Flexible Employment Was: Re: West German sub-imperialism, Turkish factor

Rahul Mahajan rahul at peaches.ph.utexas.edu
Wed Aug 7 15:02:06 MDT 1996


>A few notes first. I think that the TQM (Total Quality Management) methods
>definitely are in increase in *absolute* surplus value, so not productive in
>one sense (i.e. not changing the framework of the crises. Just making up for
>loss by pushing workers to "flex", ie. do whatever is necessary to fit
>capitalist markets whims).

Somewhere in his great monument to scholasticism, Marx does very clearly
state that absolute surplus value relates only to increasing the length of
the working day, not either to intensification of labor or increase in
productivity. Of course, there's no particular reason to be bound by his
definition. The conception you're using, however, involves artificially
dichotomizing a continuum. Methods for intensifying labor like TQM or
Taylorism are technologies just as much as machines are. In the short run,
there's no particular reason to distinguish between them. In the long run,
of course, there is, because "human" technologies are sharply limited in
how much they can increase production, unlike scientific technologies.

>I think that whether suprlus value increase is done more in absolute terms
>or relative terms depends on which point of the cycle of crises capitalism
>is. Relative increase entails a new technology of revolutionary nature. I
>keep insisting, nothing of that sort has happened in the post-war era,
>including computers. Computers do not revolutionarize the method of
>production, they improve and reform, and they speed it up. (Increasing the
>turn-over time, a very important defense against crises since that means the
>mass level of profits can stay same).

This is clearly not true. The increases in productivity of labor since the
war are considerably greater than those from the beginning of time until
the war. Computers, in and of themselves, have only played a minor role,
but the development of electronics and the introduction of large-scale
automation, to cite two related examples, have revolutionized production.
Furthermore, the whole idea of modern technocratic capitalism is that
productivity increases by leaps and bounds even in the absence of explicit
revolution -- constant improvement is "business as usual." It works more
often than not.

>In Toyota and other multi-nationals, and some larger Turkish plantes you
>have QC. Mission statements, company policies, company philosophy, merit
>rewards etc. the works. Most workers I've spoken to say that it has meant
>intensification of their work. Also, rewards for "improvement suggestions"
>also work as "inform on one another". If you notice anybody not doing all
>they can, and inform on them, you get a reward.

Sounds almost like the system in the early years of the Soviet Union.

>Add on top of this the increase in part-time working, fall in unionisation,
>loss of "welfare" state benefits, etc. etc.
>I'll try to get back to this thread with more numbers. I think there are two
>subjects that communists had better understand if they hope to adjust the
>methods of the struggle to the 90s. One is neo-liberalism/flexible
>accumulation and its consequences. (The economic picture). The second is low
>intensity warfare (the military/political-ideological picture). I daresay
>they are closely related in reasons. Which brings me to your other post.

Neo-liberalism eradicates the middle ground with regard to the social
policy of the state. No more social democracy, no more vaguely leftist
bourgeois nationalist regimes in the third world. The shifting of war from
the international to the domestic arena is, much more slowly, eliminating
the middle ground with regard to attitudes of citizens toward the state. In
general, Marxists lick their chops over this kind of polarization. I'm not
so sure myself. Yes, the capitalists are digging their grave, and digging
it fast, but it's entirely possible they'll bury the rest of us in it


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