[OPE-L:5491] Re: Counteracting factors

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu May 03 2001 - 09:15:46 EDT

Re Charlie's [5483]:

> Price, however, is exchange value, not value.
> The working- class consumers have no more
> value (received as money wages) to
> give back to the capitalist class than they did
> prior to the success of the marketing campaign.

Right ... unless over the long-term these goods
become identified as being 'necessary' by the
working-class and therefore the 'cultural' and
'moral' component of the wage increases.
This, of course, would entail working-class
struggles for higher wages and the success or
failure of those wage struggles is not pre-

> Has the exchange value of money changed?

Perhaps. The increase in prices by oligopolies
might have caused average prices to increase
and therefore brought about (profit-push)

> Has the money wage changed?

Not necessarily (although, of course, workers
can fight for higher wages to make up for their
declining real wages.)

>  Have the hours of labor performed
> by the working class
> changed? If not, then the rate of exploitation and > the mass of
> surplus value have not changed.


Now consider two additional possibilities:

1) Suppose, though, that by virtue of previous
struggles, the cultural and moral component of
the wage has increased  to the point where
workers are normally able to save a proportion
of their money wages.  That is, after all, a pretty
realistic possibility for advanced capitalist
economies, including the U.S.

Now suppose that oligopolies have increased
the prices for goods destined for working-class
consumption such that the bundle of goods
purchased by workers is purchased at prices
significantly higher than values. The result must
under these conditions be a declining standard
of living for workers even where the money
wage has remained constant. So -- you're
right -- the rate and mass of surplus value
along with the hours of labor have not changed --
but the money wage which customarily
purchased a certain quantity of commodities
is now able to exchange against less commodities.

2) Suppose, as above, that there is a 'cultural'
and 'moral' component of the wage that is
such that workers have been able to have
savings. Now suppose that they finance the
additional expenditures on commodities sold
by oligopolies through credit-card borrowing.
The result would then be, assuming a given
money wage, at best a decline of workers'
savings or at worst negative savings (i.e.
debt) for working-class families.  Suppose
the latter. In that case, again, the standard of
living of workers has gone down, right?

> On their side, the workers are well aware of
> how much stuff they
> create, how much effort it takes them to do it,
> and how much they
> consume. These facts hold regardless of whether > the prices of
> commodities are equal to their value..." (From Capitalism to
> Equality, p. 101-2, Web URL below.)

I'm not convinced that is the case. Had it been
the case then it is unlikely that credit card debt
for working-class families would have reached
the height that it has.

One has to consider, also, the nature of the
advertising and marketing campaigns by the
oligopolies. Rather than assume  that consumer
preferences are given and are exogenous (as
in the marginalist perspective on consumer
sovereignty), oligopolies understand that they
can manufacture wants and desires and 'needs'
by working-class consumers!  Workers are
*not* in general aware of the extent to which
advertising plays with their heads. Indeed,
in entire branches of production (e.g. in the
personal care sector), the whole point of the
advertising is to create a fear -- indeed a
*neurosis* -- that didn't previously exist. It
is in the nature of  neurosis that those who suffer
from those complexes don't generally recognize
it for what it is.

> This is only the first instance. Moving from the
> first instance
> to a final result proceeds through workers' consciousness and
> class struggle. Many similar phenomena of price > -- the tripled
> price of the oligopoly commodity at issue here,
> general
> inflation, and the current price gouging for
> electricity and
> natural gas in California -- affect the standard of l> living.


> Workers know whether their wages have held
> up or not. As
> individuals they may try to find a second job, or > as a family the
> spouse may re-enter the labor force, or sections > of the working
> class may put more energy into the class struggle.

I think that you are making the assumptions
of economic rationality and perfect information
here. Working-class behavior in the marketplace
and elsewhere is not always rational  nor do
they have perfect information about the

> There is no
> formula by which to calculate what happens in going from the
> first instance to the final result.


In solidarity, Jerry

> Web site for my [Charlie's, JL] book is at
> http://www.LaborRepublic.org

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