- Capitalism and Alternatives -

OK, Gee, here's an (socially necessary) hour of my time

Posted by: Barry Stoller on October 28, 1999 at 12:19:55:

In Reply to: thats a better draft? - necessary labor time posted by Gee on October 28, 1999 at 00:52:04:

: This relies on the concept of of 'socially necessary time'. The theory of surplus value can be established only on the assumption that necessary working hours really exist. If there is no such concept as necessary working hours, and if it is only a fictitious concept, then surplus working hours cannot exist, either. Therefore, the concept of surplus value itself cannot be established.

Not so fast!

If there wasn't some measure of what labor requires (and you omit Marx’s many qualifications regarding the differences between occupations, regions, nations, etc.) to reproduce itself, there could be no standard wage. For each job---yes, there are regional variations AND occupational differences (think of education as an investment cost)---there IS a standard wage; Burger King is paying about the same as McDonald's. The cut off point of the wage is the point beneath which a worker (even a starving illegal immigrant living in a box) cannot accept. 'Globalization'---as you no doubt have heard---aims to get everyone as near it as possible.

: According to Capital necessary working hours are the hours in which the laborer offers the labor worthy of wages. Wages are the price of labor power...

No, wages are the price of labor. Labor-power is something different. That's why I get frustrated with you. It seems evident that you haven't read---or understood---Capital; correcting each mistake---and then explaining it accurately exhausts my patience. You, in turn, call that 'winning' the argument.

Labor-power is collective labor. No laborer owns this (and no laborer gets paid for it!); each laborer owns only his or her ability. It is the capitalist who harnesses collective labor-power, an example of a quantitative difference becoming a qualitative difference (remember hearing that one before?). This fundamental differential sets the foundation for surplus value to be taken from the exertions of labor (-power).

: The price of labor force...

Jesus, Gee, be consistent when you write. It's labor-power. Don't change the wording in the next sentence, it only makes reading your posts more effort than they should be...

:... as a commodity is determined by the labor quantity existing in the daily living materials (necessities of life) which are necessary for the reproduction of labor power. "Labor quantity of daily living materials" is defined as the working hours which are required for the production of daily necessity's of life. Therefore, necessary working hours are the working hours required for the production of daily necessities of life for the laborer.

: If that is true, the introduction of new machinery should be able to reduce wages.

It does---but not as mechanistically as you presume.

Marx looks at the capital process as a whole---not by individual cases (the argument against anecdotes).

As Braverman (Labor and Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press 1974) observed, each new machine 'decrease[s] the number of workers attached to it.' An automated telephone operator throws many operators out of work. Sure, someone gets to program the new device, but it's one person hired, a hundred people fired. Braverman must be correct in his assumption because it is illogical for capital to buy a machine that would cost more than workers per production---or service---unit.

Wages have been reduced even though the single programmer may earn much more than a telephone operator. The programmer will not earn more than the hundred operators. Why? The programmer must be cheaper than the entire system now utilized. Otherwise, Mr. or Ms. Capital is heading for bankruptcy (and---you'll like this part---he or she is too smart for that).

New machinery reduces wages. That's why it is invented: to increase productivity---and increased productivity is less workers (or call it worker hour) per commodity produced.

: Since new machines can produce much more inexpensive commodities of better quality, the hours required for the production of daily living materials, that is, necessary working hours are shortened.

That's right!

: Therefore wages also should be reduced.

Wrong! How can you be so wrong after coming so close to getting it right? Jesus, Gee---it's almost heartbreaking!

Again: Increased productivity is less workers (or call it worker hour) per commodity produced.

The worker's role---or 'cut'---in the production of each commodity is reduced. The (individual) worker may remain (perhaps enjoying a nice raise), but the phantoms of the ones fired represent less wages when you consider the workers as a group.

And Marx views economic phenomena collectively.

: However, wages are seldom reduced...

Here the point of the debate ends...

: "If I didn't have the time to explain Milton Friedmans' theories of economics to you, would that disqualify it? "

No, the poverty in Russia disqualifies it.

Now that I've held your hand for about an hour (instead of reading my new book!), I DO hope you are satisfied...

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