Re: [OPE-L] wages of superintendence

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Nov 07 2006 - 08:44:27 EST

> If the superintendence wages do not enter into the formation of the
> average
> rate of profit, it must be because they represent effectively an
> "undistributed" income. But what are these wages paid out of?

Hi Jurriaan:

Well, you know what my answer is: profit.

> Marx suggests
> they represent an appropriation of new surplus value which derives from
> property-ownership rather than the labour of superintendence, i.e. the
> employer pays himself a portion of gross revenues. The account shows a
> cost, but in reality it is an appropriation of gross profit.
> Even so, managerial employees might engage in far more tasks than
> superintendence.
> I don't think Marx is very consistent in his statements, but I do agree
> with him that the managerial function contains both an unproductive
> control
> function and a productive-coordinating function. What is the reason for
> the imprecision however? Possibly because Marx didn't study the overall
> occupational division of labour in detail. As a matter of fact, I don't
> think he ever set foot in a factory.

Well, I've set foot in a factory.  Indeed, I spent five years of my life
working on an automobile assembly line.  I'll be damned if I say that
the foremen and supervisors at GM and Ford are productive of
surplus value!

> Realistically you would need to look at supervision and management at
> different levels of an enterprise, to establish the productive
> (value-adding) or unproductive (non-value adding) nature of the labour
> involved.

For the sake (only) of discussion, why do you think that the value-
adding nature of management is statistically significant?  There are,
after all, very serious problems with inferring value-added from the
income data.

* To begin with, the data obviously doesn't distinguish
as you do between management labor which is value-adding and
the management labour which is not.  I see no reasonable way
statistically in which the aggregate data can be broken down in
the way that you want without making heroic generalizations
(which is exactly what you say you don't want) about what
proportion of management labour is productive.  What _exactly_
are you proposing from the standpoint of how to disaggregate
the available national income data?  How would you determine
the proportion of labour which is concerned with control vs.
the proportion which is not? (recalling, of course, that control
functions can be exercised in practice -- but in different ways
-- at various levels of management.)

*  Part of the salaries -- especially of higher level managers --
could be thought of as representing profit-sharing.  Indeed,
management compensation and bonuses are often tied
directly to profits.  This amount, then, even if it was listed on
the books as a cost should really be seen as a deduction from
profits.  Also, managers -- because they sometimes have the
power to do so -- can simply  change the quantity which
they receive as wages (vs. profit) for tax and other reasons.

*  There are huge disparities between the compensation of
managers:  they can receive millions of dollars per year or
they can receive the minimum wage.  How would you determine
the value of labour power of managerial labor?  [side point: I think
also, btw,  that many managers have no more skill and education
than unskilled workers.]    Note, also, that there are huge
international disparities in the compensation of managers.

*  Corporate data often lists as part of management workers who
-- in fact -- are not.  E.g. a unskilled worker in the mailroom in
the clerical department of a factory may be listed as being part
of management even though s/he has no supervisory functions.
Indeed, this is often a ploy used by mgt. to divide workers and
create a sub-group of workers who are outside of the
bargaining unit and therefore can't join the union and therefore have
little or no rights.  I.e. they serve at the "pleasure" of  management
and can be discharged at will without rights to appeal or even being
given a cause for "termination"  -- something that would not happen if they
were union members and had access to the grievance procedure.
[I realize, of course, that labor laws in different social formations
differ in this regard.]  (NB: this does not mean that if there are workers
who are mis-labeled as part of mgt. that they are productive of
surplus value: some, or all, might be unproductive of s.)

We should not, as radical political economists, let corporate accounts
and management define which employees are productive or surplus value
and which are not: their data, classifications, and motivations should all
be treated with suspicion.  In short, I see no reliable statistical way to
do what you want to do with the data.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Nov 30 2006 - 00:00:06 EST