[OPE-L:5496] Re: Re: More Intense Labor

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Fri May 04 2001 - 12:25:28 EDT

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari <rakeshb@Stanford.EDU>
Date: Thu, 3 May 2001 22:50:48 -0700
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:5494] Re: More Intense Labor

re 5494

>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.

It does not necessarily go up. But it's reasonable to assume that
with greater intensity there will be a need for more consumption and
more time off at some point. Workers will need to make more to enjoy
unpaid leave to get the rest they will need.  Yes this is not
necessary, I just consider it highly likely.

>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.

I never said this. I said physical needs enter into it as much as the
social and cultural elements. You are the one denying the obvius.

>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.

They are not exclusively so determined.

>>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

I clearly said that it's a determinant, not the only determinant. So
this kind of caricature is simply a poor debating tactic.

>>  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.

And they need more time off as well. Which means that they have to
make enough to be able to take unpaid leave.

>  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.

I think the conditions of many workers in the world's factories are
indeed this dire.

>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.

drinking water often has to be purchased or at least boiled which
requires an added expenditure in gas.

>>  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.

My claim elsewhere to which you did not respond is that once we have
a stable level of intensity which is customary or normal, then an
hour of labor more intense than that counts as more than an hour. In
this case intensification is an elongation of the working day, a form
of absolute surplus value.

>>  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.

Well once we introduce an exogeneous shock to the system such as a
doubling of the intensity of labor--remember the example which you
contrived--there will indeed in this case be an immediate change in
the value of labor power.

>>  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.

Have I ever denied this?

>  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.

Again the need to repair for wear and tear--the phrase which you find
so objectionable--does not only include higher caloric intake but the
need for rest. And with intensification of labor there is more need
for rest. If wages are not high enough to allow for unpaid leave,
then the wage will fall below the value of labor power.


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