Re: [OPE-L] the "unequal exchange" controversy

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sun Jan 01 2006 - 11:16:47 EST

Hi Alejandro,

> Jerry, you know about the issue more than me by far. 

I doubt that!

>  However, I have a basic commentary: Most discussions about 
> UE ignore SNLT as you say.  SNLT is different between  rich (RC) 
> and poor countries (PC) because skilling and intensity  but also 
> because  organic composition of capital are unequal too. All theese 
> differences are put together in productivity differences; RC are more 
> productives than PC.  

Yes,  but _if_  workers in PC tend to experience a higher intensity of
labor than workers in RC and if we understand productivity in this
context as output/worker/period of time, then that would tend to 
_reduce_ the productivity inequality between the two regions, ceteris 
paribus.  If that were the case then there could still be UE, but that the 
rate of UE would be reduced.  (This is another way of saying that the
rate of UE would be reduced if workers in the PC were exploited

> Selling at (roughly) same prices at world  market implies than one 
> working hour of RC count more than one working hour of PC.  
> Is this UE?  If the answer is yes it means that  UE  is the regular way  
> of capitalist market operation and it is impossible to change it without 
> eliminate capitalism. Hence UE is not a problem. If the answer is no; 
> you need to eliminate productivity differences to analyse UE.  I think 
> that UE should be defined excluding productivity differences between 
> RC and PC.  Some UE theorist (Prebish) suggest that fair relationship 
> betwen RC and PC could be reached within capitalism. I a sure that 
> fair capitalist relaitions implies that poor countries reach RC 
> productivities or

Or?  You didn't finish your sentence.

You say that you think that UE should be defined excluding productivity
differences between RC and PC.  Yet, aren't productivity and cost differences
the underlying causes for why there is UE?    Explaining the underlying 
social mechanisms that give rise to UE is, I think, the best way of
explaining why UE is not accidental or haphazard and can not be 
reformed away under capitalism.  One of those underlying mechanisms
that you mention above are changes in the composition of capital.  
Another related mechanism is the size of the industrial reserve army,
which is often rather dramatically different between many RCs and PCs.
The size of the IRA, in turn, tends to influence both productivity (e.g.
by influencing the intensity of labor) and wages (and, of course,
as Jurriaan rightly points out,  non-wage costs such as worker benefits).

To pose the issue in a different way, is UE largely a consequence of the 
operation of the  'absolute general law of capitalist accumulation'  on
a world scale?

In solidarity, Jerry

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