Re: Meillassoux on population and wages

From: rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU
Date: Wed Jun 04 2003 - 17:08:40 EDT

Quoting Francisco Paulo Cipolla <cipolla@SOCIAIS.UFPR.BR>:

> Very interesting interview Rakesh. It strikes me however how wrong
> he
> can be about Marx´s theory of wages and at the same time thinking
> for
> himself in ways that Marx would find very interesting (for instance
> on
> the question of those imigrant workers serving the pourpose of
> enriching
> a rich country without representing absolutely any costs as far as
> the
> formation of the labor force is concerned). One can certainly being
> brilliant without geting Marx right, but one should try to avoid
> representing him incorrectly with such certainty!
> Paulo

Yes, I think you are right, Paulo.  

Not only did Marx not think that the male bread winner would tend to win 
a family wage in the developed capitalist system, Marx explicitly showed 
how with the development of technology capital was able to and forced by 
the threat of moral depreciation to raise the rate of exploitation by 
hiring hitherto dependent women and children and thereby displacing the 
family wage earning male head of the household. Marx's point was that 
capital would bring the whole family under its heel:  a closed 
capitalism can, did and would break the power of the family wage earner.

Meillassoux is thus wrong to suggest that Marx believed that a closed 
capitalism would tend to pay wages to heads of households which by 
themselves allowed for the reproduction of the family unit.

I am not sure why you think Meillassoux is wrong about KM. If reason 
different than mine above, I would love to hear it. 

A couple of situtations in the US: in the NY Times a few years back 
Somini Sengupta reported that women working in Chinatown sweatshops were 
forced to send their children to elders in China because they could not 
support them on their American wages. UC Irvine Prof Leo Chavez has 
argued that attempts to cut off benefits to "illegal immigrants" may be 
motivated in part by the attempt to restrict immigration only to the 
head of household; that way US based capital does not have to pay for 
the reproduction of the entire family in the US. That is,  wages can be 
lower if part of the family is reproduced back "home".  If memory 
serves, Chavez draws explicitly on Meillassoux. 


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