[OPE-L:5440] Re: stop watches

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 6 Sep 1997 05:58:34 -0700 (PDT)

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Francisco (Paolo C) wrote in [OPE-L:5380]:

> As your intervention indicates, the issue of labor intensity belongs to
> the analysis of competition. As such it would belong to a more concrete
> level of analysis than the notion of abstract labor. Less productive
> capitals may try to compenste their backwardness by means, among other
> things, of economies of intensity.

Yes, I agree. However, I think it is also important to note that even for
more productive capitals increasing the intensity of work (and resisting
workers' attempts to reduce the intensity of labor) remain an essential
part of corporate strategy.

> Does Botwinick say anything regarding this?

I'm not sure.

> It seems to me that different degrees of intensity with the same
> wage boil down to different wages.

I don't see this point. If there are differing intensities of labor among
workers, then this translates into differing amounts of profit/worker for
capitalist firms. The actual wages would remain the same, ceteris
paribus, with these changes in the intensity of labor even though
capitalist profitability would increase alongside increases in the
intensity of labor and vice versa.

> It is therefore a form of absolute surplus value.

With an increase or decrease in the intensity of work the length of the
working day and workweek stays the same. What changes is the
*productivity* of workers during a *given* amount of time. In that sense
-- to the extent that increasing the intensity of work increases the
productivity of labor -- I think it should be better thought of as a form
of relative rather than absolute surplus value (even though it is not the
primary form of increasing relative s and, even though, there are peculiar
natural and social limits to the degree to which the intensity of work
can be increased).

> It may be empirically difficult to reduce
> different intensities to different amounts of value generated. Nonetheless
> this difficulty should not lead us into thinking that abstract labor is
> never totally abstract. This is the clearest I can get at the moment and I
> reckon it is not saying much for its clearness.

Well, maybe we can both try to be a little clearer. The point that I was
trying to make in a previous post is that the category of abstract labor
needs to be placed within a context of not only the most abstract theory
but also developed in such a way that its relation to the heterogeneity of
labor and workers' subjectivity is made explicit. If others don't
understand the need for this, then I would address the same questions as
I asked previously: if abstract labor is the sole source of surplus
value, then *who are these abstract laborers* (i.e. name some)? If they
aren't in fact *real* people who are abstract laborers then (... unless we
extend the theory to include differences among workers and subjectivity
..) aren't we forced to reduce surplus value itself to a heuristic
and/or mythical story?

In solidarity, Jerry