[OPE-L:5310] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: how is SNLT measured?

From: howard engelskirchen (lhengels@igc.org)
Date: Sun Apr 01 2001 - 22:53:11 EDT


In 5294, you wrote

>I think you should qualify your statement that "social
>> reproduction is a matter of the unity of production and exchange."
>to say that social reproduction under capitalism is a unity
>of production and exchange.  Non commodity producing
>societies reproduce themselves without exchange.

Agreed on this.

Then in response to my

>> It is a fetish to think the only way we can measure time is by a clock.
>> Think of all the ways we measure time.  

you asked,

and added

>My understanding is that socially necessary labour time is
>given as 'average' socially necessary labour time. It is fair to
>say that one can not determine the time necessary for a task by
>observing a single worker doing the task, but that if one has
>observations of a large group, one can then obtain the average
>time required. One would have to study the time required accross
>several different work places in order to arrive at this, since the
>method of production will vary to some extent across them.

My point about clock fetishism was only to insist on the diversity of forms
of measure -- we measure length by a human foot or hand or stride or by a
platinum bar or wavelengths of krypton in a vacuum.  Time gets measured by
seasons, phases of the moon, tides, and all sorts of biological processes
-- the time it takes wine to age, seeds to sprout, crops to mature, etc. --
as well as the difference in energy level between two states of caesium.
We estimate by clock and calendar periods of gestation but would introduce
significant error to deliver babies by them without regard to a particular
body's rhythms.  Noticing this variety makes it easier to think of the
possibility of using something like a coat to measure the amount of time it
took to manufacture so and so many yards of linen.  Of course we
immediately want to know what it is about what is measured that forces us
to use something other than a mechanical clock.  This goes to your
paragraph on averaging particular observations.  But the answer is that
clocks can't measure the distribution of labor to need.  This is measuring
something other than the expenditure of human effort.  So we use a coat to
measure labor in linen.

The broader significance of the point is that there where the material
basis for the operation of the law of value remains in place, then the law
of value will continue to operate.  But then bringing the law of value
under control is not just a matter of computational capacity, although this
is enormously important, but, more importantly, of really transforming its
material foundation.  This, I think, is the point underlying what you refer
to as Charles Bettelheim's skepticism.  Take the first separation of
productive labor under capitalism to which he refers -- of enterprises from
each other.  Under the CMP this is resolved by exchange within the
juridical form of contract, but this dynamic simply reproduces the
conditions of separation.  during the transition to socialism the plan
needs to be a vehicle for overcoming the separation of productive units.
Its role in this regard can be either formal or real.  If the separation of
enterprise units continues to be reproduced, then we would have to say that
the subordination of enteprises to the plan remained formal.  That is, the
law of value would continue to operate and, to the extent that it did,
monetary calculations will persist and tend to dominate.  By contrast, for
enterprise units to be really subordinated to the plan, then, step by step
there must be a material transformation of the way productive units relate
to one another.  Real horizontal links of democratic association not
depending on contract or the market would need to emerge.  A small example
would be the way start-up enterprises in the MOndragon family of
cooperatives have received extensive support from other established units.
One consequence would be that we would immediately begin to adjust our
notions of scale, that is, we would place emphasis on opportunities for
actual coordination and support.

Thanks very much for the references to the book by you and Allin and to
your related articles.  I have reviewed them quickly and incompletely so
please correct where I have misunderstood.  I  think your demonstration of
the technical feasibility of enormously complex calculations in concrete
labor time is of crucial importance.  It should already have put an end to
complexity as the primary form of the "there is no alternative" argument
for market socialism.  Calculations in labor time will be the backbone of
any economic and social calculation.  But there won't be any technical fix,
either.  What we want is to actually transform the way we arrange work.


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