Re: [OPE-L] Intensities of Labour

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu May 11 2006 - 23:33:15 EDT

> I am inclined to view the section on intensity of labour as
> reflecting the interpenetration of absolute and relative S-- ie.,
> absolute S within the discussion of relative. For me the essence of
> the question is that in absolute s, coercion plays the role of
> compelling additional expenditure of labour by the worker; in
> relative, introduction of a superior method of production permits
> greater productivity with no greater exertion by workers. (Anything
> not logical about this distinction?)

Hi Mike L,

There is _still_ coercion since productivity-increasing technological
change is _imposed_ on workers by capital.  When the jobs of
workers are replaced by robots, you don't think that they are
coerced?  Coercion in the labor process is the forcible imposition
of the will of capital on wage-laborers.  It is easier to see the
coercion, perhaps, when and where capital succeeds in
imposing increases in the intensity of labor and an increase
in absolute surplus value on labor, but an increase in relative
surplus value through technological change is definitely coercive.

The coercive nature of relative surplus value increases brought
about by technological change can also be seen in the way that
capital uses technological change as a lever, in practice, to
increase the intensity of labor.  In other words, technological
change -- to the extent that it can imperil jobs -- often increases
capital's bargaining power vis-a-vis workers and thereby makes
it easier for them to impose increased labor intensity on workers.
What's key here, in part, is whether the composition of capital
remains the same or is growing  and whether the industrial reserve
army is growing or not.

Ultimately, the coercion associated with _all_ forms of raising
surplus value remains the same:  capital's message to workers
is to do what we tell you or else ... you will be 'freed' from
employment.  It is a coercion imposed on workers by their
social need to acquire money in order to buy the commodities
that they need for survival.  In that sense, it's the same shit.

> ps. I refuse to treat an increase in intensity of work as an increase
> in productivity--- that's capital's accounting!

We're talking about forms of surplus value, aren't we? (I thought
you already agreed to that.)   Increases in surplus value -- in
whatever form -- are beneficial from a capitalist accounting
perspective.  It's true that increases in productivity associated
with technological change increase the _potential_ for gains by
workers,  but it does not necessarily follow that they do gain.
Nor does it follow that from labor's perspective, this form of
increased production of relative surplus value should be
supported.  Indeed, on balance, they may (in some circumstances)
lose more through this form of increased extraction of surplus

In solidarity, Jerry

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