Re: (OPE-L) Re: the _struggle_ over the length of the working day

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 25 2003 - 12:57:34 EDT

Jerry wrote:

>The point remains that Marx did _not_ write that struggles over
>the length of the working day can be conceived as "defensive"
>struggles.  And -- more to the point -- regardless of what Marx
>did or did not write,  struggles over the length of the working
>day are expressions in part of the aspirations of the working class
>for additional leisure time which collide with the drive by
>capital to -- wherever possible -- increase absolute surplus value.
>To conceive one-sidedly of such struggles as primarily "defensive"
>fails to grasp what workers are fighting *for*.

In his brilliant book Modern Times, Ancient Hours: Working Lives in
the 21st Century (Verso, 2003) Pietro Basso provides a careful
analysis of the 35 hour work week in France. Basso shows that this
gain has been won at the cost of increased intensification and
flexibilization (more shift work, less overtime pay, employer
determination of working schedules).

Perhaps would some argue that capitalist progress in the reduction of
working time should not  be measured in terms of the length of the
working day or the hours worked in the course of a week or in the
number of weeks worked per year; rather progress has come in the form
of the reduction of work in the course of a lifespan. That is, while
life spans have almost doubled in the last one hundred years, the
absolute number of hours worked by a proletarian over the course of
his lifetime has even decreased a bit.

Is this proof of the continued progressiveness of capitalist
development? Basso thinks not for clearly specified reasons.

What do others think?

Basso's book raises questions of fundamental importance. Could not be
recommended more highly.

Yours, Rakesh

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