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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Mon Jun 09 2003 - 01:01:59 EDT

Michael L wrote:

>       I feel that your question is a bit like 'have you stopped
>being subjective'? I don't think I'm being any more subjective than
>Marx when he talked about capitalists and workers pressing in
>opposite directions-- ie., engaged in class struggle (which is, of
>course, two-sided). A critical variable (affecting wages and the
>length and intensity of the workday) in my discussion is 'the degree
>of separation among workers'; and this variable clearly reflects not
>only struggle on the part of workers to unite but also struggle on
>the part of capital to divide (which can involve-- as Marx discussed
>in his seminal discussion of the situation of Irish and English
>workers-- the turning of differences into antagonisms, which he
>described as the 'secret' of its ability to rule). What may in any
>particular case make it easier for capital to divide and/or more
>difficult for workers to unite to struggle against capital is
>important to discuss concretely.

Yes yet you seemed to be arguing that one barrier to uniting is the
willingness of one group of workers to accept lower wages than the
other. And you seemed to be saying that the differences in wills
could no longer just be a matter of historical differences.  So my
question remains how we are to explain that difference in what
different groups of workers put up with. You seemed to be arguing
that the kind of explanation which Marx provided for the conflict
between English and Irish workers can no longer work.

>My point (expanded at length in a discussion of the reproduction of
>wage-labour in the new edition) was the general one that if the
>determination of the set of necessities entering normally into the
>reproduction of workers was 'given' (both over time and for
>differing groups of workers), then Marx's stress upon the
>competition of English and Irish workers is hard to fathom.

Yes two groups of workers can have  different senses of what the real
wage has to be. I agree that Marx does not have a classical
subsistence theory of the wage. But to reject that theory does not
logically imply acceptance of the idea that what is necessary for
different groups of workers is just a matter of differences in their
"collective will" (if we are to allow such a reification).

>>It would seem to me that your explanation for inter-group variance
>>in wages is as subjective as the Keynesian explanation for the
>>failure to expand the level of investment. Some groups of workers
>>just don't struggle hard; capitalists lose animal spirits.
>And, your explanation?

Yes I do need one for concrete cases. So my counter-argument is
indeed much weakened by the absence of one

>>In theorizing the dialectic between subject and object or agents
>>and structure, the stick can be bent so far in the direction of the
>>subject that the stick itself is broken.
>OK, explain your structure--- once we have proceeded (as Marx
>intended after CAPITAL) to relax the assumption that the standard of
>necessity (ie., the use-values entering into the value of
>labour-power) is given.

Fair enough. Let me think about it.

Yours, Rakesh

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