Buy the Hour

3 Oct 2013: Capital (Ch. 20, “Time-wages,” 1867, Karl Marx) – An exploration of that beloved form of work whereby one receives pay by the hour. Ridicules the apologistic notion that pay represents the value of the entire work-day, when of course half of each hour (or minute) (or some fraction less than 1) is performed in essence for the capitalist alone. Details the “race to the bottom” whereby the addition of all family members into the workforce and the attendant (and subsequent) lengthening and/or intensification of the work-day ends up cheapening the cost of labor-power (calculated by the ratio of daily cost of wages over time worked) and thus depressing wages for all concerned. One has to work longer hours (and cumulatively, the family does) to earn what previously could have been made in a shorter work-day, and since all employers are competing with each other to undersell through such methods, this wage becomes reconstituted as the normal price rather than just some temporary outlier.

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