Socially Necessary Labor

Socially Necessary Labor

 

(1) Labor distributed among the branches of production in accordance with the structure and magnitude of social needs. Under capitalism, with its inherent anarchy of social production and its competitive struggle, the distribution of social labor among the various branches of production takes place spontaneously. This division is influenced by the way prices and the value of commodities diverge as a result of disparities between the supply of commodities on the market and consumer demand. This process of shaping sociaily necessary labor is a characteristic of the regulating role of the law of value in capitalist production.

(2) Labor expended to produce a certain commodity under the normal conditions of production in a society—at the average level of technology, with the average intensity of labor, and with the average level of worker skills. Under capitalism, socially necessary labor takes shape as a result of the competitive struggle within branches of the economy through the operation of the law of market value. The outlays of socially necessary labor constitute the substance of the social value of a commodity and determine the magnitude of a commodity’s social value. The expenditure of socially necessary labor is measured by the labor expenditure of the average labor power of society, which “requires for producing a commodity no more time than is needed on an average, no more than is socially necessary” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 47).

In socialist society, the distribution of social labor among the various branches of the economy is a conscious social act in accordance with a previously worked-out plan. Socially necessary labor that is shaped to meet social needs is based on application of the law of planned proportional development of the national economy as the regulator of social production. This law operates in close connection with other economic laws, above all, with the fundamental economic law of socialism. Socialist society distributes its material and labor resources among the various branches of the economy with an eye not only to social needs but also to the level of development of the productive forces at the disposal of the enterprises that make up the various branches of the economy.

The labor of the workers in each socialist enterprise to which quotas for the production of certain goods are assigned constitutes a part of the total social labor power. Under the planning system this labor is counted as part of the total social labor power. In other words, it is regarded as labor that is necessary to society and that must be expended on the production of goods needed by society.

The individual labor of the workers in a particular enterprise is not, however, the equivalent of the socially necessary labor expended per unit of output in that branch of the economy. Planned quotas for the production of goods are assigned to enterprises having different levels of labor productivity. Hence the individual expenditures of living labor and congealed labor to produce goods of the same use value may vary from enterprise to enterprise. In planned socialist production there is the closest and most direct link between the expenditure of socially necessary labor to produce one unit of output of a certain use value and the socially necessary expenditure of labor to produce the total output of this particular type of goods. This creates a situation in which the socially necessary expenditure of labor to produce one unit of output becomes the weighted average of labor input. This average is determined chiefly by the conditions of production in those enterprises where the bulk of the goods in question is produced.

As a result of increased labor productivity, the socially necessary labor expended to produce one unit of output is being reduced, the social value of goods is becoming less, and more and more social labor is being economized. In capitalist society this economy of social labor is made to serve the interests of the ruling class. The capitalists seek to reduce production costs and thus increase profits. Under socialism, economy of social labor makes it possible, first, to expand production of goods and services needed by society. Second, when a sufficient quantity of goods is produced whose social value has been reduced as a result of savings in the expenditure of socially necessary labor, the prices of these goods can be reduced. Both possibilities serve the interests of the people and raise the standard of living.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 25, part 2, ch. 37, pp. 185, 186.
Marx, K. “Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti” (vol. 4 of Kapital), part 1. Ibid., vol. 26, part 1, pp. 220–21.

G. N. KHUDOKORMOV

References in periodicals archive ?
(5) In this process, we do not end up with a neo-classical concept of capital defined simply as an asset earning a stream of income because the condition of socially necessary labor, as a distinctively Marxist unit of calculation, ensures that the value of the capital component of land, like the value of capital in other spheres, is determined by labor values; not by actual embodied labor, but by a calculation of its equivalence to a socially defined norm of production.
For Marx's theory of value, by contrast, only socially necessary labor produces value.
Section III explores the "equal labor exchange" theories of value, which assert that planned prices ought to be proportional to the socially necessary labor time embodied in a commodity.
As Ma Jiaju points out, enlightened socialist managers would have an incentive to economize on labor (i.e., minimize the socially necessary labor time) in order to achieve profit targets, thereby encouraging the development of China's productive forces [Ma, 1980].
However, Shaikh's solution is one of the best attempts to date, particularly because its iterative approach captures the concretization of abstract, socially necessary labor, the basis of value, into intermediate forms of price that result in prices of production and, with recognition of the influences of imbalances between supplies and demands in the sphere of exchange, the market prices we observe.
(3) Marx calls this socially necessary labor. See Marx, Capital Volume One, in which he states "[w]e see then that that which determines the magnitude of the value of any article is the amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour-time socially necessary for its production" (129).
While retooling auto plants might or might not decrease the amount of work at those facilities, it would definitely reduce the amount of socially necessary labor time for the nation as a whole.
(26) By socially necessary labor time it is meant the time necessary for the production of given commodities according to the most advanced technology.
'Labor power," which is the capacity to labor, is also treated as a commodity and, like any other commodity; the value of labor power is measured by the socially necessary labor time that goes into its production, That is to say, the value of labor power is measured by the socially necessary labor time required for the production and reproduction of the laborer, the socially necessary subsistence wage.
Labor time does not determine the value of deer, whether it is the labor embodied at the time of the catch or the socially necessary labor time required at the time the catch is exchanged at the end of the week, when the workers give X five deer and get three back.(9) What determines the value of the deer is their scarcity and utility, and what gets X his share of this value are the terms of the agreement negotiated with the other Crusoes.
Assume, further, that deer-breeding involves no labor on the part of the Crusoes and that all of them, including X, work the same amount of socially necessary labor time in catching deer.
Yet surely that is just what we do need to consider: just what are the socially necessary labor tasks and how these might be shared amongst members of a genuine socialist society?

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