[OPE-L:3491] Re: More on skilled labour

Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Sun, 20 Oct 1996 19:35:59 -0700 (PDT)

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On Allin's reply, I think we're starting the "dance in circles" which often
happens when you come at an issue from different perspectives. I'll try to
put a clarifying position.

Take the example of typing training again, and start with the labor-time
inputs of both trainer and trainee. Assume that training adds to
productivity by embodying the labor-time equivalent of the time spent in
training in the value output of the skilled worker. Don't assume any skilled
to unskilled productivity level for the trainer--leave this to an iterative

Also start with the presumption that, as you've argued, touch typing
completely dominates single finger typing, so that the component of the
value of labor-power due to typing input is based upon touch typists, not
single fingers. Also presume that typing is a basic--it isn't of course, but
the example is a good one where the increase in productivity can be measured

Then see whether you can reach the conclusion we agree with, the
touch-typing training could double the productivity of a single finger
typist. My assertion is that you can't: the best you'll do is a tiny
increase in productivity--much smaller than we know to be the truth. This
was Bohm-Bawerk's case, and this is the one that Hilferding countered, on
the basis that training transmits both the exchange-value of training (which
is what the above measures) and its use-value (which is independent of its
exchange-value). This is why training can be a source of additional surplus
value--over and above the impact of cheapening labor-power, which I'm
specifically excluding in the above.

I gave my version of the above in an earlier post, for a 3 year
apprenticeship, and got a ratio (recursively derived, hence omitting the
need to assume a ratio for the skilled labor input of the trainer) of 1.2




IMO, the things that have to be
>"de-coupled" are (a) the physical productivity increase due
>to training, and (b) the labour-time input to the production
>of skill -- but then, as I tried to show with the typing
>example, there's really no temptation to couple these in the
>first place. That is, there's no paradox in the idea that a
>training process that doubles a worker's physical
>productivity (output per hour of direct labour) might
>involve (say) a mere one percent increase in the total
>labour-time transmitted to the product (both directly and
>indirectly via the training) per clock hour. There _would_
>be a paradox if one "read" the doubling of physical
>productivity as a doubling of _value_ productivity; but
>Paul's argument, with which Steve says he agrees, implies
>that is the wrong way to think about things. (I.e., if the
>training were taken as doubling the workers' value
>productivity, it would appear to create a source of extra
>surplus value independently of the machanism Paul specified,
>namely a reduction in the value of labour power just as
>per 'ordinary' technical progress.)
Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney
PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
s.keen@uws.edu.au (046) 20-3254 Fax (046) 26-6683