Sidebar: Understanding the concept of labor time density
I received two comments to my last post that raise questions about my approach. The first comment is from Noa, who thinks my employment of the concept of superfluous labor time ignores capitalism’s drive to constantly reduce socially necessary labor time and eliminate unnecessary expenditures of labor in production:
“Wouldn’t that be a typical apologetic argument in favor of capitalism? Perhaps you’re thinking only of a few particular cases (like in the Simpsons episode where Homer replaces himself at work by a drinking-bird-mobile pushing a button). But on the other hand, perhaps more normal, take a look if you can at some car assembly line today, the worker literally becomes a cog of the machine, sitting in an machine-chair to speed up his every movement. That intensifies their labor. And I think the labor can be intensified not necessarily only by increased productivity due to a shorter working day, but also by cutting staff, increasing the workload of the remainder.”
The second, related, comment is from Коммунист, who wonders why the state’s currency printing, combined with capitalist greed, would not result in hyperinflation:
“I will probably be asking this question also on behalf of all bourgeois economists or at least people who base their everyday logic on these charlatans’ understanding of the economy. If the government start directly buying produce from capitalists with its printer “paper”, why won’t the capitalists just start increasing the prices, seeing that there is now suddenly a demand for their products? These prices can be increased in proportion (even ad infinitum) to the volume of issued “paper”. Isn’t this exactly what the typical bourgeois economist would quip at your ideas?”
My argument that there is a declining density of labor time does not in any sense imply that the worker becomes lazier or that her labor becomes less onerous. I assume a very high intensity of labor and that the capitalist maintains the intensity of labor by eliminating all superfluous or redundant staff while paying the strictest attention to costs of production. Further, I assume state currency printing will force capitalists to offset the declining ‘purchasing power of the currency, by increasing their prices. My argument about the density of labor time thus assumes no unnecessary social labor is employed in the production of commodities — capital continues to function exactly as we have come to understand it from Capital. I do not wish to invoke any other mechanism to explain the declining density of labor time than are already explicitly given in the definition of capital as described by Marx.
Despite this, as I will show, there is without a doubt a declining density of labor time in the aggregate social labor day.