Socially Necessary Superfluous Labour Time — a digression
In a comment on my earlier post, Bill H. (run75441) mentioned that he thought at first this series on socially necessary labour time (SNLT) would be about Sydney Chapman’s theory. That comment stopped me short because I hadn’t thought about the connection between Marx’s analysis of SNLT and Chapman’s theory of hours.
Recall that Chapman argued that competitive pressures would lead employers to prefer hours of work that were longer than optimal for output and that employees would prefer hours of work that would be longer than optimal for their welfare, although shorter than the hours sought by employers. The reasoning behind such suboptimal preferences was that achieving the long-run optima would require short-term risk with uncertain payoffs.
Output and welfare losses can be estimated to be in the ballpark of 10% and 25%, respectively. That would imply that the optimal labour time for output would be around 90% of the allegedly “socially necessary labour time” and the average individually necessary labour time would be around 67% of so-called necessary labour time. These discrepancies, it should be noted, are in addition to the production of surplus value.
The above speculations are complicated by the fact that Marx and Chapman were referring to fundamentally different theories of value. It may be worthwhile returning to this issue after I have completed my review of Marx’s SNLT.
Here is what one famous non-economist (Heinlein) said about leisure shortly after the Great Depression:
I suspect a bit of writing what his readers wanted to hear rather than what he thought was true, but it does touch on the possibility that how workers use their leisure time can matter a lot.
I should have noted that Heinlein created a society to write about that was able to produce everything it needed with far less than the available work force. It used capitalism to generate the stuff and and a universal basic income to make sure all the stuff could be sold. Central planners used “massive computers” to calculate the “dividend”, leaving plenty of opportunity for entrepreneurs.
You have present an engineer in the person of Arne and a non-engineer in the form of myself who has worked 40-something years planning manufacturing flows, manufacturing, and disputing the sometime idiocrasy.
What triggered me? This phrase, “socially necessary labour” which I suspect has to do more with Labour desires to work more hours than it does with Optimal Labour hours or the amount of Labour hours necessary to meet product demand. And then there is what I would call Mgt. Labour or a lesser amount of Labour working OT to meet the product demand. Three different forms of Labour which I have experienced in various industries.
I am digressing from the starting point of your initial post. I will stop here. Please continue.