[OPE-L:5395] RE: Luxury goods and profit rate

Ajit Sinha (ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au)
Sun, 31 Aug 1997 23:01:11 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

At 06:46 31/08/97 -0700, Duncan Foley wrote:
>A comment on Ajit's OPE-L:5367:
>Ajit wrote:
>>Now, on exploitation: if you take the total output as given, then in a two
>>class society it has to be shared by the two classes only (as long as we
>>assume that whatever is produced is used and not wasted). This you cannot
>>deny. Now, I say that, in this case, the rate of exploitation should be
>>determined by the ratio of labor time it takes to produce what capitalists
>>appropriate (both as private consumption and constant capital goods) and
>>what workers appropriate (consume) of the total net output. I said in this
>>case because you are suggesting a case where total output is given. My
>>general position is that given the real wages, the rate of exploitation is
>>determined in the struggle over the length of the working day (and this I
>>think was Marx's position as well). Given real wages and the technology in
>>use determines the necessary labor-time. The difference between the length
>>of the working day and the necessary labor-time determines the surplus
>>value. It doesn't matter what commodities workers are forced to produce
>>during this aggregate surplus labor-time. So this is no longer an ex-post
>>determination. And it is an objective measure in the sense that it can be
>>determined, in principle, by observation. I, up till now, have not heard
>>why the monetary measure of exploitation should be considered a superior
>>measure of exploitation over this objective structural relation of the
>Duncan comments:
>I'm curious as to exactly how one can measure these labor times "in
>principle, by observation". What method would you use to calculate the rate
>of exploitation for a real economy, say the UK in 1997?

Well, in principle, one can always observe the total number of direct labor
spent in an economy, say UK in 1997. Of couse, one will have to convert the
skilled labors into unskilled labor hours. Let's assume that we agree on
conversion factors. We could also estimate the total amounts of various
goods and services consumed by the working class as a whole. We can
definitely observe the technology with which these goods and services and
their raw materials are produced. Given these observed technologies, we can
work out the total amount of direct and indirect labor-time spent in
producing all the wage goods and services consumed by the working class.
Then just subtract this from the total direct labor-time data, and we have
the surplus value. So the only theoretical problem with it would be the
conversion of skilled to unskilled labor. This could be solved by taking
wage differentials as a rule of thum for conversion factor or otherwise use
Rowthorn's way of reducing skilled to unskilled labor, which would be
theoretically sounder but in practice a nightmare. I'm sure in practice to
get reliable data on all these aspects of the economy would be quite hard.
That's why I said in 'principle'. For the real world situation, it is
adviseable for me to deffer the matter to Paul Cockshot ;)

By the way, my paper just bounced off ope-l. Too big for ope-l to accept.
Now, I'm going to try to send it only to Duncan. Cheers, ajit sinha
>Duncan K. Foley
>Department of Economics
>Barnard College
>New York, NY 10027
>fax: (212)-854-8947
>e-mail: dkf2@columbia.edu