[OPE-L] the "unequal exchange" controversy

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Fri Dec 30 2005 - 14:36:25 EST

I am not in a position now to debate this at length, but just a few
comments. Labor intensity is always difficult to measure, often it is
measured indirectly (frequency of work accidents, the number of workers
doing a given set of tasks). No doubt Marx was correct in believing that
work intensity differs in different cultures, but the division of labour is
also different, so what the economic implications are (e.g. for
productivity) is not yet clear. Work at a lower intensity can also be more
productive, according to some measure. In my experience, there are now
international corporate norms of labour productivity for many industries,
though perhaps not all. That is what you would expect to see, if the law of
value operates - jobs are not designed around people, but people are
attracted to fill predesigned jobs.

The 2002 UNCTAD Trade and Development Report estimated that the share of
manufacturing exports produced by developing countries grew by some 150% in
the 1990s, rising from 11% of total world exports (by value) of manufactured
goods, to 27% in 1998. But during that period, the developing world's share
of manufacturing new value-added (basically, gross profits + gross wages)
only grew by 40% - from 17% to 24%. That is, the value and physical volume
of manufactured exports by developing countries must have increased much
more than the actual income obtained by the producers. This is an example of
unequal exchange. The developed countries by contrast exported
proportionally less manufactured goods, such that their share of total
manufacturing exports decreased from from over 80% in 1980 to around 70% at
the turn over the 21st century, yet their share of the world's new
value-added (net output value) nevertheless increased from 65% to 73%.

Marx's account of capitalism is rater incomplete because he ignored unequal
exchange and he ignored worker's consumption (see e.g.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rate_of_exploitation#Criticism ).


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