(OPE-L) Re: Meillassoux on population and wages

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 05 2003 - 06:46:51 EDT

I agree with Paolo:  the Meillassoux interview was very

On the question of 'guest workers', I think that Meillassoux
is basically correct:  not only can immigrant workers help
capital to overcome possible shortages of labour-power but
they are (generally) paid wages below the value of labour-power.

What strikes me as missing, though, in the Meillasoux interview,
and in Rakesh's musings on Marx's theory,  is the non-recognition
of the "cultural and moral" component of the wage.  To grasp
the cultural and moral component more concretely, one must:

a) recognize that wage determination is brought about through
class struggle.  One can not simply assert that wages will adjust
to whatever the 'needs' of capital are.

b) recognize how different histories of struggle internationally
have resulted in different national 'standards' (or averages) of
wages -- which are constantly in flux.  These international
disparities in wages -- and the value of labour-power -- must
be comprehended.  Whether the "male bread winner" would or
would not "tend" to "win a family wage" has to be comprehended
within this context -- i.e. it has to be understood more concretely
in terms of the particular context in terms of time and space of
wage determination.  Rakesh writes that Marx did not believe that
the "male bread winner would tend to win a family wage within a
developed capitalist system."  That is probably true, but Marx
did not assert either that there was a contrary tendency which
would necessarily dominate for those male workers to not win a
"family wage."

c) the role of the state, and the extent and limits to which reforms
re wages and labor standards can be won through struggle, must
also be grasped.  I do not think that Marx held that child labor,
for instance, would become generalized under capitalism.  Indeed,
there were already some limits on child labor being imposed by
states in some advanced (for the time) capitalist nations during
Marx's lifetime.  Marx, though, understood that _if the logic of
capital dominated_, then child labor would be preserved and
expanded.  He also knew, though, that it was possible, through
workers' organization, to fight for and win laws against child labor.
And he understood that the needs of capital _alone_ do not determine
wages or the persistence of child labor -- the aspirations,  collective
organization, solidarity, and resistance of the working class have to
be reckoned with.   One must realize, moreover,  that the specific subject
of _Capital_, and hence the context in which child labor was discussed
there, was capital and hence wage-labor was incompletely (one-sidedly)
grasped and the state was explicitly abstracted from (even though some
of the historical sections refer to state policies, the role of the state
within the context of the subject matter of capitalism was not theorized).

In solidarity, Jerry

Excerpt  from Rakesh's post:
> 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.<

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