[OPE-L] Semmler, Orhangazi, US Manufacturing

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Jan 09 2008 - 19:04:30 EST

BTW Jerry thanks for referring me to Willi Semmler's 1984 book. I managed to
get hold of a copy at reasonable cost, from Germany (his books are
incredibly expensive).

It's good, but I do have criticisms of it. Among other things, (1) I am not
convinced that Pasinetti's linear production theory has anything much to do
with Marx's own theory, (2)  I think Marx's theory of production prices is
not well-understood in the literature - in particular most authors,
including Fred Moseley, make the easy mistake of thinking that Marx's
concept of production prices is basically the same as Smith and Ricardo's
"natural prices", in part because Marx literally refers to these "natural
prices" in his text and then says what they really mean is production prices
(3) several different concepts of equilibrium ought to be distinguished. I
hope to prove this in my paper on the law of value, if I get time to finish

It would be great to study with Willi Semmler, I mean he really understands
this stuff, but basically I don't have the money for it, and anyway I am not
a qualified economist, I study these things only if I am able in my leisure
time. But I can read his books, and that's a help.

As regards Ozgur Orhangazi's paper on financialization, I have a few
empirical/quantitative things to say about it, but I have not finished
writing that up yet, I really have to finish a few other things first. As I
said, in my opinion, financialization means essentially that a greater
portion of surplus-value is realised in the form of net interest & net rent,
rather than straightforward profit from production. I can show you more
exactly what this means in a while, with some calculations which Bob
Pollin's people typically don't do.

On another note, if you compare historically the number of goods-producing
workers and the value of output of goods, as I did, you obviously have to
bear in mind that organisational changes occur in the division of labour
which are not reflected by the classifications. I can explain this as

If services which were originally provided in-house by manufacturing plants
are outsourced, and become a separate business servicing manufacturing, this
will affect the number of workers employed by manufacturing, it will affect
the intermediate consumption and net output of manufacturing, and also the
magnitude of services.

The statistical system often does not cope very well with the fact that at
one production site, numerous different companies employing labour, plus
self-employed and subcontracted labour could be working together. There is a
difference between ""persons engaged by an establishment at a specific
location" and "persons employed by a discrete business entity". And thus, in
part the "decline of US manufacturing" is simply a statistical result of the
fact that there are in reality "many more services servicing manufacturing",
rather than manufacturing containing these services within itself as was the
case before.

The general business model in the neoliberal era (which is mimicked by
government bureaucrats, and reflected socially in society as a whole) is
that you have a core layer of rich managers and rich technocrats with
permanent positions, then a layer of skilled employees with renewable or
semi-permanent contracts on average pay, then a layer of poor semi-skilled
or unskilled employees with annual contracts, and then a layer of casual
employees with very short-term contracts.

In addition, the organisation episodically hires the services of external
advisors, consultants and technical specialists for specific projects which
they cannot do themselves. The general dynamic of the model is, that you get
much more labour mobility within and between firms, that people constantly
try to lever up the payment for their skills, and that no particular loyalty
to the firm exists anymore, except among those who are paid very well by it.
In this sense, restructuring and reorganisation becomes permanent, and the
tendency is for workers to have to do any function the management wants, as
and where needed, or be fired.

Management then consists in having control of an account and the mandate to
hire particular people to do particular projects, and shift them around the
place. The press is full about the extraordinary pay of CEOs etc. but this
is only the most extreme expression of a general trend. If the CEO doesn't
get his money, then he's off to another job or another employer, but the
same thing happens at lower levels as well, at least among skilled people
who have some "leverage".

Point is, the statistical system often does not cope very well with this,
because it was created with the assumption that free workers work enduringly
in one place, that they are all employed in that place by the same employer,
and that they aren't leased out, subcontracted or de facto indentured
between different employers and different places. If you get high labour
mobility and a lot of discontinuity in this sense, then sample surveys
become a bit suspect, because they are extrapolated on the basis of previous
frames and surveys which may be quickly out of date. And what a specific
business entity really consists of, may be more difficult to establish,
because the contractual relations involved are much more complex and
changeable. Even within a year, occupational designations may change, and so


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