by Tony Norfield
Walter made some useful distinctions on this topic in his recent contribution, but I will tackle the issue from a different angle, complementing what he wrote.
A key point to note is that the discussion of these topics often mixes up the question of the value of labour-power and that of (the rate of) exploitation. Both are affected by social productivity – how much can be produced in an hour – but are different aspects of labour’s employment by capital.
For example, assume that the value of labour-power, represented by the wage, is the same everywhere. Then the rate of exploitation – how much surplus-value compared to the value of labour-power – is higher if some workers work more hours at the average level of productivity. Even with the same number of hours worked, the rate of exploitation would be higher where workers are more productive per hour than average – usually meaning they are working more intensively, or have better technology or higher skills. One hour of labour produces the same amount of value as another only if they are of the same productivity, intensity, etc.
Of course, the value of labour-power is not the same everywhere, so that adds another variable to how exploitation is calculated. If the value of labour-power is much lower in some countries than others, exploitation might be more, but it might also be less, depending upon hours worked, intensity, productivity, etc. Nevertheless, these are abstract points of theory; the reality of the world economy paints a much more straightforward picture.
- Wages, value of labour-power
Everybody knows that there are huge disparities in living standards worldwide. Equally, every capitalist company knows that workers in one country may get wages that are a Read the rest of this entry »