From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Jun 04 2007 - 13:19:08 EDT
Pauls Adler and Cockshott are probably best positioned to address this simple point. A PC can be bought cheap today relative to prices three decades ago. Why? The main answer: the rising productivity of microprocessor engineers as a result of both design automation which has drastically reduced the time required for checking speeds and gates and computer simulations which have eliminated hours and hours of wasted labor on the development and actual production of failed models and designs? Hilferding writes: "It is a matter of indifference whether any specific kind of skilled labor is to be reckoned the fourfold multiple or the sixfold multiple of unskilled labor. The important point is that a doubling or trebling of productive power in the sphere of skilled labor would lower the product of skilled labor twofold or threefold vis-a-vis the product of unskilled labor (by hypothesis unchanged)." See full Hilferding passage at the bottom. In another passage Hilferding allows us to begin to see why brain drain, i.e. the drain of skilled labor from the third to the first world, is often a social loss for the sending county. Skilled labor may well suffer a higher rate of exploitation and thus produce extra value, but this swollen sum of surplus value is appropriated by first world capitalists who will not likely accumulate or expend it such that it will boost third world employment. Value creating capacity is exported and lost by third world countries. Remittances probably do not compensate for the value creating potential which has leaked out of the national economy . The international transfer of value via the brain drain seems to be a real phenomenon. I know of no analysis tying Hilferding's Marxist theory of skilled labor to the dynamics of brain drain; does anyone know of one? Here is the historically important passage from Hilferding. >Average unskilled labor is the expenditure of unskilled labor power, >but qualified or skilled labor is the expenditure of qualified labor >power. For the production of this skilled labor power, however, a >number of unskilled labors were requisite. These are stored up in >the person of the qualified laborer, and not until he begins to work >are these formative labors made fluid on behalf of society. The >labor of the technical educator thus transmits, not only value >(which manifests itself in the form of the higher wage), but in >addition its own value-creating power. The formative labors are >therefore latent as far as society is concerned, and do not manifest >themselves until the skilled labor power begins to work. Its >expenditure consequently signifies the expenditure of all the >different unskilled labors which are simultaneously condensed >therein. >Unskilled labor, if applied to the production of a qualified or >skilled labor power, creates on the one hand the value of this labor >power, which reappears in the wage of the qualified' labor power; >but on the other hand by the concrete method of its application it >creates a new use value, which consists in this, that there is now >available a labor power which can create value with all those >potentialities possessed by the unskilled labors utilized in its >formation. Inasmuch as unskilled labor is used in the formation of >skilled labor, it thus creates on the one hand new value and >transmits on the other to its product its use value-to be the source >of new value. Regarded from the standpoint of society, unskilled >labor is latent as long as it is utilized for the formation of >skilled labor power. Its working for society does not begin until >the skilled labor power it has helped to produce becomes active. >Thus in this single act of the expenditure of skilled labor a sum of >unskilled labors is expended, and in this way there is created a sum >of value and surplus value corresponding to the total value which >would have been created by the expenditure of all the unskilled >labors which were requisite to produce the skilled labor power and >its function, the skilled labor. From the standpoint of society, >therefore, and economically regarded, skilled labor appears as a >multiple of unskilled labor, however diverse skilled and unskilled >labor may appear from some other outlook, physiological, technical, >or aesthetic. In what it has to give for the product of skilled >labor, society consequently pays an equivalent for the value which >the unskilled labors would have created had they been directly >consumed by society. The more unskilled labor that skilled labor >embodies, the more does the latter create higher value, for in >effect we have numerous unskilled labors simultaneously employed >upon the formation of the same product. In reality, therefore, >skilled labor is unskilled labor multiplied. An example may make the >matter clearer. A man owns ten storage batteries wherewith he can >drive ten different machines. For the manufacture of a new product >he requires another machine for which a far greater motive power is >requisite. He now employs the ten batteries to charge a single >accumulator, which is capable of driving the new machine. The powers >of the individual batteries thereupon manifest themselves as a >unified force in the new battery, a unified force which is the >tenfold multiple of the simple average force. >A skilled labor may contain, not unskilled labors alone, but in >addition skilled labors of a different kind, and these in their turn >are reducible to unskilled labor. The greater the extent to which >other skilled labors are incorporated in a skilled labor, the >briefer will be its formative process. This is the passage referred to above: >Marx looks upon the theory of value, not as the means for >ascertaining prices, but as the means for discovering the laws of >motion of capitalist society. Experience teaches us that the >absolute height of prices is the starting point of this movement, >but, for the rest, the absolute height of prices remains a matter of >secondary importance, and we are concerned merely with studying the >law of their variation. It is a matter of indifference whether any >specific kind of skilled labor is to be reckoned the fourfold >multiple or the sixfold multiple of unskilled labor. The important >point is that a doubling or trebling of productive power in the >sphere of skilled labor would lower the product of skilled labor >twofold or threefold vis-a-vis the product of unskilled labor (by >hypothesis unchanged). >The absolute height of prices is given us by experience; what >interests us is the law-abiding variation that these prices undergo. >Like all variations, this variation is brought about by a force; and >since we have to do with changes in social phenomena, these changes >must be effected by variations in the magnitude of a social force, >the social power of production. Since, however, the law of value discloses to us that in the final analysis this development of productive power controls variations in prices, it becomes possible for us to grasp the laws of these changes; and since all economic phenomena manifest themselves by changes in prices, it is further possible to attain to an understanding of economic phenomena in general.
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