[OPE-L:4262] Re: variable capital and time

Paul Cockshot (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 04:07:18 -0800 (PST)

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> I don't think that units of time spent in production are _entirely_
> "arbitrary constructs". If a "production period" has no bearing on the
> real world, what about other standards of time, e.g. an hour of SNLT, a
> working day, a workweek?

Working days have nothing to do with production periods any more
than working hours or working seconds. When used in value theory they
are units in which we measure the integral over time of work performed
to produce a product.
> It is true, in a sense, that a production period is arbitrary. Yet, the
> creation of this "arbitrary" measure is a reflection of a real social
> and historical process ...

Yes the historical process of development of political economy
starting with physiocracy, a reflection on agriculture which does
have a seasonal production period.
> Marx expresses the historical importance of the measurement of time to
> capitalism as follows:
> "The *clock* is based on the craftsmanship of artinsal
> production together with the erudition which characterises the
> dawn of bourgeois society. It gives the idea of the automatic
> mechanism and of automatic motion applied to production. The
> history of the clock goes hand in hand with the history of the
> theory of modern motion. What, without the clock, would be a
> period in which the value of the commodity, and therefore the
> labor time necessary for its production, are the decisive
> factor?" (CW:33:403).
Clocks are certainly a necessary element both in conceptualising
the labour theory of value, and in the practice or Taylorism and
work study, but this again has nothing to do with production

> The allocations of money-capital on c + v are not "continuous" -- they
> are rather discontinuous.

I beg to differ, when one considers social reproduction as whole,
they are continuous but at varying rates. There is not an hour in the
week when there are not millions of dollars being spent on purchases.

> In the case of v, the question I posed before
> concerned the implications of believing that money-wages were paid to
> workers only at the end of a "period" (let's say, a year). I believe that

> there are both natural and social limits to the period of time that
> wage-earners can and will wait before they receive payment of wages. No
> doubt capitalists would _like_ to lengthen this period as long as
> possible, but -- as I say -- there are limits that are a consequence both

> of social relations of production (the non-ownership of means of
> production by workers and their reliance on money wages for survival)
> and the struggle between capital and labor. Do you not agree?

The degree of delay in the payment of wages does not imply anything
about production periods as production is not synchronised with wage
payments. This delay is certainly important, because any
increase in the delay represents a temporary reduction in the flow of
wages to employees.