productivity

rakesh bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sat Apr 27 14:23:26 MDT 1996


1. It is economical for capital to prolong the working day of a highly
exploited worker than to hire new workers: it saves on benefits and the
purchase of more tools and space.  Hence, under capital, the condition for
the astronomical total and per hour productivity of an exploited worker is
the unemployment of others.

For those who understand neoclassical economics, I am wondering whether
this may be the simple, yet monstrous,  truth which the efficiency wage
hypothesis is attempting to rationalize.

2. It is also possible that if we had the choice, we would choose more
interesting and challenging work processes even if this meant that total
output per unit of time would have to be partially sacrificed. This would
require that productivity not be posited as the external motor or god of
human history.

As much of the waste which Jim details could be solved by better (as Andre
Gorz puts it) techno fascist central regulation of the economy (e.g., tax
breaks to use  better, longer-lasting equipment instead of cheap,
inefficient machines), I am wondering whether Gorz may be correct to insist
that we must move beyond a  critical analysis of unproductivity based on
the 'economic costs' alone of, for example,  envirnomental damage (however
calculated) or   unused superior equipment or the wasted productivity of
the unemployed or crises during which production is brought to a standstill
and value relations reasserted.

Rather mustn't we ground our critique of capital  in the violations people
experience to their autonomy and humanity as capital ceaselessly attempts
to extract ever more surplus labor.  In order to ground his critique in
this experience Gorz develops a critique phenomology as well.

At any rate, perhaps someone will want to discuss Gorz's *Critique of
Economic Reason*; until then here is some other ways  capital wastes human
creativity ...

3.  Due to capitalist competition, especially in consumer goods industries
where firms survive through marginal profits on mass production, human
creativity is pressed into advertising and sales, wasteful (though
disturbingly creative) attempts to differentiate identical products; patent
battles and intellectual property rights controversies(check out the
billion + spent in the diaper wars).  In fact Fred Moseley has argued that
even more than the rise in the organic composition of capital, unproductive
expenditures have depressed the rate of profit in the US.

4. The capitalist system requires that human creativity must be pressed as
well into the management of the social contradictions which derive from an
exploitative mode of production which has escaped human control and needs:
social control of the underclass; labor bureaucracies; finks; cops; etc. If
I remember correctly, these costs were highlighted by the late David
Gordon.

5. There was a very important debate between Grossmann and Pannekoek as to
whether unemployment was  caused by increased productivity (a rising
technical composition, fewer workers required to work ever more raw
materials).  Grossmann argued that the problem was not increased
productivity but the increasing difficulties capital had of setting the
released and new workers to new tasks.

This difficulty for him stemmed from the falling rate of profit, from the
fact that though a great many human needs remain unmet, it was not
sufficiently profitable for capital to hire the newly released
workers--hence, the cruel juxtaposition of idle capital and idle workers
(about which by the way David Harvey writes brilliantly).

Grossmann therefore argued that productivity should not be 'blamed' for
unemployment; in fact for him increased productivity was the basis of all
human advance and argued that socialism would continue and accelerate that
advance.

He also argued that increased productivity itself did not cause
unemployment as the released workers could find employment in what we now
call the service industry until the rate of profit so fell that firms were
forced to rationalize their operations.  And while service workers are
oppressed (Carchedi) and to some extent necessary for the realization of
surplus value, they are not necessary for its production and thus not
exploited.   They are very vulnerable to a shake-out.

Rakesh







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