(OPE-L) the culture of value and its opposition

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sun May 02 2004 - 08:40:32 EDT

Hi Paul C.

Mike L asked:

> Doesn't the set of necessaries underlying the value of
> labour-power have something to do with historically
> developed social needs, which become second nature?

You replied:

> I suspect that given time and mobility of capital,
> some historically developed social necessities might
> be found by the ruling class to be not so necessary
> after all.

What the ruling class believes to be necessary does
not by itself determine what becomes a standard in a
culture for social necessity.  It goes without saying that
the capitalist class will strive where and when possible
to lower the cultural standards of the working class regarding
necessity, but it can not unilaterally decrease a standard
which has become an aspect of the culture itself.

Note in the paragraph above, I wrote culture or cultural
three times.  This was not accidental.  I repeated these words
to encourage others to think about the VLP in relation to
construction, deconstruction and conflict that happens
within specific cultures.   To focus on physiological standards
when conceiving of the VLP is not only a throw-back to
Lasalle's Iron Law of Wages but is also suggestive of a
*functionalist* sociological perspective on culture and value.
Yet, the determination of  the VLP and the shaping of cultural
practice is not nearly as stable and orderly a process as
functionalists suggest.

> I accept your argument that the actual wage is determined
> by conditions of class struggle, but this allows it to be
> raised above what is strictly necessary for reproduction.

What is "strictly necessary for reproduction"?   Bread (or
substitute) and water?  Physiologically, we can survive for many
days without food and less days without water.   This has been
demonstrated in many survival situations and in concentration camps.
No society in the world now views that as its standard of
necessity.   The point is that what is seen as  "strictly necessary"
varies spatially and temporally.  It is _itself_ a standard and
_norm_ specific to individual cultures and societies.

> We want to defend the actual real wage from being reduced
> so we say that it is no more than the value of labour power.
> I suspect that it is well above the value of labour power, but
> of course workers are still exploited.

The point is that the VLP specific to a particular society can itself
change over time.

In solidarity, Jerry

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