[OPE-L:4636] Skilled labor, obselescence and value

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 1 Apr 1997 18:25:02 -0800 (PST)

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Michael P wrote in [OPE-L:4620]:

> Suppose that I am trained to have a skill that his specific to
> the production of slide rules. For a number of years, my training is
> validated by the realization of value by the slide rule makers.
> Suddenly, with electronic calculators, my training is less valuable.

I think this is an excellent point, Michael. The training for skilled
laborers takes place under the assumption that there will be a demand for
these workers, i.e. that the concrete skilled learned will have a
*use-value* for capital. Yet, there can be no way of knowing with
certainty at the beginning of the training period that the skill learned
will not become obsolescent due to technical change, especially via the
development of new product technologies. In the case of the time spent
learning how to operate slide rules, I would say that the [potential]
value is not "actualized" since events show that the potential use-value
is not shown to have *actual* use-value. Of course, it could be that the
skilled laborer could work a certain amount of years at her/his trade
before there is a *moral depreciation of skills*. Another example might be
a skilled laborer who underwent a training period to learn how to shoe
horses. What happened to the value of that training after the diffusion of
the automobile? I would say that this value is *wasted* (or, perhaps more
precisely, never becomes _fully_ value) because the use-value of the skill
has evaporated into nothingless. Goodbye, value.

Where does the value go? Is there _any_ logical reason to assume that the
value spent on training will be redistributed to either individual
capitalists and/or among workers with other [newer?] skills _exactly_ such
that there will not be a diminution of aggregate value? I think not.

In solidarity, Jerry