Flexible Employment - I

Zeynep Tufekcioglu zeynept at turk.net
Sat Aug 17 13:29:47 MDT 1996

>This point has been settled by Hugh. He's really very good at providing quotes.

Rahul, you must have read my later post. I conceded that Marx may have been
wrong. But, the recent analysis posted by Rakesh also includes
intensification as a form of absolute value, and I've just read another
article (which I'll post to the list) that also takes that view. I had
always thought that Marx had presumed "a given social intensity" of labor,
but interpreted increases in that intensity as the equivelant of prolonging
the workday. If he didn't, it should be interpreted that way.

>This is all true, but it doesn't address the point of dichotomizing a
>continuum. Consider a situation where length of working day and
>productivity of labor are held constant, and only intensity of labor is
>tweaked. Then, if you look at very low-intensity labor, you find that the
>effects of labor technologies look more like increasing relative
>surplus-values, while at very high intensity, further increases look more
>like absolute surplus-value increases.

I must ask you to elucidate that. In what sense do they look similar?

A few objections, increasing the intensity of labor, increases the
productivity of the labor, in the sense more is produced by the same laborer
for the same wage. (The increase is limited by the fact that the intensity
also wears down the worker more). The difference between increasing
productivity by new technologies and by just labour intensification is
significant in the fact that the former means the worker is getting less a
share of the products of his/her labour, whereas the latter means the worker
is also consuming his life-energy in a disporportionate manner. Intense
labour, a 10+ hour workday, etc. degrade the quality of life of a worker to
a point behind the pre-intense period. There is quite a difference in those
two positions.

A 10-12 hour workday of 5-6 days a week (or an 8 hours workday of consuming
rates) reduces human beings to an animal-like existence. An 8 hour workday
at socially accepted and possibly more human intensities allows for some
development of the personality, of enjoyment of life. Yes, the worker is
still cheated out of the possibility of more, but in the first case a life
is wasted almost completely. That is a dichotomy.

The continuum (or lumping together both forms) is possible when you take the
monetary value of the surplus value, the profit into consideration. All
marks of how that money came to be and its components are erased. I find it
justified and necessary to highlight the dichotomy, or the two different
components of the surplus value, and their ratios in the total.

>I confess that, being the orthodox anti-humanist Marxist that I am, I was
>at that time thinking of the question solely as regards the potential for
>increasing production, not considering the effect on workers.

Rahul, we can argue perfectly fine without obscure references as that, by
which you are mocking a position no one has accussed each other of taking.
Or less politely, resist the cheap-shots. I think I, along with others, are
already pretty convinced of your ability in that regard, no further evidence

>though, there is a continuum here. When labor is low-intensity due to a
>lack of efficiency, then intensity can be increased with minimal effect on
>the worker, while intensification of already-efficient labor is extremely
>oppressive, physically and mentally.

Wrong. Both are very oppresive. Why should it have a minimal effect on the
worker, when the worker is called upon to work at ever increased speeds
using inefficient technologies. Most textile factories in Turkey work
exactly like that. Kids who work at these look like ghosts by the time they
are in their 20s. Especially in smaller factories/workshops, where the low
levels of efficiency is made up for by overworking the worker, the effect is
incredibly dehumanising.

>>>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.
>>You are wrong. The car, the internal combustion engine, the steam engine
>>before have all increased productivity, and revolutionised production to a
>>level greater than anything we have seen since the war.
>Actually, you are wrong. In fact, the examples you give above have had an
>absolutely trivial effect on industrial productivity when compared with the
>harnessing of electricity and the development of techniques of industrial
>chemistry, to name two.

Rahul, off-list and further on in the post, told me that I was confusing
productivity of labor with the profitability of capital. True, in this
point. I should have made it explicit. Productivity of labour (the ability
to produce more use-values), is different than profitability of capital (the
ratios expressed in exchange-values).

For the benefit of less-initiated in the list who may be following this
thread. The exchange-value of a product falls when it is produced using less
labor. Hence, a washing machine today embodies less value than 20 years ago,
due to the increase in the productivity, which also means they are in more
abundance. What is falling is the profit (measured in exchange-value), not
the material pile of products that can be produced.

>>Simple. You have 10% profit rate, say, but have 100 units of capital. When
>>you have accumulated 100,000 units, you can have a 1% profit rate, and 1000
>>units of profit. The general, overall trend of the productivity of capital
>>(which means nothing else besides profit generation, self-valorising since
>>English lacks a better word for it) is downward with small fluctuations on
>>the overall trend, depending on what point of the cycle capitalism is in.
>Puh-leeze! Why do so many Marxists constantly feel called upon to open a
>Kindergarten of Marxist Theory whenever they disagree with someone? I can
>count to 20 without taking off my shoes, and on a good day I can even
>understand simple arithmetic. This stuff is simple by comparison.

I believe you, Rahul. What's the point?

>Yes, the rate of profit can go down while the mass of profits goes up, a
>fact I imagine most small children are familiar with. What I was talking
>about, though, was not the profit-making potential of capital, but the
>productivity of labor. Whether you measure it in profit per employee or
>use-value produced per employee, it's certainly skyrocketed since the end
>of the war. So has the capitalization per employee, which is why the rate
>of profit could have gone down -- anyone have any good figures on whether
>it really has?

(A call for help: Looking for especially Anwar Shaikh articles about the
subject of the "empirical argument for the fall of the rate of profit.
Shaikh's articles are very good in terms of empirical evidence and explanation).

I'll post some numbers. (I'm trying to locate some other articles from which
I'll also post, later). Growth rates are among the best overall indicators).

Growth rates: (OECD Data)
1960-68  4.4  10.4      4.1       5.4     3.1     5.1
1968-73  3.2   8.4      4.9       5.9     3.2     4.7
1973-79  2.4   3.6      2.3       3.1     1.5     2.6
1979-85  2.5   4.0      1.3       1.1     1.2     2.2

(IMF Data)
1985     2.2   4.3       2.1               3.5
1986     2.0   2.1       2.2               3.9
1987     2.2   3.6       1.3               4.5
1988     3.0   5.8       3.2               4.2
1989     1.6   4.3       2.4               1.9
1990    -0.2   4.5       3.1               0.2
1991    -2.2   3.7       0.1              -2.5
1992     1.1   1.0       1.2              -0.9

1985-92  1.2   3.7       1.9               1.8

Rate of Profit in the Private Sector
(Source: Mortensen, "Profibality, Relative Factor Prices and Capital/Labor
Substitution in the Community, the U.S. and Japan 1960-83)

1960   16.2     24.3      21.7       13.3   13.3
1973   14.5     17.2      22.9       11.0   13.6
1982   10.9     14.5      19.3       10.1    9.7

I am trying to relocate other recent articles I had read, help welcome. The
numbers we are especially interested in:

Capital Stock per employee
Capital Utilisation Ratios

If possible detailed on the level of Developed / Undeveloped countries.

-to be continued, this post is long enough-


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