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Asked 26th Jun, 2018
Marxism: Does Exploitation through Increase in Intensity really exist?
I've been spending a great deal of time studying the topic of capitalist exploitation via increase in intensity and I'm having issues with the mathematics behind it.
Now, in the paper Duration, Intensity and Productivity of Labour and the Distinction between Absolute and Relative Surplus-value by Stavros Mavroudeas there is a formula which defines the how a total working time in a day from all workers is dealt out.
Where T is our total labor hours from all workers that day, V is the value paid out to workers and S is the surplus value gained from that working day.
Now total labor hours T can be broken down to the number of laborors that day and the hours each laborer works. mathematically this is:
where h is the number of hours worked by each worker and l is the number of laborers working,it follows our identity is now:
dividing both sides by lh.
this negates what was taught by Dr. Stephen Resnick that capital intensity is:
where there is possibility of varying I, by Mavroudeas formulation of the problem this is impossible.
Based on this simple exercise, does exploitation via "speed up" or increase in labor intensity really exist?
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All Answers (11)
Well, I don't know the maths, but the answer is yes. This is why we have time and motion studies. It's why companies constantly innovate in the production process.
Try a very small book by Ernst Mandel " introduction to Marxist economics" or something like that.
" This is why we have time and motion studies. It's why companies constantly innovate in the production process. "
Based on the derivation of Marxian Economist Paul Sweeny1 this simply isn't the case.
According to him Innovation in the production process and increase in machinery is actually what reduces the rate of profit of the capitalist the modified formula being.
Now from what I understand is that there is no attribution to economic growth from a change in technology according to marxist scholars. In fact the terms are synonymous in their literature (they are embodied in the c of the labor theory of value formula). This is similar to the understanding of economic growth in mainstream economics before robert solow came on the scene.
Thank you for the book recommendation.
1.( Sweezy, Paul M. Theory of Capital Development. Vol. 79. NYU Press, 1964. page 68)
As I clearly stated I know nothing about the maths. I need no instruction. I have my own views on the matter based on the practicalities of market society based on Smith's Wealth of Nations and Capital vol. 1.
The asker of the question seeks instruction. Please direct your comments to him. Anyone who finds my contribution unhelpful should simply ignore it!
Jacob, forget the math. If exploitation = the creation of a surplus over whatever output is required to reproduce the labor force, and if an increase in intensity increases the surplus, then it increases exploitation. This is consistent with both growth models and Marx's analysis in Chapters 12-15 of Volume I of CAPITAL. Christopher was correct, as far as he went, when he pointed out that "time and motion studies", i.e., Taylorism or "scientific management", were invented, at least in part, to increase productivity, output and profits. There was more to it than that, of course, those studies also aimed at stripping most workers of their skills and the control over the production process that their skills gave them, undermining their power AND making it possible to pay higher wages AND make more profits.
Sweezy's "refutation" of the "tendency of the rate of profit to fall" was based - in my view - on a misreading of Marx's theory. He thought the theory was about the rate of profit, whereas I think it was about how the replacement of labor by machinery (and other tech) undermines capital's ability to impose labor and surplus labor. He reduced the "organic" composition of capital to the "value" composition, forgetting that the former changes ONLY when the "technical" composition changes.
This statement of yours is erroneous: " Now from what I understand is that there is no attribution to economic growth from a change in technology according to Marxist scholars. In fact the terms are synonymous in their literature (they are embodied in the c of the labor theory of value formula)." The "c" = the value of constant capital, i.e., raw materials, machinery and other means of production, value invested and value that (if all goes well) contributes to the value of the products produced with that capital (alongside the value added by new labor, i.e., your v + s. Economic growth = increase in total output. But while economists use that term, Marx prefers "accumulation" which = expansion of ALL the elements of capital, not just output but especially the antagonistic class relations and every element involved in managing them.
Solow just caught up with Marx who was way ahead of Domar et al in recognizing the centrality of technological change in accumulation (growth) as Schumpeter recognized and translated into innovation, driven by entrepreneurs.
As you surely know, we cannot determine the rate of profit by means of the formula:
r = S/(V+C) = (S/V)/[1+(C/V)]
because commodities are not exchanged at their values, but at their prices of production. Accordingly, the amount of profit (S) and the amount of capital (V+C) cannot be known before the prices are determined. We need to solve a system of equations. Cf. Sraffa 1960.
Saverio, there's the value concept of rate of profit s/(c+v) and there are monetary rates of profit, such as net revenue/costs of production. The latter are the concern of capitalists for obvious reasons. "Prices of production" are fictional prices derived by those preoccupied with "the transformation problem", i.e., the "problem" of transforming values into prices. Personally, I find both the problem and the lengthy literature on the problem to be a waste of time and energy by those who worry about economists' complaints that Marx's theory doesn't do what they want theory to do, i.e., help determine market prices. Recognizing that market prices are rarely equal to the values of commodities, when Marx talked about market prices, he used the concepts of supply and demand available at the time. Using those available today also serves. What value analysis adds in an entirely different perspective and a basis for evaluating the implications of market price differing from value. In my view, the whole discussion in Vol. III about tendencies to a general rate of profit is about how capital redistributes itself across profit rate differentials (e.g., economists' entry and exit) and that about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is not about monetary rates of profit but about (as I said above) "how the replacement of labor by machinery (and other tech) undermines capital's ability to impose labor and surplus labor" and thus the very basis of capitalist social control.
Both of the answers you have posted have been insightful and i appreciate your input.
However the original intention of my question was regarding understanding the mathematics behind the argument of exploitation via increase in labor intensity made by modern marxian scholars1.
To respond to the tangent of how marx recognized that technological development as a driver of economic growth (as opposed to capital accumulation which was the thought cause of economic growth in a pre- solow world) I'd really have to see a source for that (the more specific the better) because based on my own research I don't think its the case (though I'm open to being wrong).
1. This is the primary intention of this post.
My response was that the mathematics make no sense; the only thing to understand is that some Marxists have tried to turn Marx into an economist, have interpreted his theory as economics and therefore see it as susceptible to being restated in terms of modern mathematics. For some critiques of what you call "modern Marxian scholars", see https://www.akpress.org/rupturing-the-dialectic.html (which is also available as a pdf here on RG). BTW to write, as I did, of "the centrality of technological change in accumulation (growth)" is not the same as seeing technological development as a "driver" of economic growth as you have rephrased. That's a very Solowesque way of putting it. In Marx, technological change is central to the dynamics of class relationships because capital's relative surplus value strategy involves manipulating technology in its efforts to retain control over workers. Because accumulation is the accumulation of antagonistic classes, the "driver" of accumulation is class struggle. Sometimes the dynamics of that struggle generates growth, sometimes it generates recession and depression. When and where and under what circumstances is the subject of "crisis theory" understood in terms of crises in the class relationship.
Look, you seem to have missed the underlying point of the majority of answers given here. What actually interests you in all this is of very little interest to anyone else. I suggest you access Harry Cleaver's RG pages and see who you're being rather rude to.
A problem I always found with York graduate students: read too much, understood too little, fixated on nonsense.
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