[OPE-L:4732] RE: use-value of money

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

A reply to Mike Williams' ope-l 4721:

Mike: "what they wrote down on their clip-boards would surely be entries
'sharpening one pin-point: 7.2 seconds'. This surely does *not* abstract
from concrete/specific labour?"

Yes it does, because the particular operation is abstracted from (i.e.,
considered in abstraction from) the customary labor process as a *concrete
whole*. The concrete is a complex of many determinations, right? In
time-motion study, they get abstracted into their simplest elements. It is
not pinmaking-labor that is being measured.

Moreover, the measurement of the individual's labor is only one step in a
bigger process. The time-motion study people are not ultimately interested
in how much time Joe or Mary actually took to sharpen the pin, but in how much
time is *needed* to sharpen a pin. But "needed" in what sense? Maybe Joe
needs only 7.2 seconds, but Mary needs 7.6 seconds. No, "needed" does not
mean how much time this specific individual needs, but how much time is
"needed" in the abstract.

It is also important to recognize that they aren't just measuring time, but
*labor-time*, motion together with time. The time-motion study people write
down things like "pin taken from box with left hand, transferred to right
hand. Left hand then idle as right hand did grinding." By studying not just
time but motion, they abstract the socially necessary labor-time needed to
perform an operation from the actual amount of labor-time the individual
worker had expended. The time-motion specialist now studies the figures, and
determines that the socially necessary labor-time is not 7.2 seconds per
pinpoint, but 7.2 seconds per 2 pinpoints. At first this is a mental
abstraction, arrived at by analysis. Then it becomes a real abstraction.
They throw half of the workers out on the street, and stick the "lucky" half
with two boxes and two grindstones, on their left as well as their right hand
sides, and make them do twice as much work as before. Even the poor
capitalist has no control over this. If, out of the kindness of his/her
heart, s/he lets the workers go on working as before, s/he gets driven out of
business when the pin prices start to fall, and the workers get thrown out on
the street anyway. Those that remain at work have to do twice as much work
as before -- or fight back, win concessions, and ultimately get rid of this
system. This is how the market and competition enforce the standard of
socially necessary labor-time, even though the standard itself is determined
at the point of production.

Andrew Kliman (AX)