Re: [OPE-L] Intensities of Labour

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Thu May 11 2006 - 19:41:41 EDT

> If you indicate the period as a workday without specifying its
> length, the result is the same when you increase the workday or
> increase its intensity. In both cases, output per worker increases;
> and, in both cases, the worker gets tired.

Hi Mike L,

Isn't absolute surplus value _explicitly_ defined in terms of
the _length_ of the working day?  (It could, though, be extended
in _some_ other ways without changing its meaning, e.g. increases
in the length of the workweek; increases in working days/year, by
decreasing vacation time and holidays.)  So, in both cases, workers
get more tired.  Why is that similarity more important than the
difference in effect in terms of productivity?

> This is to be
> distinguished from pure increases in productivity, where output per
> worker rises but there is no additional expenditure of units of
> labour.

Whether there is labor-saving technological change or increases in labor
intensity, output/worker/hr. (i.e. physical productivity) goes up.

> In fact, an important challenge is to separate increases in
> productivity from speedup--- which is why accident rates seem
> interesting as a proxy.

I agree -- statistics on labor productivity should be disaggregated to
show changes due to technical change and changes due to labor intensity.
They are not and hence they are misleading.  Since neither of us can come
up with a decent measure of labor intensity or adequate proxy, I guess we
can't be too critical of the effort of statisticians in this regard.

>>> If the
>>> workday were lengthened (eg., by 10%) and intensity fell by 20%
>>> (ie., big pores open up) on the whole, wouldn't that reduce absolute
>>> surplus value?
> by your limited definition

Why is the definition I am using any more limited than the one you are using?

> useful point but what's the alternative measurement of intensity?
> bladder problems?

Aren't bladder problems associated more with a sedentary lifestyle and a
_low_ intensity of labor?  As labor intensity increases, (at some point)
fluids are "sweated out".  The problem (insofar as it concerns liquids)
then becomes dehydration.

I suppose workers in different branches of production could be given a
physiological test, like a stress test, which measures changes in blood
pressure, pulse, etc.  You'd have to find 'average' workers
(physiologically) and then measure their vital signs when they are working
the 'average' labor intensity in a branch of production.  You could then
compare labor intensity (as so measured) in different branches of
production and calculate an average.  Why would workers ever agree to such
a test, though?  They'd have about the same incentive as having their work
measured by a time-and-motion expert.

In solidarity, Jerry

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