(OPE-L) Re: the real wage, and the production of surplus value

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Dec 09 2003 - 08:12:07 EST

Paul C:

Some 'thinking out loud' comments on the 'wage share in
national income':

1)  Over a very long-term historical period the wage
share of national income has gone _up_ (rather than
remaining stable)  for the following reason:  as the
process of concentration and centralization of capital
continues, a greater proportion of the population become
wage-earners (i.e. an increasing wage share of national
income -- especially prior to the advent of 'late capitalism'
-- is a reflection of the process of increasing

2)  For the advanced capitalist nations,  the percentage
of wage-workers to the total population has -- abstracting
from cyclical variations when greater number of people are
either thrown into or out of the IRA -- remained fairly
constant (e.g. in the US, the rate since the 1960's has been
about 80-82%) in recent decades.  If then there is a relatively
stable wage share of national income it requires rising real
wages if the real national income has been rising during that
same period.  The explanation for this might be that workers,
through trade unions, have been successful in raising real
wages but _only_ by an amount  (roughly) equal to the growth
of  real national income.  To understand why this has been the
case in different advanced capitalist nations requires an
examination of conjuncttual factors that affect the balance
of class forces.

3) For the capitalist social formations in those countries
which are _not_ advanced capitalist nations,  while there
has also been a long-term process of proletarianization
which should have resulted in a increasing wage share of
national income, in recent decades there has been
'de-proletrianization' as mass amounts of workers join
the IRA and then over time become part of the 'petty
commodity sector' (i.e. 'informal' sector).  While many who
are employed in the petty commodity sector are wage-earners,
a very significant percentage who earn their living in that
sector are 'self-employed.'   Also, the amount of people who
become 'bonded labor' and who don't receive a wage has been
increasing in many of these social formations. It's difficult to get
hard data on the petty commodity and bonded labor sectors
because they have a semi- or non-legal status in many countries,
but there is reason to believe that with many millions of people
employed in these sectors, this would cause the wage share of
national income to _decline_ even when (if) the real wages for
wage-earners are increasing.

As a consequence, rather than there being one trend
related to the wage share of national income there are several
observable different trends that vary depending on the
historical time period and region that one is discussing.

In solidarity, Jerry

> I know that it declined   over that period, but over
> the 60s it went up. I have done empirical work
> measuring this, but these differences are fluctuations
> by a multiplicative factor of less then 2. What
> I am saying is we need a theory of the order of
> magnitude that we actually observe.
> If real wages in the USA were the same as those
> in Bangladesh, we would have a wage share that
> was different by an order of magnitude.

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