[OPE-L:196] RE: the book on wage labor

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Tue, 3 Oct 1995 17:41:54 -0700

[ show plain text ]

Mike P
How can you measure abstract labor.
Is your work worth 5.164 times as
much as a supposedly unskilled worker?
If we use wages as a way of
valuing abstract labor, we are resorting
to prices to calculate values, which
some might want to use to calculate prices .....

You are quite right that we can not use wages to measure
abstract labour, although for certain purposes they may be
a useful statistical surrogate where other data are lacking. If
we measure wages we are measuring the price of labour
power not the amount of abstract labour time necessary to
manufacture a use value.

To measure the latter, it has obviously to be done in natural
units of time, which as such, already abstracts from the
concrete form of the labour. As such its study starts with
Babbage in his Economy of Machinery, proceeds with
Taylor in the machine shop of the Midvale Steel Company
and his successors like Charles Bedaux, whose unit of
abstract labour the B was defined as ' A "B" is a fraction of
a minuit of work plus a fraction of a minuit of rest, always
aggregating to unity, but varying in proportion according to
the nature of the strain'.

There is nothing impossible in principle about such
measurement, indeed, the science of systematic
exploitation had depended on it for years. But within the
capitalist social order such computations are restricted to
the factory, the comparative statistics necessary for a social
calculus of labour time do not exist. But this is not to say
that they could never be produced under some future social