[OPE-L:7557] RE: Re: RE: To Rakesh, RE: Fred's remarks on Marx, Sraffa & Rents

From: mongiovg (mongiovg@stjohns.edu)
Date: Tue Aug 27 2002 - 17:09:27 EDT

In response to Gil:

Good question.  Let me begin by saying that I don't much care for the term 
"exploitation," not because I don't think it is real and pervasive, but 
because I don't see how we can talk about it without coming across like 
ideologues to economists who are not Marxists. More to the point, as I 
suggested in my post, I think the term is too value-loaded to be useful in 
scientific discourse. (Please, don't anyone ask me to define scientific: it's 
too big a question.)

Marx's definition is quite serviceable. You want to conduct an econometric 
analysis of the circumstances that influence the degree of "exploitation" in a 
particular political economy? Marx's accounting system seems like a reasonable 
starting point. But if workers' living standards (their real wages) don't 
decline monotonically with the ratio of labor values s/v you'll probably have 
some explaining to do to the typical non-Marxist referee. And remember, you're 
not explaining anything other than the degree to which various factors 
influence a particular ratio, s/v. Calling that ratio the "rate of 
exploitation" doesn't constitute an insight about how the world works: all it 
does is put an ideological spin on the (possibly quite interesting) empirical 
results. Garegnani identifies exploitation (more or less) with situations in 
which workers don't get to keep all of the output they produce. In other 
contexts this might be a useful definition. But in the end, both of these 
definitions (and Roemer's as well) are too formal to capture what is really 
involved in exploitative production arrangements: one social class is 
dependent upon another for access to the means of production, and hence is 
subject to a vast spectrum of coercive, alienating and demeaning indignities. 
To get the picture one needs the history of class conflict, the anecdotal 
accounts of workplace indignities, the Blue Books, etc.  But what you 
certainly DON'T need are Marx's labor-value accounting (or Sraffa prices, for 
that matter).



>===== Original Message From Gil Skillman <gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu> =====
>Gary, you write, among other things,
>>What insights are these, that cannot be derivable from Sraffa's model? That
>>workers are exploited? Nope: I've got two eyes, and I read the papers
>>(Walmart, anyone?); I know workers are exploited and I don't need Marx's
>>value analysis to see that.  Sure, you can define exploitation as Marx did,
>>from which it follows that you can't measure it without his value 
>>but definitions are ultimately arbitrary, and there are other ways to define
>I'm curious as to how you'd propose defining exploitation without reference
>to embodied labor time; is it anything like Roemer's proposed
>generalization of Marx's notion, e.g.?
>>Anyway, in the end, using such a value-loaded word as
>>"exploitation" to describe a social process cannot help but be ideological. 
>>don't doubt that there are contexts in which some interesting empirical
>>regularities can be exposed by looking at economic processes through the 
>>of Marx's vlaue categories.  But I don't see that these categories are
>>necessary to provide an understanding of the most fundamental
>>relating to the determination of distribution, choice of technique, pace of
>>accumulation, etc. For these sorts of issues, Sraffa's framework is 
>>for all the reasons Steedman mentions.
>>All the best,

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