(OPE-L) Re: tendencies for equalization

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Oct 01 2004 - 09:10:52 EDT

> Jerry, just a note that occurred to me as I was reading your fine post:
> If stronger capitals are superior in competition precisely because of
> relative surplus value they do not need to resume to absolute surplus
> value.  Other points of your post will have to be thought out as they
> are well taken.


Take your time.  The reason I think the question of whether wage disparities
under capitalism tend to decline or increase over the course of the cycle
and over the course of capitalist development is important should be
obvious.  The reason I think it is particularly interesting is because Marx
didn't have any clear statements about this one way or the other which
encourages us to think about this from a fresh perspective.  I like thinking
about questions like that -- they are intellectually challenging.  So, I'm
thinking through this issue just like you are and if you or anyone else has
a better answer to this issue -- at the level of abstraction that we have
been discussing -- then I'm all ears.

I raised the issue of absolute surplus value only parenthetically and I
don't want us to get off the track re the main question -- i.e. whether
there is a tendency for wage equalization under capitalism.  But, for
the sake of clarity, I'll explain more what I meant re the production
of absolute s.

To begin with (and crucially important to the point I was making), let's
make all of the assumptions that you made previously.  Now suppose
that a weaker capital is able to extend the length of the working day or
the length of the workweek without increasing wages for its
(productive) workers. Under the assumptions that you have made,
there is every reason to believe that the stronger capital will follow suit
and increase absolute surplus value to the same extent.  Clearly, if
workers employed by the weaker capital can be made to work
longer hours per day or more days per week then we would expect
members of the industrial reserve army to accept jobs offered
by the stronger capital if the stronger capital wanted to increase
absolute s.  This means that the stronger capital can increase
absolute s by either hiring new employees out of the IRA or by
using the threat of the same to coerce its current workforce to
accept the change in working hours and days.  Moreover, the
force of competition -- the very mechanism that led the weaker
capitals to attempt to increase absolute s -- will ensure that the
stronger capitals *will* attempt to increase absolute s.  If they
did not do so, then they would be conceding a competitive advantage
to the weaker capitals and thereby make the weaker capitals
stronger and the stronger capitals weaker.  That is not what we
would expect from capitalists who strive to "accumulate,
accumulate ...."   The upshot of this is that a new social standard
for the length of the working day and workweek is created.
Marx's point, I believe, was not that capitalists (whether strong
or weak) will cease to attempt to increase absolute s.  On the
contrary, his point was that while the major form in which surplus
value can be raised will increasingly become through the
production of relative surplus value, *all* capitalists will strive
*wherever possible* to increase absolute surplus value and the
intensity of labor.

But, like I said, let's keep the focus on the issue of wage equalization
rather than the question of absolute s.  Hopefully, though, I have
expressed myself more clearly about the latter.

In solidarity, Jerry

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