[OPE-L:5302] how simple is 'simple labour' in dynamic analysis?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Mar 31 2001 - 18:40:29 EST

How 'simple' is 'simple average labour'?  Consider
the following -- especially the part that I have

"But the value of a commodity represents human
labour pure and simple, the expenditure of human
labour in general. And just as, in civil society, a
general or a banker plays a great part but man as
such plays a very mean part, so, here too, the same
is true of human labour. It is the expenditure of
simple labour-power, i.e. of the labour-power
possessed in his bodily organism by every ordinary
man, on the average, without being developed in
any special way. *Simple average labour*,  it is true, 
IT IS GIVEN" (Marx, *Capital*, Vol. 1, Penguin 
ed., p. 135, capitalization added for emphasis).

One might infer from the above that for *STATIC
saying that it is legitimate to consider 'simple 
average labour' as GIVEN.

This raises more questions than it answers, 

1)  Is 'simple average labour' then to be understood
as SPECIFIC to a particular society?  This would
create problems for the understanding and
comparison of value in DIFFERENT societies, i.e.
INTERNATIONALLY.  *Even if* we, however, 
understand a "particular society"   in a global
sense as the capitalist society in existence in the
world at a specific moment in time, that does not
resolve the next problem. But, before moving on,
I will ask you:  

*Should we consider a "particular society" to be 
the society in existence within a given nation or 
the world-wide capitalist society in existence?*

2) Marx clearly thinks that it is legitimate for
STATIC analysis to understand simple labour
as given. Should we also consider simple
labour as given for DYNAMIC ANALYSIS?
It would seem that Marx's answer, because he
recognizes that simple labour varies in character
"at different cultural epochs", would be: "NO"!
Or, at least,  it would suggest that if one's
dynamic analysis is of a sufficiently long period
that it *extends into different cultural epochs*,
then 'simple labour' can no longer be taken for
granted as being given.

It would seem, then, that 'simple labour' is no
longer simple under capitalism over a long historical 

* What, then, can cause 'simple average labour' to
change from one epoch of capitalism to another?

Marx doesn't answer the above question so here
are my preliminary thoughts: 

a) a generalization of certain types of knowledge
by workers that capitalists, and society in general,
come to expect as normal and average. The 
generalization of *literacy* might be thought of in 
this manner. This generalization of literacy has
by no means proceeded rapidly or evenly
internationally, but we can observe a substantial 
change from mid-19th to mid-20th Centuries.

b) long-term changes in diet, nutrition, and health 
that affect not only life expectancy but also 
arguably the ability to create value. In general,
one might for instance expect that if workers are
healthier then they are more capable of working
intensively. Conversely, some dietary changes
that are *unhealthy* for workers might have the
same consequence (e.g. increases in sugar and 
caffeine consumption). Thus, this might over the 
very long-term affect SNLT. Of course, this is a 
*very* uneven process internationally but 
physical capabilities (in some societies, including
average height) have changed for workers over a 
*very* long period.

c) Alongside the increase in women's employment
in the mid- to late 20th Century (and the modern
feminist movement), there have been cultural 
changes that have promoted exercise and strength-
building for women. To the extent that this raises 
the average physical ability of workers over the 
long-term it could be seen as bringing about a 
change in simple average labour.

d)  The spread of certain basic technologies related
to the health of the working class might be seen
as changing simple average labour over the very
long term.  E.g. how many millions of workers
in the 19th Century needed, but were unable to 
obtain (i.e. afford),  eyeglasses to be able to see
properly?  Yet, now this has changed and it is 
normally the case world-wide that workers who 
need eyeglasses can be able to obtain them. 
Hasn't this then raised the magnitude of value that 
is created by this 'simple' labour since there has 
now been a change  in the capabilities of the 
'average' labourer?

The above are *only examples* of how simple 
labour can change over the course of capitalist
history. Other examples are thus possible.

* Do you agree that the above examples could be
seen as constituting a change in simple average labour?

* Can you think of any other historical examples of 
how simple average labour has changed in capitalist

* Does, this, then mean that in DYNAMIC 
ANALYSIS we can no longer take it for granted 
that simple labour is a given? 

* If simple labor is not taken to be given 
axiomatically in dynamic analysis, how should
it then be included in dynamic models? E.g.
should we views changes in simple labor as
CONTINUOUSLY?  What are the implications
of each in terms of how we comprehend simple
labor changing historically?  If we model these
changes as happening discontinuously, should 
we consider using a  "simple labor traverse" a
la Hicks (_Capital and Time_) and Lowe (The
Path of Economic Growth_)?

* Would this then mean that we must reject the 
position that simple abstract labour creates the
same amount of value in all countries and all
periods of time?  I believe that position (i.e. 
assumption and/or axiom) has been embodied 
in certain dynamic analyses by Marxists, e.g. by
listmember Alan F.


In solidarity, Jerry

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