Christoph Hermann: Capitalism and the Political Economy of Work Time.

Author:Andrade, Valentino
Position::Book review

Christoph Hermann

Capitalism and the Political Economy of Work Time, Abingdon: Routledge, 2015; 236 pp.: ISBN 9780415810234, 115 [pounds sterling] (hb)

In this book, Christoph Hermann seeks to understand, through a Marxist political-economy perspective, the current tendencies of reproductive and productive labour, as a way to demonstrate the contradictory nature of labour within capitalism. The author begins by stating that actual labour time has not diminished at the expected rate, given the drastic increase in productivity. On the contrary, it has stagnated or increased since the 1970s crisis. This trend has influenced, specially, the flexibility of labour and the persistence of the feminization of domestic labour.

To explain these changes, Hermann begins by formulating a revision and a balance of the different theories that attempt to explain the length and distribution of work time. First, he analyses neoclassical, Weberian and institutionalist theories, which have in common their consideration of capitalism as a rational system, and they are distinguished by focusing the attention of their explanations on individual choice, the increase in productivity, and the national work time regime, respectively In the second chapter, Hermann groups the theories that emphasize, when explaining the length and distribution of time invested in labour, the contradictions of the capitalist social system. These include Marxism, whose fundamental distinction is between necessary and surplus work time, post-Marxism, which contributes the idea of the reduction of the workday as a means to overcome alienation and the ecological crisis, and feminism, which widen the concept of 'labour' by including the distinction between paid and unpaid (domestic) labour.

In the second part of the book, the author addresses the main changes in productive and reproductive labour, considering its effects on work time. For him, the main reason that explains the change of labour time within production is capital's search for an increase in surplus work time. This is shown by the revision of Fordism, post Fordism and Lean Production, and the increase in the intensity of work that each one implies.

Subsequently, the author highlights the surge of the 'service economy' and 'the new economy of knowledge'. Regarding the former, he shows how the proliferation of services emerges, from capitalists, as a way to increase surplus labour, given the reduction of industrial workforce, and...

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