[OPE-L:2503] Re: The employment contract

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 14 2000 - 08:50:25 EST

[ show plain text ]

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 14:39:36 +0100
From: Ernesto Screpanti <screpanti@unisi.it>

Jerry wrote in [2497]

At 11.00 08/03/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Re Ernesto's [2496]:
>> Here is the second problem with Marxian theory of capitalism I hinted at a
>> few weeks ago: *The class demarcation problem*.
>> Marx - In capitalism there are two typical social classes: the capitalists
>> and the workers.
>Marx: In capitalism there are *at least* two major social classes.
>[For instance, Marx was quite adamant that landowners are "one of the
>three great classes of modern society based on the capitalist mode of
>production" (_Capital_, Volume 3, Penguin ed., p. 1025). He is also
>adamant in the "Critique of a Gotha Programme" that landowners constitute
>a distinct social class.
>I also think that Marx would have insisted on including the
>"petty-bourgeoisie" as a distinct, although not "great" , social class
>associated with capitalism. Among other reasons, the existence of the
>petty-bourgeoisie is important for explaining the process of increasing
>proletarianization that accompanies the concentration, centralization, and
>accumulation of capital.]
Of course, you are right. But this might be too subtle for Mrs Thatcher. At
any rate, the discussion was on the typical or fundamental classes of

>> Mrs Thatcher - Please define them.
>I don't think that Marx would give Mrs. Thatcher the time of day let alone
>getting into a serious discussion with her.. Indeed, I think that the
>disdain that he would have had for her would be equal to or greater than
>the disdain that he had for "Parson Malthus".

Certainly greater.

>> Marx - The capitalists are the owners of the means of production, the
>> workers are the owners of nothing.
>The working class owns their own labour power. This is part of the meaning
>of "free labour".

This is an important problem. If workers own their labour power they own a
form of human capital! But Marx was very critical on the notion of human
capital. On the other hand, labour power becomes a commodity only after the
exchange with a wage.
>> Marx - Because they are compelled (by their inability to control the means
>> of labour and the means of living) to accept the condition of wage
>Marx would not be so careful about avoiding the term "means of


>> Mrs Thatcher - Why are they not able to accumulate their own wealth?
>> Marx - Because their income is a subsistence wage, so that their
>> saving propensity is nil.
>The assumption of zero savings by workers is a simplifying assumption
>which can be relaxed at a more concrete level of abstraction. And, of
>course, the "subsistence wage" is not really a "subsistence wage" since it
>includes a "moral" and "cultural" component.

Of course, but when you remove the hypothesis and allow some savings from
the workers, you must admit that they become owners of some wealth.
>> Mrs Thatcher - Fine! You are ready to enrole in my party.
>Marx would not be amused!

Notoriously he lacked the sense of humour.

>> Marx - What is your party program?
>> Mrs Thatcher - I hold that in modern capitalism there are no longer any
>> social classes in your sense, or, at least, that there is a tendency to
>> abilish class differences. My party aims at accelerating the process.
>> Marx - How is it possible to abolish class differences in capitalism?
>> Mrs Thatcher - Very simple. Wages are no longer subsistence incomes. The
>> workers save and accumulate capital.
>Marx - simply because workers save some portion of their wage does not
>mean that they "accumulate capital". Please do not assert the false and
>reactionary claim that capital is a result of the "thrift" of the
>capitalists. That is a position of the political economists that I have
>put pen to paper to ridicule.

If you do not like the expression "accumulate capital", I can delete it.
But the problem remains. If the workers save, they have wealth and earn
some interest on it.
>> Their income is made up of wages and
>> surplus value. Just like the capitalists.
>Marx - I knew I shouldn't have wasted my time talking to you! [Marx was a
>man who was not known for suffering fools gladly].

Screpanti (to Marx) - You should do some effort at talking even on matters
that you do not like. You still have not answered the question: Where does
the interest earned by a worker on his bank deposit come from?
>> A manager, on the other hand,
>> receives a salary for his work in the firm and, possibly, some dividend
>> from his shares. Everybody is a capitalist and a worker at the same time.
>> The differences are in degree, in income brackets, not in quality. There
>> could be pure rentiers (as Keynes used to complain). But certainly this is
>> not a social class in your sense.
>> Marx - My pupil Vladimir used to speak of "worker aristocracy" ...
>Hmmm. Now that would make an interesting hypothetical lunch date -- what
>would Marx and Lenin say to each other?

Screpanti - I think the first questions Marx would rise is: Vladimir, how
do you think the workers could emancipate by themselves if there is no
democracy in the soviets? And how do you think the Kronstadt workers
killed by the red army emancipated themselves?

>> Mrs Thatcher- I would not dare making an aristocracy with the workers. I
>> would be quite satisfied with accelerating the historical process that
>> transforms all of them into capitalists.

>> Enters Engels - Karl you certainly did not read Capital, vol III.
>> Marx - Volume III? Who wrote it?
>Marx to Fred E: don't you remember what I wrote about the "artistic
>whole"? If only I could have lived another ten years then I could have
>finished Book One and then written the remaining five books on
>"Economics". Unfortunately, I am deceased. Which reminds me -- I have to
>return to Highgate Cemetery now. It was good talking to you, Fred. I hope
>that reactionary Thatcher is dead like us. Gotta go. Bye.

Screpanti (to Jerry) - if you mean that we'd better leave Marx sleeping, I
agree. But theoretical problems cannot be left sleeping.

In solidarity,
Ernesto Screpanti
Dipartimento di Economia Politica
Piazza S. Francesco 1
53100 Siena
tel: 0577 232784
fax: 0577 232661

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 21 2000 - 09:47:56 EDT