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"Superexploitation"

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Hud955
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"Superexploitation"

https://anti-imperialism.org/2014/01/05/gauging-the-contribution-of-third-world-labor-to-imperialist-economies/

Can I throw this in the arena? I've been grappling with this issue of super-exploitation and getting confused.   

The claim made by the author of the article and by various other "third world" Marxist (=Leninist) theorists  is that the "first world" imports 350 million worker years of labour time (value) from the "third world" every year whereas the the productive labour of "first world" workers in the same time represents only 180 million worker-years.  The conclusion reached is that the share of value (labour time) that "first world" workers consume is greater than the share they produce.  The article then calculates that most workers in the "first world" are not exploited at all.  This is obviously an absurd conclusion, as is the apparent claim that superexploitation takes place at the point of consumption not of production. 

This analysis raises many more issues.  There is, first, the accuracy of the highly generalised figures it bases its calculations on.  But there are more theoretical issues.  What is the definition of a productive worker?  What proportion of "first and third world" labour time is embodied in commodities consumed by "first world" workers (as opposed to luxury and capital goods)?  And how much of what is produced by "first world" labour time is exported to  the "third world"? The author also seems to ignore the labour of unproductive workers in the "first world" when it comes to consumption of the products of "third world" labour time.   I can think of any number of specific objections I would want to make, but they are fragmentary and I'm concerned that  I may be missing something essential. 

Is anyone with a better knowledge of Marx's LTV than I possess able to get to the root of the problems with this article and summarise them  more coherently and succinctly that I can?


 

Hud955
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By the way.  Is there a way to copy and paste into a comment?

 


 

Marcos
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This idea has existed in Latin America for several years, and it has been elaborated by the Brazilian Sociologist and Economist   Ruy Mauro Marini, and others sociologists and economists from Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela, and some professors from the University of Buenos Aires ( UBA ) , and the Autonomous University of Mexico.( UNAM )  His book is named "Dialectic of Dependency ( Dialectica de la Dependencia )  published" published in 1973.

http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/23279/8/Higginbottom-A-23279.pdf

http://www.rebelion.org/docs/55046.pdf

There is a  newer book written by John Smith named: Imperialism of the 21 Century. This is a review made to his book:

https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/imperialism-and-super-....

I do not have any translation into the English language on the complete review made to Marini's book, Everything is based on Lenin concept of imperialism and the Colonial Question, and instead of using the expression  Colonialism,  they are using the expression Third World. It is the same old mistake made by Lenin where he indicates that exploitation is related to the salary that workers are paid by the capitalists, and the new concept is that wages are below the average market value, therefore, there is a super-exploitation in the third world. 

Marini is a very famous Sociologist and Economist but his concept is wrong, economical exploitation takes place at the point of production, and the so-called third world is not the only area where exploitation takes place, also, there is not more third world any more, there is only one world integrated into one capitalist world, there are certain commodities that are produced in one or several countries, and the finished product is done in one single country, like the automobile industry.

Their analysis is the same as this analysis made by the Socialist Party in regard to imperialism, anti=imperialism, and exploitation

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1990s/1998/no-1128...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcos
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First world, second world, and third world is a concept elaborated by Mao Tse Tung on his Three World Theory supposedly based on the body of ideas of Marx., it was rejected by the Stalinists of Albania

That theory is so distorted that the Maoists ended supporting the government of Augusto Pinochet because he was against the Soviet Union which was considered as part of the first world, therefore, he as an anti-imperialist.

They have removed the Second World, now the world is divided in First World and Third World, the third world is super-exploited, but the first world is not super-exploited. There is no difference between Lenin conception of Imperialism higher stage of capitalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

robbo203
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Hud955 wrote:

https://anti-imperialism.org/2014/01/05/gauging-the-contribution-of-third-world-labor-to-imperialist-economies/

Can I throw this in the arena? I've been grappling with this issue of super-exploitation and getting confused.   

The claim made by the author of the article and by various other "third world" Marxist (=Leninist) theorists  is that the "first world" imports 350 million worker years of labour time (value) from the "third world" every year whereas the the productive labour of "first world" workers in the same time represents only 180 million worker-years.  The conclusion reached is that the share of value (labour time) that "first world" workers consume is greater than the share they produce.  The article then calculates that most workers in the "first world" are not exploited at all.  This is obviously an absurd conclusion, as is the apparent claim that superexploitation takes place at the point of consumption not of production. 

This analysis raises many more issues.  There is, first, the accuracy of the highly generalised figures it bases its calculations on.  But there are more theoretical issues.  What is the definition of a productive worker?  What proportion of "first and third world" labour time is embodied in commodities consumed by "first world" workers (as opposed to luxury and capital goods)?  And how much of what is produced by "first world" labour time is exported to  the "third world"? The author also seems to ignore the labour of unproductive workers in the "first world" when it comes to consumption of the products of "third world" labour time.   I can think of any number of specific objections I would want to make, but they are fragmentary and I'm concerned that  I may be missing something essential. 

Is anyone with a better knowledge of Marx's LTV than I possess able to get to the root of the problems with this article and summarise them  more coherently and succinctly that I can?


 

Richard,

 

Here’s my take on the article you linked to and the conclusion it reaches viz “that the share of value (labour time) that "first world" workers consume is greater than the share they produce.  The article then calculates that most workers in the "first world" are not exploited at all”.

 

This is just plain wrong.   Never mind that the article uses a quite ridiculous definition of the working class whereby “only 65% of those who receive incomes in the First World are actually workers”, the facts of the matter speak otherwise.  I can cite tons of evidence to support the contention that workers in the so called First World are indeed exploited like their fellow workers in the so Third World.  For instance, Bonnie Kavoussi, writing in the Huffington Post, points out that while the average hourly cost of employing factory worker was $23.32, these same workers produced on average an hourly output of $73.45   In other words, your average American factory worker produced over three times as much wealth as she received back in the form of wages. (Bonnie Kavoussi, Mar 8, 2012,“Average Cost Of A Factory Worker In The U.S., China And Germany”,Huffington Post)

 

Another proxy indicator of the rate of exploitation is the gap between wage growth and productivity growth   Over the past few decades wage growth in the US has been noticeably sluggish, though still on an upward trend, while productivity has soared.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 1979 and 2009 U.S. productivity increased by 80 percent, while the hourly wage of the median American worker went up by only 10.1 percent.  ("The Sad But True Story of Wages in America", Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute, Issue Brief no.297, March 14, 2011).  Relatedly, in an article for the New York Times in 2013, Steven Greenhouse notes: "Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product. Until 1975, wages nearly always accounted for more than 50 percent of the nation’s G.D.P., but last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent. Since 2001, when the wage share was 49 percent, there has been a steep slide" (Steven Greenhouse, "Our Economic Pickle", New York Times, Sunday Review, January 12, 2013). The main beneficiaries of all this productivity growth have been the top 1% of the population in terms of wealth ownership –essentially the capitalist class - in what is becoming increasingly unequal society.

 

 

The imperialism.org article you linked to seems to base its whole argument on the premiss that while some workers in the First World are clearly exploited, as the example above shows, most workers in this part of the world are not productive – that is to say, they do not produce surplus value in the sense that they do not produce commodities that are sold on a market with a view to profit.  Rather they are financed out of surplus value.  For example, workers employed in some government department or a teacher in a state school.

 

 

But this is a completely non Marxist way of looking at the matter.  Just because a worker is employed in the non-productive sector of the economy does NOT mean that this worker is not exploited. Rather, the process of exploitation is an economy-wide phenomenon in the sense that fruits of exploitation – surplus value  - is something that is, as it were, pooled and redistributed to ensure an average rate of profit across the (global) economy as a whole (and the very fact that there is tendency for profit rates to average out argues against the notion of any kind of fixed or localised phenomenon of “super exploitation”)  The non-productive worker may not directly produce surplus value but he or she is just as essential to the process by which surplus value is generated and extracted as the productive worker.  That teacher in that state school is involved in a process of equipping pupils with a skill set that they will later sell to employer in exchange for a wage perhaps earned working in a factory or a some McJob somewhere.

 

Then we have the absurd claim by imperialism.org, “that a majority of workers in imperialist centers have been “bought off” using super-profits generated from Third World labor, and thus they have a material class interest in maintaining the order of capitalist-imperialism”.  This demonstrates very well the utterly reactionary character of these Leninists who seem to have an overriding mission to sow divisions among the global working class which, naturally, can only work to the benefit of the global capitalist class

 

If there was any semblance of truth in this nonsensical Leninist idea that first world workers are “bribed” by the metropolitan capitalists in the “imperialist nations” (actually, all nations are technically imperialistic, latently or manifestly, since all nations, even the little ones, are capitalist and therefore subject to capital’s self-expanding thrust) then we are entitled to ask - where is this mythical bribe that Lenin went on about?   Does it come in a little brown envelope furtively handed over to the “labour aristocracy” of the First Word by their capitalist employers?  No, of course not.  If such a bribe exists it would surely be incorporated into the wages received by these workers. But that then begs the question - why when these workers ask for a wage rise would their employers so ferociously resist this?  Why is there this constant downward pressure on workers’ wages in the First World as in the Third World?  Why have wages in the First world stagnated while productivity has soared?

 

The Leninists have no answer to these questions   Their whole reactionary way of looking at this matter is to provide a pretext for support for petty bourgeois third world nationalism. That is their agenda.  Leninism is the ideology of the frustrated comprador bourgeoisie of the so called Third World looking to expand their sphere in influence and market share.

 

 

The guy who has done most to demolish the Leninist inspired   of Third Worldists like Zac Cope and others is Charlie Post .  Here is a link to some of the stuff he has written http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/128  

 

Marcos
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This is just another reactionary nationalist theory supported by Leftwingers and Leninists of the so-called (using pseudo-Marxists, or pseudo-socialists terminology )  Third World Countries which is also supported by the ruling elite of those countries who are standing behind the anti-imperialist movement, and the fight against neo-colonialism and neo-Liberalism. This theory does show the reactionary character of Leninism, and leftism

It is the opposing arguments of some far right wing government from the so-called First World who are indicating that the countries from the Third World are draining their resources and are creating more debts by them thru importation and exportation, it is the same claim of Donald Trump in regard to Mexico and NAFTA. The arguments can be used in both ways, 

The workers in the unproductive sectors of the economy are also producing surplus value, and exploitation does not take place at the point of sale. The argument is indicating that the workers of the First World are the parasites of the Third World.  It is not a Marxist or socialist theory. Most of these thinkers always end supporting the national bourgeoisie, the same argument is also indicating that women are doubled exploited, and that is wrong too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

robbo203
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Marcos wrote:

 

The workers in the unproductive sectors of the economy are also producing surplus value, and exploitation does not take place at the point of sale. 

 

I wouldn't put it quite like that Marcos because technically unproductive workers  dont produce commodities for sale  and so dont produce value and hence surplus value.  However, they are indispenable to the production of value and surplus value since  capitalism could not function without such unproductive workers (For example how could capitalism function without a state and hence state employees? Or bank workers or salespeople  etc etc).  The workers who perform this work, although they do not directly produce surplus value, are nevertheless part of the exploited class in capitalist society and enable the realisation of surplus value even if it is other workers who directly produce it.  There would be no point in just producing surplus value if it cannot be realised through market sale.

 

Marx's labour theory of value is applicable at the level of the economy as a whole and it is at the macro level that the process of expoitation truly reveals itself

Matt
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Hud955

Quote:
By the way.  Is there a way to copy and paste into a comment?

To copy a whole section place your cursor on the section,do 'ctrl-a' on laptop key pad (this selects it), then 'ctrl-c', (this copies it) and 'ctrl-v' on laptop key pad (this pastes it) into a fresh screen.

Not sure exactly what you mean there.  For example To do the quote above, I highlighted your text,(select) then 'ctrl-c'(copy) on laptop keypad, then 'ctrl-v' (paste)on laptop key pad, into a fresh comment screen. 

Putting 'quote' inside [ ] a the start of your comment and '/quote' inside [ ] at the end of your comment.

Hitting the 'preview' button , below your post will show if you have it right.

I hope that is of some assistance.

It sometimes often helps to have the original open in a browser tab, with your contribution on a separate browser tab.

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs".

Marcos
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robbo203 wrote:

Marcos wrote:

 

The workers in the unproductive sectors of the economy are also producing surplus value, and exploitation does not take place at the point of sale. 

 

I wouldn't put it quite like that Marcos because technically unproductive workers  dont produce commodities for sale  and so dont produce value and hence surplus value.  However, they are indispenable to the production of value and surplus value since  capitalism could not function without such unproductive workers (For example how could capitalism function without a state and hence state employees? Or bank workers or salespeople  etc etc).  The workers who perform this work, although they do not directly produce surplus value, are nevertheless part of the exploited class in capitalist society and enable the realisation of surplus value even if it is other workers who directly produce it.  There would be no point in just producing surplus value if it cannot be realised through market sale.

 

Marx's labour theory of value is applicable at the level of the economy as a whole and it is at the macro level that the process of expoitation truly reveals itself

I am not meaning that they directly produce surplus value, but the unproductive sector produces profits from the surplus value of the productive sector. According to this arguments, they are called petty bourgeoisie, but they  aren't petty bourgeoisie,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave B
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i

 

I think it is an interesting topic I have thought about it before; not that I take the Lenninist super exploitation point of view.

 

It starts to get very complicated the more you go into it.

 

It is possibly more useful to start at first from the other side of Marx’s theory than value.

 

And that is that labour power as concrete labour is sold as a commodity.

 

And for the capitalist buy it at that; it is no more than a raw material to them.

 

As Karl admitted the price of  all commodities including concrete labour power or the ability to perform tasks fluctuate according to supply and demand.

 

And thus they can theoretical be sold and bought at above or below their value.

 

Thus if there is a high demand and under supply of computer programmers the price of their labour power will be that much higher.

 

People like the highly paid computer programmers themselves might argue that they get paid more because they are more ‘skilled’.

 

But actually the Marxist skill analysis only works when comparing a skilled bricklayer to an unskilled one ie comparing otherwise identical types of concrete labour.

 

We are used to thinking of concrete mental labour as being more skilled to physical labour.

 

And somehow or another mental labour is more skilled and useful than physical labour and thus ‘justifying’ a higher price.

 

 

 

[There is grain of truth in that which I will go into in a bit.]

 

However in the supply and demand market place for the commodity of concrete types of labour power this is a ‘illusion’ that can be shattered; apart from being intrinsically subjective.

 

Like the concrete labour power of refuse collectors is ‘subjectively’ less useful than accountants or stockbrokers or for that matter computer programmers working in the finance industry which many of them do.

 

Thus;

 

The distinction between skilled and unskilled labour rests in part on pure illusion, or, to say the least, on distinctions that have long since ceased to be real, and that survive only by virtue of a traditional convention; in part on the helpless condition of some groups of the working-class, a condition that prevents them from exacting equally with the rest the value of their labour-power. Accidental circumstances here play so great a part, that these two forms of labour sometimes change places. Where, for instance, the physique of the working-class has deteriorated, and is, relatively speaking, exhausted, which is the case in all countries with a well developed capitalist production, the lower forms of labour, which demand great expenditure of muscle, are in general considered as skilled, compared with much more delicate forms of labour; the latter sink down to the level of unskilled labour. Take as an example the labour of a bricklayer, which in England occupies a much higher level than that of a damask-weaver.

 

 

And?;

 

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htm

 

Secondly, because the necessary training, knowledge of commercial practices, languages, etc., is more and more rapidly, easily, universally and cheaply reproduced with the progress of science and public education the more the capitalist mode of production directs teaching methods, etc., towards practical purposes. The universality of public education enables capitalists to recruit such labourers from classes that formerly had no access to such trades and were accustomed to a lower standard of living. Moreover, this increases supply, and hence competition.

 

How well this forecast of the fate of the commercial proletariat, written in 1865, has stood the test of time can be corroborated by hundreds of German clerks, who are trained in all commercial operations and acquainted with three or four languages, and offer their services in vain in London City at 25 shillings per week, which is far below the wages of a good machinist…

 

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch17.htm#2

 

The capitalist class who run the show do not operate on the ‘value’ perspective.

 

As far as they are individually concerned they buy a collection of stuff including labour power at a lower price than they sell the output of it.

 

Making a standard increment of profit.

 

So I suppose if they are purchasing labour power at below its value and/or other raw material produced by other labour power that is also bought at below its value then the selling price of the final commodity will also be concomitantly sold at below its value.

 

That is not to say they are making above the average rate of profit; which they are not.

 

It is just at that point ‘rate of exploitation’ as in ‘rate of surplus value’ becomes delinked from rate of profit.

 

The standard counter argument to super exploitation is that if workers were super exploited in a value sense the capitalist class employing them, according to a calculation based on labour power selling at its value, would make an above average rate of profit which could not be maintained.

 

Looking at counter arguments to this you could say that ‘unskilled’ third world workers are performing socially unnecessary labour eg a peasant farmer producing rice and a waged agricultural worker using a combine harvester or something.

 

Or a factory textile worker in Asia working with antiquated capital as opposed to a first world worker working with more advance machines.

 

Perhaps or not requiring more ‘skill’ to operate.

 

Again skill on its own is subjective.

 

Thus Karl talked about artisan tailoring in volume IV versus machine and factory produced coats; although I think he talked about trousers for what it matters.

 

In the economic transition the skilled artisan got ‘paid’ less for his labour power than the machine operators even though even subjectively the skill of the former was greater.

 

But it was a socially unnecessary skill or concrete labour power?

 

 

With the free movement of labour power which is a condition for Karl’s analysis the artisan taylor does have a ‘choice’ to give up his skills to work with more advanced capital and get a higher price for his labour power.

 

However if he couldn’t do, or was prevented from that, that he would be locked into performing the socially unnecessary labour power of artisan tailoring.

 

And be remunerated appropriately or in other words get paid less for his effort.

 

You could argue perhaps that capitalism sectionalises or locates its crap capital or certain spheres of production in some places and its advanced stuff elsewhere for it own reasons.

 

Thus geographically ‘socially unnecessary labour power’ is predominantly carried on in some places with is concomitantly lower prices for the labour power employed in it.

 

Socially necessary labour power is a thorny problem when looked at in more detail as Karl examined in Volume III with his market price and market value etc.

 

Thus if you invent a new machine or labour saving chemical process like making dyes that requires massive capital injection to employ.

 

And as the necessary process of social-economic introduction has to be somewhat slow and staged.

 

What is the socially necessary labour value of a commodity where 10% of it is being being produced at one hour per tonne and 90% of it at 10 hours per tonne?

 

The capitalist solution to the problem is transparent.

 

First of all they can afford to pay the workers using the better and more expensive machines more.

 

But they are inclined to and can also afford to locate their expensive capital in politically safe and stable places with good infra structure and with established political ideology conducive to capitalisms idea of fair play*

 

----------------

 

And with other acceptable social infra structure or social capital like welfare systems, education, training, housing and healthcare to patch up and maintain socially necessary and trained labour power.

 

It is possible to organise things so you only patch up and house socially necessary and trained labour power and weed out the rest.

 

But they can come in all looking the same and jumbled up.

 

And allocating kidney dialysis machines to the accountant and ten a penny refuse worker can be an administrative headache.

 

And to make matters worse refuse workers are part of the infra structure for accountants etc.

 

They can deal with that by playing the system as they find it or in other words trans nationally.

 

However rarely you see the capitalist class having to deal with the problem intra nationally

 

The Chinese state capitalism solved the problem in the 1980’s with the residency permit system preventing peasants coming into the cities taking advantage of the cotton wool looking after the ‘skilled’ workers infra structure.

 

 

 

 

 

*This becomes particular more transparent when you see them looking at and investigating mineral extraction opportunities, which are unfortunately for them are in ‘unpleasant places’,  and see how they evaluate them.

 

When reading their stuff you see them salivating at the advantageous yields on ores etc and bemoaning the lack of infrastructure, political instability or their vulnerability to Mafia like extortion from the indigenous ruling class who don’t appreciate capitalist ethics.

 

This isn’t ethnicist; or something worse.

 

There was a recent study of 2ndand third generation skilled south east Asians from the UK who decided to go back to India to give something back to their mother country etc.

 

Who were totally appalled by the amount of low level greasing of the wheels of bribery and corruption that was necessary to make stuff happen.

 

Not that it doesn’t happen in the first world of course it is just that much more in your face.

 

Where I work anybody who controls an external purchasing budget even if it is less than 50K has to go on a capitalist ethic non bribery course.

 

It can be a real pain in the arse for the capitalist class who have to trust their ‘workers’ to be honest.

 

A very senior accountant type manager in our place got sacked for recommending the purchase of a factory based on a book and going concern business value which was a piece of shit.

 

Against the advice of a ‘spanners’ proper worker who went with him and said the place was pile of old shit; but he couldn’t talk the talk and didn’t have a degree in business management and probably wouldn’t have taken a payoff anyway.

 

Things have changed a lot over the last twenty years in industry and it has been introduced into Law recently.

 

There was a system operating 20 years ago where suppliers would send in Christmas gifts to the buyers and some of it was ok.

 

And we would get a lorry load of goodies as well to send to our customers.

 

Often it was directed at relatively low level people just to keep them sweet.

 

Then they introduced a system in out place when this stuff continued to come in if not sent out.

 

When it was pooled and distributed by lottery; after which it started to dry up.

Hud955
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This question came up during a discussion on facebook.  I'm still trying to get a real handle on the (failed) logic of this argument.  But thanks everyone for your comments.  Some usefully flesh out what I already understood, but  they also include a couple of angles I hadn't considered.

Having slept on the matter several other things occur to me.  The article bases its calculations on labour time rather than price on the grounds that price distorts the picture and disguises (supposedly) the degree to which "first world" workers benefit at the expense of "third world" labour.  Yet it seems to me that calculation in terms of labour-time is no less problematic than calculation in terms of price, since a worker in the UK will be forced to pay a UK price for a commodity made in China irrespective of the amount of labour time that went into it, and 2. a UK worker is not getting a better deal paying a UK price for a good that cost  20 hours of labour time to manufacture in south-east asia than 10 in the UK.    

There are a whole slew of issues that arise when goods produced in one local market are transferred to another for sale that I don't understand.  And while the market is rapidly globalising, I don't think that has been fully achieved.  What does this do, for instance, to the concept of 'socially necessary labour'?  

Iit occurs to me also that the article writer has missed the obvious fact that non-productive workers need to be paid for their work despite being non-productive.  So if non-productive workers are concentrated in the so called 'first world' it is hardly surprising that commodities flow in from outside that area.  And those commodities are not just consumed by those that produce.

 
 

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