[OPE-L:3391] Re: Marxian Emprical Research / Skilled labor & surplus value

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 14:41:35 -0700 (PDT)

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On Sat, 12 Oct 1996, Steve Keen wrote:

> The example you give should have some more realistic numbers attached to
> it. Sweezy (as a counter example!) gave the following instance in
> support of the "skilled labor produces a higher value of output because
> it costs more value to produce it" argument. The skilled laborer
> "expends in production not only his own labor ... but also indirectly
> that part of the labor of his teachers.... If the productive life of a
> worker is, say, 100,000 hours, and if into his training went the
> equivalent of 50,000 hours of simple labor (including his own efforts in
> the training period), then each hour of his labor will count as one and
> a half hours of simple labor." (Sweezy 1942, p. 43)7

I approve of using realistic numbers. Paul C and I tried to
work out some of this with a reasonable degree of realism in
our book, "Towards a New Socialism". Looking back at those
calculations, I'd agree that 1.5:1 is probably about the
highest plausible ratio of (direct-plus-indirect-labour in
the case of skilled labour):(just direct labour in the case
of unskilled). That's what we got when figuring a four-year
degree course, with a short depreciation horizon of 10 years
for the skill imparted.

> This is the bind which Marx's use-value/exchange-value analysis, as
> applied by Hilferding, lets a Marxian analysis of skilled labor escape.

I'm interested in getting straight on this: What exactly is
the "bind" supposed to be here? We observe, of course,
wage/salary differentials in favour of skilled/educated
employees that are much higher than 1.5:1. If we can take
it that the wage or salary is reasonably well related to the
"marginal value product" of the employees (in neoclassical
parlance), that says that the ability of the skilled workers
to garner exchange-value for their employers, per hour
worked, is also well in excess of 1.5:1 in comparison with
simple labour. But it still seems to me that this is a
mostly a matter of _transfer of value_, associated with
rent. That may not be exactly correct, and more thinking on
this is needed -- but I can't help feeling that talk of
training's have the "use value" of increasing the
"value-creating power" of the trained labour (in some manner
over and above the Sweezy approach), is a purely verbal
solution to the problem.

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University