Re: (OPE-L) RE: tendencies for equalization

From: Francisco Paulo Cipolla (cipolla@UFPR.BR)
Date: Fri Sep 24 2004 - 16:06:32 EDT

Sorry for being a bit late to get involved in the thread on wage equalization.
Curiously enough I think competition among workers does not lead to
equalization tendencies, on the contrary.
In fact I think this equalization story runs against just about everything
that springs out of Marx´s analysis:
1. different techniques whithin an industry leads to the exploitation of
different strata of the working class; the least productive capitals use the
lower strata of the working class, pay a lot less and sacrifice a bit of the
surplus value so extracted in order to be able to compete with the most
advanced capitals;
2. the analysis under 1 is supported by the stratification of the industrial
reserve army into several different levels of dispair and holplessness so that
competion among workers can easely be used by capitals of different
3. the heterogeneous nature of the industrial reserve army puts different
pressures on different segments of the labor market so that depression of
wages is not necessarily homogeneous all accross industries and firms.

Then, there is the reality out there: production workers earning from R$250 to
R$ 3000 in the Brazilian economy. And no convergence. No. Not a visible one.
from the very Brasil

Ian Wright wrote:

> Hi Jerry and Ajit
> > The level of abstraction where workers strive for economic equality
> > with each other is certainly more concrete than that  presented in
> > _Capital_ since it presupposes subjectivity and trade union and class
> > consciousness. It requires the recognition of diversity within the class
> > and a concerted strategy to achieve unity-in-diversity.
> Homogenizing tendencies do not require trade union or class
> consciousness. For example, simple commodity production is sufficient.
> The assumptions are: production of commodities, regular monetized
> market exchanges, mobility of labour and the objective equality of the
> producers. The subjectivity requirements are extremely weak; basically
> the actors must play economic roles. This is not different to the
> subjectivity requirements of Marx's theory in Vol I.
> Contrary to what Ajit argues, the actors do not need to know the
> prevailing wage or the prevailing return to labour effort, although I
> think this is the usual case. The law of value can emerge via a
> lower-bound on subsistence requirements. The feedback information need
> only be quantities of goods. This is a logical point. It remains to be
> seen whether this logical possibility connects with any historical
> events.
> More generally, there must be a shared behavioural norm with
> relatively low variance within the working population for the law of
> value to emerge (e.g., striving for similar subsistence requirements,
> striving for good wages, etc.) In my view, the objective equality of
> people is a condition of possibility of such a norm. Simply put, such
> ideas would not persist if they were not objectively possible to
> realise.
> Ajit allows there is such a norm in capitalism, based on the idea of
> utility-maximising individuals: 'in this case it would be rational to
> assume that labor will move in the direction of higher remuneration,
> that is, workers would prefer to sell their labor-power to whoever
> offers the best price for their commodity'; but denies there can be
> such a norm in pre-capitalist economic setups, although I do not
> understand his argument at this point. But I'm happy that Ajit is
> considering dynamic labour mobility at all. My thinking is that this
> requirement for a norm will be easily satisfied prior to capitalism,
> and in accordance with my theoretical prejudices, the historical
> illustrations provided by Howard and Paul convince me.
> > At that level of abstraction, what is the causal mechanism that you
> > believe leads to the 'tendency' for wage rate equalization?
> Briefly, within capitalism, intra-class economic competition between
> workers in the labour market. The law of value doesn't need class
> consciousness and social democracy in order to exist. It's the other
> way around isn't it?
> -Ian.

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