Re: The 'cultural and moral' component (was Meillassoux on population and wages)

From: Francisco Paulo Cipolla (cipolla@SOCIAIS.UFPR.BR)
Date: Fri Jun 06 2003 - 18:04:17 EDT

I would like to reply to Michael that we could interpret differentials
in male/female workers in a that diverge from the notion of different
subsistence requirements.
If wages are supposed to allow for the reproduction of labor power as a
class of individuals it can only have a family meaning, that is, it has
to enough for the reproduction of the family, the social space where the
reproduction of that class takes place. If this is so and the wage falls
bellow the value of labor power and supposing this entices other members
of the family to work then these other members can only get a
complementary wage, that is a wage which complements the value of labor
power, understood as a family value. Couldn´t this serve as the basis
for understanding wage differentials between man and women? This
mechanism would have nothing to do with different subistance
requirements but rather would be based on the concept of value of labor
power as it applies to the family unity.

(By the way Michael, I am very interested in reading your book. Do you
know how much will the new edition cost? Is it presently available at
Amazon? Do you recommend waiting for the new edition?)

"michael a. lebowitz" wrote:

>  At 03:46 05/06/2003 -0400, Jerry wrote:
>> 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....
> Those who have been on the list for a long time will know I agree
> completely with Jerry's excellent comment on this point. It is one of
> the central themes in my 'Beyond CAPITAL: Marx's Political Economy of
> the Working Class' .The new, expanded edition is due out this month,
> and I'll send out a note shortly in relation to the changes. Here's an
> excerpt from Ch. 8 in the new edition relevant to Jerry's
> intervention:
>> Of course, the wage-labourers who face capital do not only live in
>> families. They live in neighbourhoods and communities--- indeed, are
>> concentrated by capital in particular neighbourhoods and cities, and
>> they live in different nations (Engels, 1845: 344, 394.). They are
>> distinguished not only as men and women but also as members of
>> different races, ethnic groups, etc. Once we acknowledge that ‘every
>> kind of consumption... in one way or another produces human beings
>> in some particular aspect,’ then it is not a great leap to extend
>> this discussion of differently-produced wage-labourers to
>> differences based on age, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality,
>> historical circumstances and, indeed, on ‘all human relations and
>> functions, however and in whatever form they may appear.’
>> Marx did not take this step. He limited his comments to the matter
>> immediately at hand--- the question of the value of labour-power.
>> Thus, he acknowledged that ‘historical tradition and social
>> habitude’ played an important part in generating different standards
>> of necessity for different groups of workers (Marx, 1865b: 145). Not
>> only do necessary needs vary over time; they also vary among
>> individuals and groups of workers at any given time. An obvious
>> example was the situation of the Irish worker, for whom ‘the most
>> animal minimum of needs and subsistence appears to him as the sole
>> object and purpose of his exchange with capital’ (Marx, 1973: 285).
>> Marx argued that their low necessary needs (compared to those of the
>> English male worker) reflected the historical conditions under which
>> Irish workers entered wage-labour, conditions which drove the
>> standard of necessity to which they became accustomed to the level
>> of physiological needs (Marx, 1977: 854-870).
>> Yet, differences in the value of labour-power reflect more than
>> differences in ‘the social conditions in which people are placed and
>> reared up.’ The latter are merely the ‘historical’ premises; and, on
>> this basis, we could never explain changes in relative wages---
>> e.g., the equalisation (upward or downward) of the value of
>> labour-power of differing groups of workers. Limited to historical
>> premises as an explanation, ‘the more or less favourable conditions’
>> under which various groups of workers ‘emerged from the state of
>> serfdom’ would appear as original sin (Marx, 1865b: 145).
>> In short, just as in the case of changes in the standard of
>> necessity over time, differences in that standard for different
>> groups of workers are the result of class struggle--- the result of
>> capitalist and worker pressing in opposite directions. The
>> historical premises (insofar as they have affected the level of
>> social needs) may explain why particular workers do not press very
>> hard against capital; however, it is what workers accept in the
>> present rather than the historical premises that determines the
>> level of their necessary needs.
>> The principle, of course, goes beyond the case of Irish and English
>> workers. It encompasses not only workers of differing ethnic and
>> national background but also male and female workers. Unless, for
>> example, we recognise the central place of class struggle in the
>> determination of the value of labour-power, we are left with an
>> explanation of male/female wage differentials that rests upon the
>> assumption of lower subsistence requirements for women. This would
>> be as absurd as to assume that Marx believed that the value of
>> labour-power of Irish workers would always be below that of English
>> workers.
> in solidarity,
> Michael L
>  ---------------------Michael A. LebowitzProfessor EmeritusEconomics
> DepartmentSimon Fraser UniversityBurnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6Office:
> Phone (604) 291-4669         Fax   (604) 291-5944Home:   Phone (604)
> 689-9510 [NOTE CHANGE]

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