‘Cold, Calculating Political Economy’: Fixed Costs, the Rate of Profit and the Length of the Working Day in the Factory Act Debates, 1832-1847.
37 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 20, 2014
The paper re-analyses the evidence presented by pro and anti-regulation interests during the debates on factory reform. To do so it considers the interrelationship between fixed costs, the rate of profit and the length of the working day. The interrelationship casts new light on the lobbying positions on either side of the debate. It does so by comparing the evidence presented in the debates before parliament and associated pamphlets with actual figures contained in the business records of implicated firms. As a result the paper identifies the compromise position of the working day length compatible with reasonable rates of profit based on actual cost structures. It is thereby able to reinterpret the validity of the claims of contemporary political economy used to support the cases for and against factory regulation.
Keywords: Factory Acts, working hours, rate of profit, cost structure, accounting, cotton industry
JEL Classification: J21, J31, K31, L50, L67, M4, N13, O14, O15, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation