[OPE-L:5450] Re: More Intense Labor

From: John Ernst (ernst@pipeline.com)
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 20:53:38 EDT

In response to this passage from Gil,
>But changing the intensity of labor leads directly to effect (2) above by
>altering the socially necessary labor time embodied in the wage bundle. It
>might also indirectly lead to effect (3) by changing the average caloric
>requirements of workers, or effect (1) by making it possible to extend the
>working day (because workers are expending *less* effort per hour) or
>making it necessary to reduce the working day (because workers are
>expending so much extra effort per hour that they're too exhausted to
>perform well in the marginal hours).  Bottom line, changes in labor
>intensity would necessarily show up in at least 1 of Paul's 3.  Gil 

I wrote: 

>Gil, you seem somehow to be able to reckon the intensity of labor 
>without any reference to money or prices.

Gil responded:

As a first pass, John, I'd say I'm able to reckon the intensity of labor
without any reference to money or prices because at the level of productive
activity labor intensity is not a matter of money or prices but of
concerted human effort.  Therbligs per hour might be an appropriate measure
for this, but not money or prices.

My comment: But we don't exchange goods based on "threbligs per hour."  
Specifically,  if yesterday I added $100 to the means of production 
and today I add $120 to the means of production simply by working more 
intensely,  it's unclear to me why the my wage would change.  To be 
sure,  the rate of suplus value changes but not my wage.  Again, I see
no reason why my case could not be generalized.

Gil added:

As a second pass, I'd say that the issue here is the determination of the
rate of surplus value, and I don't need to refer to money or prices, other
than the wage rate (and the latter only indirectly), to determine this.
Quoth Marx:

"Since, on the one hand, the variable capital and the labour-power
purchased by that capital are equal in value, and the value of this
labour-power determines the necessary part of the working-day; and since,
on the other hand, the surplus-value is determined by the surplus part of
the working day, it follows that surplus-value is in the same ratio to
variable capital as surplus labour is to necessary labour.  In other words,
the rate of surplus value, s/v = surplus labour/necessary labour." [I, p.
326, Penguin edition.]

My comment was that increasing labor intensity would in any case reduce
necessary labour, by reducing the labor time necessary to produce the wage
bundle; and that changing the prevailing level of labor intensity might
also change the levels of surplus labor or the wage bundle for the reasons
mentioned; but there's no other apparent avenue by which changing labor
intensity would affect the above ratio.

My comment:   Wait a minute.  Forget that wage bundle biz for a bit.
I'm clear that if I add $100 in value one day and $120 the next, then
with no change in my money wage the rate of surplus increases from 
one day to the next.  Further,  there's no reason to suppose a change 
in the prices of wage goods.  Note as well in the passage you quote
Marx is saying nothing of the wage  bundle nor the time it takes to 
produce it.  

By using the assumption that a given amount of money represents a 
given amount of labor time, Marx is able to discuss the manner in
which the rate of suplus value increases with increases in the 
intensity of labor.  He's also able to distinguish between changes
in the intensity of labor and those in the productivity of labor.


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