[OPE-L:5494] Re: More Intense Labor

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Thu May 03 2001 - 15:58:51 EDT

Re Rakesh's [5492]:

> Jerry, you are simply confusing the wage with the value of labor
> power. That the value of labor is higher in the sense of the use
> values needed to reproduce it does not mean that the wage in any of
> its senses will be higher. 

The bundle and quantity of commodities required for the reproduction
of the commodity labour-power does not necessarily go up because
of an increase in the intensity of work. Your inability to see this
very basic point suggests to me that you view labour-power
as if it were a machine that requires a set amount of "fuel" to
function efficiently. This is a false metaphor -- the VLP is not
based on some abstract trans-historical conception of the
physiological requirements for the expenditure of labor-time.
Rather, the very conception of what those needs are are *socially
and culturally determined* and, consequently, subject to change.
So I think it is you who are confused by the concept of the VLP.

>It is thus possible that while
> intensification will change upward the value of labor power, the 
> real wage will lag behind; thus intensification can easily result in > the depression of the wage below the value of labor power.

Thus, your entire argument ends up concerning the VLP. This,
in turn, depends on your conception of how the VLP is 'determined'
by the supposed physiological reqirements for reproduction of

> The intensification of the labor
> process has an immediate physical effect which should change the
> requirements for the reproduction of labor power in the short run.

This seems to boil down to "if workers work harder then they must 
consume more food, etc.". This *might* be true *if* workers are 
currently on a starvation diet and would collapse if they worked
any harder or faster. But, the food intake by most workers (certainly
in the advanced capitalist nations) is well in excess of this minimum 
required. The simple fact is that workers *can* work harder and
faster without consuming additional food. btw, as the intensity of
labor goes up the more pressing concern for most workers will not
be a deficient diet but dehydration. So, they will in most cases
have to consume more liquids. Yet, the VLP can not be expected
to go up if workers require more water since water is normally
provided as a 'public good' and doesn't have to be exchanged
against wages. 

> I don't think it's reasonable to assume that capital could double 
> the  intensity of the work process without there being an 
> immediate change in the value of labor power.

You claim elsewhere that you don't believe that the VLP will change
instantaneously. Yet, here you suggest that it can. 

> There won't be an immediate change in the wage, to be sure; this is
> why intensification will be experienced as immiseration as the wage
> falls below the value of labor power.

For you then changes in wages tend to lag behind changes in the VLP
which you suggest above can occur instantaneously. I believe with
Marx that changes in the VLP tend not to happen continuously and
instantaeously and that wages tend to change much more frequently
than the VLP.

> Of course the value of labor power is ALSO culturally and socially
> determined, but intensification is first and foremost a physically
> exhausting process.

More effort does not necessarily translate into exhausting. In 
any event, what is deemed to be physically exhausting is also
culturally and socially determined. Ironically, a large percentage
of workers (and members of other social classes) in the US suffer 
from obescity rather than lack of food intake (although, one also
has to look at what is consumed and its nutritional value). This
obescity makes it harder for them to work more intensively -- and
lack of exercise frequently contributes to that obescity which
means that they have less stamina. 

I've got to go to class. Enough for now.

In solidarity, Jerry

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