[OPE-L:2728] Re: More on abstract labour

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Fri, 26 Jul 1996 12:53:01 -0700 (PDT)

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On Fri, 26 Jul 1996, andrew kliman wrote:

> Allin responded: "This would seem to reduce the concept of the "direct
> socialization of
> labour" to a case of "I'm OK, you're OK"."
> Andrew: Huh?

My meaning was this: You seemed to be suggesting that under socialism
everybody's work would be taken as equal regardless of how much
effort people choose to put in, or how efficiently they work, which does not
seem to me right.

> Andrew: First, it is impossible to measure individual productivity directly,
> in *physical* terms instead of value terms, because of the collective nature
> of much work, because of the delay between input and output, and because what
> "output" is is often multifacted and/or ambiguous. So although there can be
> non-"market" mechanisms for ensuring "reasonable" pumping out of surplus-labor
> from the individual worker, such as piece-rates, there can be no non-value
> mechanism.

The reasons you give in your first sentence are just as much obstacles to
assessing individual productivities in value terms as in physical
terms. There are some real problems here, but they are not
insurmountable. Capitalist firms have developed means of assessing
individual workers even when they are not individually producing
concrete widgets for sale today; the challenge for socialists is to
devise effective democratic alternative means.

> Second, Marx's view was quite clear, esp. in the CGP, that when society is
> just emerging from capitalism, a worker would be compensated proportionately
> to the amount of time---individual labor---s/he works. This implies equal
> compensation for unequal productivity.

Up to a point, but one need not assume that "society" will be
indifferent to differing individual productivities. The reaction,
though, might be developing cooperative means of helping the
less productive workers to improve, rather than simply paying out
labour tokens at differential rates.

> Allin avoids the question of the

I don't think I "avoided" it, I just didn't discuss it in that
posting. But I think that what you say on the topic makes sense.