Re: [OPE-L] Complex and simple labour

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 13:20:44 EDT

> This is not the only place where Marx says that certain economic
> magnitudes are not governed by economic laws but depend on other
> circumstances, for instance, the force of the contending parties.  Two
> other famous examples for this are, of course, the length of the
> workday and the interest rate.

Hi Hans, Anders, and others:

The interesting question here might be how the topic is presented
at a level of abstraction associated with capital-in-general versus
a more concrete level of abstraction in which skilled workers can
be able to organize collectively for higher wages.

Labor market segmentation is a key part of the process which
explains the wages for skilled workers in the following sense:
the  existence of  an industrial reserve army  composed of
unskilled workers tends to depress the wages for that group;
however, the demand for skilled labour power is relatively
independent from that condition.  That is, the demand for skilled
labour power  can increase even when the demand for unskilled
labour power is decreasing.  If there is excess demand, then, for
skilled workers of a certain type, then capitalists may be in a
situation where they are forced to compete against each other to
obtain that labour power and that obviously bids up their wages. One
could argue that this is a short-term situation in the sense that if
the demand for unskilled labour power is very high then that
will over time encourage others to obtain the training required to
perform that skill and as more people then enter the pool of
skilled workers that undermines the condition of excess demand
for labour power and could perhaps lead to an excess supply of
skilled labour power in particular occupations. In practice,  there may
be various obstacles to this mobility of labour power.

There are other complications as well: e.g.  technological changes
can not only result in new commodities being produced, they can also
cause entire groups of commodities to become obsolete and with that
you can also have the obsolescence of skills.  Thus, the transition from
transportation by horse to automobile involved the obsolescence of
certain skills (e.g. blacksmiths who made horse shoes) and the creation
of  new skills or the same skills in additional quantities (e.g.

I think that -- by far -- the most interesting issues connected to skilled
labour arise at more concrete levels of abstraction, which is the main
reason that debates over the "reduction problem" have tended  to be
rather stale and dull.

In solidarity, Jerry

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