Problems of Value Production (1) By S. Artesian

5 December 2018 — The Wolf Report: Nonconfidential analysis for the anti-investor

The intensity of production

Competition, according to an American economist, determines how many days of simple labor are contained in one day’s compound labor. Does not this reduction of days of compound labor to days of simple labor suppose that simple labor is itself taken as a measure of value? If the mere quantity of labor functions as a measure of value regardless of quality, it presupposes that simple labor has become the pivot of industry. It presupposes that labor has been equalized by the subordination of man to the machine or by the extreme division of labor; that men are effaced by their labor; that the pendulum of the clock has become as accurate a measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives. Therefore, we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour. Time is everything, man is nothing; he is, at the most, time’s carcase. 

Quality no longer matters. Quantity alone decides everything; hour for hour, day for day;  

Marx – The Poverty of Philosophy

In Marx’s analysis the commodity embodies and binds together time and space.   The commodity possesses both physical and social characteristics, even if the commodity is provided as a service.  The social existence is of time.  The commodity circulates on the back of a mule called socially necessary labor time.

Similarly, in Marx’s work wealth and poverty in capitalism are expressed in both physical and social terms.

For capitalism, wealth is the access to use-values, mediated by private ownership of the means of production.

For socialism, wealth is access to the abundance use-values, mediated by necessity.

In all societies, wealth is the disposition over time.  All economies are economies of time, but not all economies of time are economies of value.

For socialism, wealth is the ability to expend collective time to the benefit of all individuals.

For capitalists, for capitalism, wealth is the disposition over the time of others

Poverty is the scarcity, the lack of, and lack of access to, use-values.  Scarcity is a class distinction, enforced by capital.

In capitalism, poverty is the loss of time in and to the mode of production.  It is a sacrifice that devours the time of the laborers, strips it away through alienation.  Alienation is not a psychological process, but a commercial one; an exchange that converts the laborers’ time into the property of the capitalists.

As time is alienated, embedded in the commodity as value, it is weaponized.  Value accumulates and returns to production as machinery.  The machinery is designed to reduce the labor-time required to produce any single unit of output while increasing the time aggrandized and materialized yet again as more commodities.

Labor-time is the source of value, but it only becomes, and begets, value under specific conditions, specific social relations of classes which reproduce the alienation of the laborers’ time.

Time is everything.

Or is it?

Marx recognizes that laboring is a physical activity, requiring a physical expenditure by the laborers.  Marx conceptualizes this physical expenditure demanded by capital as the intensity of the labor process.   Because everywhere and always capitalist production is both a labor and a valorization process, Marx proposes a valorization of the intensity of the process, asserting that a process that requires greater intensity, greater expenditure of effort, than the social norm actually adds value to commodities during equal expanses of time.

In Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 17, Marx writes:

Increased intensity of labour means increased expenditure of labour in a given time. Hence a working-day of more intense labour is embodied in more products than is one of less intense labour, the length of each day being the same. Increased productiveness of labour also, it is true, will supply more products in a given working-day. But in this latter case, the value of each single product falls, for it costs less labour than before; in the former case, that value remains unchanged, for each article costs the same labour as before. Here we have an increase in the number of products, unaccompanied by a fall in their individual prices: as their number increases, so does the sum of their prices. But in the case of increased productiveness, a given value is spread over a greater mass of products. Hence the length of the working-day being constant, a day’s labour of increased intensity will be incorporated in an increased value, and, the value of money remaining unchanged, in more money. The value created varies with the extent to which the intensity of labour deviates from its normal intensity in the society. A given working-day, therefore, no longer creates a constant, but a variable value; in a day of 12 hours of ordinary intensity, the value created is, say 6 shillings, but with increased intensity, the value created may be 7, 8, or more shillings. It is clear that, if the value created by a day’s labour increases from, say, 6 to 8 shillings then the two parts into which this value is divided, viz., price of labour-power and surplus-value, may both of them increase simultaneously, and either equally or unequally. They may both simultaneously increase from 3 shillings to 4. Here, the rise in the price of labour-power does not necessarily imply that the price has risen above the value of labour-power. On the contrary, the rise in price may be accompanied by a fall in value. This occurs whenever the rise in the price of labour-power does not compensate for its increased wear and tear.

We know that, with transitory exceptions, a change in the productiveness of labour does not cause any change in the value of labour-power, nor consequently in the magnitude of surplus-value, unless the products of the industries affected are articles habitually consumed by the labourers. In the present case this condition no longer applies. For when the variation is either in the duration or in the intensity of labour, there is always a corresponding change in the magnitude of the value created, independently of the nature of the article in which that value is embodied.

If the intensity of labour were to increase simultaneously and equally in every branch of industry, then the new and higher degree of intensity would become the normal degree for the society, and would therefore cease to be taken account of. But still, even then, the intensity of labour would be different in different countries, and would modify the international application of the law of value. The more intense working-day of one nation would be represented by a greater sum of money than would the less intense day of another nation.

We have a conceptualization– increased expenditure of labor in a given time.

We have a valorization– increased intensity will be incorporated as increased value and the unit values of the commodities will not fall as more value is embedded in the increased number of commodities.

What we don’t have is a means to quantify intensity.  We have no way of measuring differences in intensity, and converting those measurements, equating, resolving, transforming, exchanging those differences into portions, proportions, ratios, rates of the substance common to all commodities.

“We know that, with transitory exceptions, a change in the productiveness of labour does not cause any change in the value of labour-power, nor consequently in the magnitude of surplus-value,” writes Marx, and that is critical to the sum of value produced in a working day.

But “this condition no longer applies,”– an hour of labor no longer contains an hour of labor.  The working day is now detached for the conditions that made it a constant, even if variable, source of value.

Marx continues:

The more the productiveness of labour increases, the more can the working-day be shortened; and the more the working-day is shortened, the more can the intensity of labour increase. From a social point of view, the productiveness increases in the same ratio as the economy of labour, which, in its turn, includes not only economy of the means of production, but also the avoidance of all useless labour. The capitalist mode of production, while on the one hand, enforcing economy in each individual business, on the other hand, begets, by its anarchical system of competition, the most outrageous squandering of labour-power and of the social means of production, not to mention the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous.

Here the enhanced productivity of labor provides the platform for the intensification of labor through the shortening of the working day.  Now not only is the value of the working day no longer the value of the duration of the working day,  but the shorter working day produces the same if not greater value than the longer, but less intense working day.

The productivity of labor is generated mainly through improvements in the production process, eliminating steps or “stations,”  and the application of machinery.  The application of machinery creates no new value, and moreover, the reduction in living labor hours necessary for increased output shrinks the new value.  Unless the machinery causes the value of labor power to decline by reducing the value of the means of subsistence necessary to reproduce that labor power, the mass of surplus value declines also.  We know that then the rate of profit falls.

However, if the same productivity of labor, the same reduction in working hours trigger intensification, and intensification triggers greater value aggrandizement, then the valorization process is rescued from its self-devaluation; the increased rate of surplus value can offset the decline in the rate of profit.  We now have a system where labor can be continuously and increasingly expelled from the production process, without impact on the valorization process.  The wage need not fall in order to increase the rate of surplus value.  The working day not only need not be lengthened to increase absolute surplus value, but increased surplus value now blossoms with a shorter working day.

Marx’s conflict between labor and the condition of labor dissipates.

The conflict between the forces of production and  the relations of production, namely the production of value, is put into permanent suspension…at least until the point where all labor-power is expelled.
Engels, in his Synopsis of Capital writes:

At the beginning, with the speeding-up of the machine, the intensity of labour increases simultaneously with the lengthening of labour-time. But, soon the point is reached where the two exclude each other.

It is different, however, when labour-time is restricted. Intensity can only grow; in 10 hours, as much work can be done as ordinarily in 12 or more, and now the more intensive working-day counts as raised to a higher power, and labour is measured not merely by its time, but by its intensity. (P.400)

Thus, in 5 hours of necessary and 5 hours of surplus-labour, the same surplus-value can be attained as in 6 hours of necessary and 6 hours of surplus-labour at lower intensity. (P.400 )

How is labour intensified? In manufacture, it has been proved (Note 159, p.401), pottery, for instance, etc., that mere shortening of the working-day is sufficient to raise productivity enormously. In machine labour, this was far more doubtful. But, R. Gardner’s proof. (Pp.401-02)

As soon as the shortened working-day becomes law, the machine becomes a means of squeezing more intensive labour out of the worker, either by greater speed or fewer hands in relation to machine. Examples. (Pp.403-07 ) Evidence that enrichment and expansion of the factory grew simultaneously therewith 

Engels here presumes that the amount of work is equal to the amount of value, and that this is somehow distinguishable from the increased amount of “work” resulting from improved productivity of labor.  However, how can the markets distinguish between greater intensity of labor and the greater productivity of labor when there is no quantitative measure established?  They cannot and do not, for the portions, proportions, ratios, rates of exchange of commodities is determined by the labor-time necessary for their production.  There is no celestial accounting that “rewards” 6 hours of work performed in 5 hours with 6 hours of value.

Marx  writes in Chapter 15 of Capital Volume 1:

C. Intensification of Labour

The immoderate lengthening of the working-day, produced by machinery in the hands of capital, leads to a reaction on the part of society, the very sources of whose life are menaced; and, thence, to a normal working-day whose length is fixed by law.

Thenceforth a phenomenon that we have already met with, namely, the intensification of labour, develops into great importance. Our analysis of absolute surplus-value had reference primarily to the extension or duration of the labour, its intensity being assumed as given. We now proceed to consider the substitution of a more intensified labour for labour of more extensive duration, and the degree of the former.

It is self-evident, that in proportion as the use of machinery spreads, and the experience of a special class of workmen habituated to machinery accumulates, the rapidity and intensity of labour increase as a natural consequence. Thus in England, during half a century, lengthening of the working-day went hand in hand with increasing intensity of factory labour. Nevertheless the reader will clearly see, that where we have labour, not carried on by fits and starts, but repeated day after day with unvarying uniformity, a point must inevitably be reached, where extension of the working-day and intensity of the labour mutually exclude one another, in such a way that lengthening of the working-day becomes compatible only with a lower degree of intensity, and a higher degree of intensity, only with a shortening of the working-day. So soon as the gradually surging revolt of the working-class compelled Parliament to shorten compulsorily the hours of labour, and to begin by imposing a normal working-day on factories proper, so soon consequently as an increased production of surplus-value by the prolongation of the working-day was once for all put a stop to, from that moment capital threw itself with all its might into the production of relative surplus-value, by hastening on the further improvement of machinery. At the same time a change took place in the nature of relative surplus-value. Generally speaking, the mode of producing relative surplus-value consists in raising the productive power of the workman, so as to enable him to produce more in a given time with the same expenditure of labour. Labour-time continues to transmit as before the same value to the total product, but this unchanged amount of exchange-value is spread over more use-value; hence the value of each single commodity sinks.

Otherwise, however, so soon as the compulsory shortening of the hours of labour takes place. The immense impetus it gives the development of productive power, and to economy in the means of production, imposes on the workman increased expenditure of labour in a given time, heightened tension of labour-power, and closer filling up of the pores of the working-day, or condensation of labour to a degree that is attainable only within the limits of the shortened working-day. This condensation of a greater mass of labour into a given period thenceforward counts for what it really is, a greater quantity of labour. In addition to a measure of its extension, i.e., duration, labour now acquires a measure of its intensity or of the degree of its condensation or density.  The denser hour of the ten hours’ working-day contains more labour, i.e., expended labour-power than the more porous hour of the twelve hours’ working-day. The product therefore of one of the former hours has as much or more value than has the product of 1 1/5 of the latter hours. Apart from the increased yield of relative surplus-value through the heightened productiveness of labour, the same mass of value is now produced for the capitalist say by 3 1/3 hours of surplus-labour, and 6 2/3 hours of necessary labour, as was previously produced by four hours of surplus-labour and eight hours of necessary labour.

We now come to the question: How is the labour intensified?

The first effect of shortening the working-day results from the self-evident law, that the efficiency of labour-power is in an inverse ratio to the duration of its expenditure. Hence, within certain limits what is lost by shortening the duration is gained by the increasing tension of labour-power. That the workman moreover really does expend more labour-power, is ensured by the mode in which the capitalist pays him.  In those industries, such as potteries, where machinery plays little or no part, the introduction of the Factory Acts has strikingly shown that the mere shortening of the working-day increases to a wonderful degree the regularity, uniformity, order, continuity, and energy of the labour. 

It seemed, however, doubtful whether this effect was produced in the factory proper, where the dependence of the workman on the continuous and uniform motion of the machinery had already created the strictest discipline. Hence, when in 1844 the reduction of the working-day to less than twelve hours was being debated, the masters almost unanimously declared 

“that their overlookers in the different rooms took good care that the hands lost no time,” that “the extent of vigilance and attention on the part of the workmen was hardly capable of being increased,” and, therefore, that the speed of the machinery and other conditions remaining unaltered, “to expect in a well-managed factory any important result from increased attention of the workmen was an absurdity.”

This assertion was contradicted by experiments. Mr. Robert Gardner reduced the hours of labour in his two large factories at Preston, on and after the 20th April, 1844, from twelve to eleven hours a day. The result of about a year’s working was that “the same amount of product for the same cost was received, and the workpeople as a whole earned in eleven hours as much wages as they did before in twelve.” 

I pass over the experiments made in the spinning and carding rooms, because they were accompanied by an increase of 2% in the speed of the machines. But in the weaving department, where, moreover, many sorts of figured fancy articles were woven, there was not the slightest alteration in the conditions of the work. The result was: “From 6th January to 20th April, 1844, with a twelve hours’ day, average weekly wages of each hand 10s. 1½d., from 20th April to 29th June, 1844, with day of eleven hours, average weekly wages 10s. 3½d.”  Here we have more produced in eleven hours than previously in twelve, and entirely in consequence of more steady application and economy of time by the workpeople. While they got the same wages and gained one hour of spare time, the capitalist got the same amount produced and saved the cost of coal, gas, and other such items, for one hour. Similar experiments, and with the like success, were carried out in the mills of Messrs. Horrocks and Jacson. 

The shortening of the hours of labour creates, to begin with, the subjective conditions for the condensation of labour, by enabling the workman to exert more strength in a given time. So soon as that shortening becomes compulsory, machinery becomes in the hands of capital the objective means, systematically employed for squeezing out more labour in a given time. This is effected in two ways: by increasing the speed of the machinery, and by giving the workman more machinery to tent. Improved construction of the machinery is necessary, partly because without it greater pressure cannot be put on the workman, and partly because the shortened hours of labour force the capitalist to exercise the strictest watch over the cost of production. The improvements in the steam-engine have increased the piston speed, and at the same time have made it possible, by means of a greater economy of power, to drive with the same or even a smaller consumption of coal more machinery with the same engine. The improvements in the transmitting mechanism have lessened friction, and, what so strikingly distinguishes modern from the older machinery, have reduced the diameter and weight of the shafting to a constantly decreasing minimum.

Finally, the improvements in the operative machines have, while reducing their size, increased their speed and efficiency, as in the modern power-loom; or, while increasing the size of their framework, have also increased the extent and number of their working parts, as in spinning-mules, or have added to the speed of these working parts by imperceptible alterations of detail, such as those which ten years ago increased the speed of the spindles in self-acting mules by one-fifth.

This is a remarkable section.  First, contrary to Marx’s presentation in Chapter 12, now the introduction of machinery alone in whatever sphere of production is capable of altering, and improving, the rate of surplus value, leading to greater portions of relative surplus value.  Secondly, Marx introduces a whole host of descriptions about the physical nature of intensified labor without providing us with the means to measure those conditions.  We get the “heightened tension of labour-power,” the “condensation of labour,”  the increasing “density” of labor, the “squeezing” of labor, and with no way to measure tension, condensation, density, squeezing  other than by the volume of output, which in Marx’s analysis is not the same, cannot be assumed to be the same, as increased value.  In fact, in Marx’s other discussions, the increased output is circumscribed within the identity of  static value.

Certainly, labor may be intensified, greater effort required and extracted,  output accelerated.  Time was, back in the day, a major point of contention in the automobile assembly industry was the speed of “the line,” and management efforts to increase that speed.  Did the speed up increase the rate and mass of surplus-value extraction?  Or did it, like any other increase in productivity, reduce costs and provide a fractional competitive advantage based on the difference between the individual values of the units and the social average of all the values in the market?  Is it the arbitrage of the difference in values, or was additional value created?   For exchange to occur,  value has to realize itself as the embodiment of labor-time.  The market is the arena for  the arbitrage of discrepancy in times of production.

Time really is everything for capital. Level of effort remains unmeasured, and therefore unvalued.   Increased intensities of the labor process do not create additional surplus value in the valorization process.  These increased intensity is indistinguishable from increased productivity.

S. Artesian

December 2, 2018

Next:  Problems of Value (2):  Productivity and the rate of surplus value.

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