[OPE-L:1225] Vol. I, restructuring, and unproductive labor

Tony Smith (tonys@iastate.edu)
Mon, 26 Feb 1996 09:00:09 -0800

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In his most recent post Gil connected the discussion of labor relations
in Volume I with Fred's thesis that the rate of profit has fallen as a
result of the expansion of unproductive labor. Gil suggested that the
contemporary restructuring of labor relations can be seen as a response
to this expansion (at least in part). I agree, and would like to add to
the points he made the following:

* The rise of the "multiskilled" and "empowered" worker is
a way of eliminating departments devoted to non-value adding
tasks. These tasks are now performed by the line worker,
filling up the "pores" that existed previously in the labor

* The rise of the "team concept" allows a good deal of
supervisory labor to be eliminated, as peer pressure under
conditions of understaffing has proven effective at intensifing
the pace of work.

* Executive Information Systems, Decision Support Systems, and
other forms of information technology allow considerable numbers
of middle managers to be eliminated; middle mangement was a
type of information-collecting and -processing "machine"
that is now obsolete to a considerable extent.

All of this should be seen as part of a coherent strategy by
units of capital to restore profitability through reducing unproductive
labor. This strategy is pursued simultaneously with three others:
restoring profitability through lowering direct labor costs, restoring
profitability through decreasing turnover time (just in time production,
etc.), and restoring profitability through winning surplus profits as a
result of a faster rate of product innovation.

Tony Smith