Re: [OPE-L] Hiring of labour-power?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Mon Dec 13 2004 - 09:57:23 EST

> I have a small query maybe you can help me with. In Capital, Marx argues
> that essentially the wage-contract means that labour-power is purchased,
> not  labour-time; thus, the relation between the wage and work-time is a
> formality, it does not describe the substance of the economic exchange.
> However, authors such as Geoffrey Hodgson (Capitalism, Value and
> Exploitation) and Alexander Gersch (On the theory of economic exchange)
> object that labour-power is not purchased (bought) but "hired". I wonder
> whether any author has serious investigated this distinction conceptually,
>  and the implications of the two different views?


A distinction employed by some advocates of the Social Structure of
Accumulation (SSA) school might be useful here.  *Labor time*
"measures the number of hours worked; it does not measure how much
work gets done, since there are many different levels of work effort
(intensities of work) possible" (Samuel Bowles and Richard Edwards
[1993] _Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command, and Change
in the U.S. Economy_. 2nd ed: Harper Collins: p. 189). This is
in contrast to the *extraction of work from workers* which "is the
process of transforming the labor time that an employer has
purchased into work done" (Ibid, p. 190).

The  underlying reason for this distinction is that "The employer has
purchased the right to *potential* labor services.  Yet a moment's
reflection will reveal that what the capitalist has purchased is hardly
all that he or she needs for profit making.  The capitalist needs actual
human effort in production -- real *work* -- not just the *right* to
direct the workers' time, or *potential* labor services, or control
over the worker's *time*. Only real work, human productive activity,
will produce commodities that the capitalist can sell to obtain a profit"
(Ibid, p. 189).   The above distinction  is employed to contrast
contracts specifying work done and wage payments that are based
on a piece rate to the more customary wage-form (190-192).

The SSA school doesn't employ value theory but translating the
above into value-theoretic terms should be simple enough.

In solidarity, Jerry

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