Re: [OPE-L] Intensities of Labour

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Thu May 11 2006 - 14:06:31 EDT

At 09:56 11/05/2006, you wrote:
> > I note that jerry seems to be distinguishing between increasing
> > intensity of labour and absolute surplus value. But, doesn't the more
> > intense workday extract more labour (and exhaust the worker) just
> > like the longer workday-- except in a given time period?
>Hi Mike L,
>Yes, but they _should_ be distinguished since increasing surplus
>value by increasing the intensity of labor and increasing surplus
>value by increasing the length of the working day (or the work week)
>are different _forms_ through which surplus value can be increased.

I would agree--- with one amendment: 'forms_through which absolute
surplus value can be increased'

>They also _should_ be differentiated for the following reason:
>an increase in the intensity of labor increases output/worker/period of
>time whereas an increase in absolute surplus value does not.

If you indicate the period as a workday without specifying its
length, the result is the same when you increase the workday or
increase its intensity. In both cases, output per worker increases;
and, in both cases, the worker gets tired. This is to be
distinguished from pure increases in productivity, where output per
worker rises but there is no additional expenditure of units of
labour. In fact, an important challenge is to separate increases in
productivity from speedup--- which is why accident rates seem
interesting as a proxy.

> > If the
> > workday were lengthened (eg., by 10%) and intensity fell by 20%
> > (ie., big pores open up) on the whole, wouldn't that reduce absolute
> > surplus value?

by your limited definition

> >          As for measurement (a very important question), I seem to
> > remember (way back-- 80s?) the use of accidents as a proxy (which
> > made a lot of sense to me). Has anyone explored this since?
>Accidents, statistically, seem to be a decent proxy for an extension
>of the working day.  Less so, I think, for increases in labor intensity.
>For example, on an auto assembly line where attempts to speed-up are
>ongoing and where the intensity of labor is very high, accidents during
>'overtime' hours are greater than during all regular working hours
>combined.  I think the same thing has been said, statistically, about
>all U.S. manufacturing.

useful point but what's the alternative measurement of intensity?
bladder problems?
>In solidarity, Jerry

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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