[OPE-L:1287] Re: international value

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Sun, 3 Mar 1996 14:19:22 -0800

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G Levy
(1) Shouldn't the international market establish a single SNLT for a
particular branch of production? While wages and productivity would vary
between producers in Paris and Lisbon, how would that impact SNLT?

To the extent that the socially necessary labour time is defined to
be the average labour time over all producers, then it exists
abstractly anyway. The question is to what extent market competition
will cause convergence on this socially neccessary time by individual
producers, or, on the contrary, can wide divergences from the
socially necessary time be stable under competition.

The rate of value production per-capita in Lisbon is under half
that in Paris, if recent EU figures are to be believed. This reflects
their comparative mean levels of productivity. Since wages in
Lisbon are lower than in Paris, it is however, cost effective for
a capitalist producer to use more labour intensive techniques
in Lisbon, and still be able to compete with a more efficient
producer in Paris. Thus within individual branches of production,
there is no very strong pressure to ensure that the same amount
of labour is used in high and low wage areas. This is one of the
fundamental limitations of capitalism, the law of value can only
assert itself via the intermediary of wages, which are a highly
variable measure of labour.

G. Levy
(2) As for the last sentence, aren't you assuming that wage determination
depends on firm profitability? This leaves little or no room for the
ability of workers to raise the customary wage within a particular region
through collective action.

I think it is certainly possible for workers within a particular
trade to raise their wages through collective action. It is also
between cities within different jurisdictions with different trades
union laws for differences in collective strength to be translated
to differences in the local rate of exploitation, But these as measured
by the share of wages in turnover etc, are small relative to the
differences between regional wage rates within the EU. Thus although
differences in union organisation etc may have an effect, I reckon
that this is small relative to the effect of differences in productivity.