EST

Re Charlie's [5291]:

> Both capitalists and workers can gauge
> comparative intensities of
> labor without a theory of value and of the socially > necessary
> labor time that constitutes its magnitude. The
> capitalist sees
> how his "labor cost" compares with another
> capitalist, and
> workers see--and feel--how their effort compares with other jobs.

There is some truth to this. The capitalist "sees"
intensity through  (labor) cost. Their frame of
reference, though, is the individual firm and
individual market. Individual capitalists are thus
little able to "gauge" intensity of labor in
different markets, regions, and countries.
Furthermore, it is difficult or impossible to reliably
guage labor intensity due to the fact that typically
a non-homogeneous commodity is being
produced at different plants of the same company
and at different firms. This is a consequence,
in part (but only part) of a competitive strategy
of product differentiation by firms in
oligopolistic markets.

Thus, the individual firm only "sees" that if they
can increase intensity then, assuming output
level remains constant, they can eliminate a
certain number of jobs that produce that output
and thereby lower their wage bill, and v, and
thereby lower the cost of production/unit of
output and thereby increase *individual profit*,
ceteris paribus.

Yet, they can most certainly can not "see" labor
intensity from a global perspective in terms of
the variation of labor intensity internationally.

The individual worker, as you suggest, also
sees and feels increases in the intensity of
labor (a point I made as well earlier). Thus,
capitalists see labor intensity in terms of cost
whereas workers come to know labor
intensity sensuously by sight and feel. Yet,
the individual worker's frame of reference for
labor intensity tends to be limited to her/his
experiences at the current individual worksite and
at other worksites that the worker is familiar with
directly through prior work experience or
indirectly from the "hearsay" of other workers
who have other work experiences at other
job sites.

What neither the individual capitalist nor the
individual worker can know is what is the
average intensity of labor internationally. Indeed,
although this is crucial for determining SNLT
(more shortly), the individual capitalist is not
concerned with this since that capitalist must
deal with "cultural and moral" constraints on
their ability to increase the intensity of labor that
are specific to the geographic area where the
capitalist's work site is located. This is another
way of saying that the histories of class struggle
in different regions, countries (and even markets)
have established different "standards" of labor
intensity which are "culturally and morally"
possible. Within any area one might think of
this as a range of variation that is possible. But,
the range of labor intensity that is socially
possible within an individual region or nation is
not the same range of variation for the
nternational capitalist economy. *Even if*  one
reduces this range of variation within a
region or nation to an *average* of labor 
intensity within that region or nation (NB: a 
highly dubious -- or impossible -- magnitude to
calculate) it could *only* be said to equal 
average labor intensity in the  world capitalist 
economy in  the very *special case* where  the 
average labor intensity for that individual 
region/nation *exactly equals* the average of 
labor intensity for the world capitalist economy.

Even if such calculations were possible -- which
I dispute -- there would still be an enormous
problem with gathering reliable data for all
parts of the world capitalist economy so that
we could calculate the average labor intensity.

This, however, raises another (brainteasing)
problem: is there a reason to believe that
*average* intensity of labor internationally is
*different from* the degree of labor intensity
that is the *standard* for what becomes SNLT?
I.e. are we talking about "average" or "best
practice" or a "range" of labor intensities when
we refer to SNLT?

> Before trying to measure the socially necessary
> labor time in
> individual products and the jobs that make them, > I'd ask why one
> would attempt to use the theory of value this way.

That is similar to asking why we would want to
know what the rate of surplus value, the organic
composition of capital, the rate of profit, etc.
are in different nations.

A simple but pragmatic answer would be that
our tactical decisions about what the working
class should  "do next"  depends, in part, on a 
realization of what is happening now and what
has been happening in the past. Workers want
to know what is happening in the economy ...
shouldn't we?

In solidarity, Jerry

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