Re: [OPE-L] Theoretical issues concerning variable capital

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Sat Oct 07 2006 - 16:57:36 EDT

--- Jerry Levy <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM> wrote:

> > Marx's simple story works this way: Historically
> real
> > wages are determined around what prevailed as the
> real
> > income of the class that largely became
> proletariat in
> > the historical transformation of any given
> society.
> > Thus historically wages in different societies
> could
> > start from different levels. For example, it
> started
> > at higher level in the United States than say
> England.
> > However, the population principle of capitalism,
> which
> > is given by labor saving technical changes,
> creates
> > downward pressure on wages over time and thus
> wages
> > have a tendency to fall towards what in different
> > societies will be considered subsistence level.
> Hi Ajit:
> Yes, but let's not substitute the 'simple story' for
> the full
> one.  The 'story' that you present is a Volume I
> story
> --  i.e. only part of  one-eighteenth (or less) of
> the story.
> Some other parts of the story become clearer when
> you
> also consider what was written in the "Resultate des
> unmittelbaren Produktionsprozesses" and the
> _Grundrisse_.
For example? What is the 17/18th of the story?
> The Volume I story, furthermore, has to be modified
> to
> take into account the character of capitalist cycles
> in which
> the size of the relative surplus population grows
> and declines
> in relation to those cycles.
Why would you take cycles into consideration when you
are dealing with long term trajectory?
> Furthermore, the Volume I simple story has to be put
> in the
> context of wage-laborers being able to within limits
> raise their
> customary standard of living their own
> self-activity.
> Furthermore, the Volume I story has to be put in the
> context
> of how the state can intervene to change at least
> part of that
> story.
I don't understand what is the point of all these
comments. Do you agree with my interpretation of Marx
or you disagree?
> While you are right to suggest that Marx understood
> that
> there were different customary standards of living
> in different
> social formations which were, in large part, a
> consequence
> of the different histories of class struggle in
> different nations,
> he also grasped I believe that wages in individual
> nations
> could change through the process of  foreign trade
> and the
> creation and generalization of  the world capitalist
> market.
But who has sugggested that Marx was arguing that
wages were stagnant? The question is whether he
expected the real wages to move up or down on a long
term trajectory.
> In other words, the simple story is best flushed out
> within
> the context of thinking about capitalism in which
> capital
> as a whole (rather than only capitalist production
> in isolation
> from capitalist circulation), class action
> (including trade
> union activity, alluded to in the "Resultate"),
> state policy,
> foreign trade, and the world market and crisis are
> all
> grasped and shown to be inter-related.  [side note:
> the role of landowners has to also be grasped in
> relation
> to workers' real wages since rent imposed on the
> working-class  can alter the standard of living of
> workers.  This is an argument for not only studying
> landowners as a class but also studying the
> inter-relation
> between landowners and wage-workers in the study of
> wage-labor.]
Jerry, I really don't understand most of what you
write. What is your point? Are you saying that Marx
had a theory of wages that "grasped" it in all these
"contexts"? Or you are suggesting that we have to do
that? Or you are suggesting that you have an
understanding of Marx's theory of wages that "grasps"
it in all these contexts?
> In any event -- and here I agree with Jurriaan -- if
> we
> are to grasp the underlying theoretical issues in a
> more
> complex and mediated form, then we must move beyond
> thinking of  'Marx's story' and instead think of a
> story
> which is most consistent with the dynamic and
> historical
> realities of capitalism and to do that we need to
> study
> the empirical data and in so doing 'test'  and  then
> modify
> _our own_  simple stories about the subject matter.
> In a way,
> I think  you are supporting such an effort since you
> are at least
> posing the issue of whether a story is contradicted
> by
> the historical and empirical evidence.  That's a
> potential area
> of agreement.
My sense is that the way you go about theory is not
very fruitful.
> The above does not necessarily contradict what you
> were
> saying in your previous post, but rather points a
> way
> forward out of the dilemma which you pose.  You
> suggest
> other ways forward (in the section below) but don't
> explain
> the relative merits of each.  What do you think they
> are?
> In solidarity, Jerry
I don't think I want to say much more than what I
already have said. May be one way to get our
understanding of wages clearer is to think more about
profits. Cheers, ajit sinha
> > Now
> > this prediction has come out to be wrong. The
> whole
> > idea that Marx argued that 'relative' wages would
> > fall, i.e., relative to profits, and not absolute
> > wages, flies in the face of all evidence and
> > arguments. To the best of my knowledge, no body
> has
> > shown how a long term trend in the fall of
> 'relative'
> > wages in relation to profits can be maintained
> > simultaneously with the notion of a long term
> trend in
> > the rate of profits to fall. Any way, one needs to
> > come up with some theoretical arguments of how
> this
> > could happen? One could argue that actually the
> rate
> > of growth of the economy has been faster than the
> rate
> > of labor displacement and a positive rate of
> growth of
> > population could only be maintained through higher
> > real wages (this is the case of Adam Smith). Or
> one
> > could argue that rise in labor productivity
> somehow
> > increases the bargaining strength of labor. Now if
> > Marx's argument is taken to be correct that the
> > dynamism of capitalism is to increase the rate of
> > unemployment over time, then the question becomes
> how
> > would labor's bargaining strength increase in this
> > scenario? This is where the notion of norms and
> > conventions, which allows us to bring in a host of
> > complex political and sociological factors into
> play,
> > could be of help. Sraffa's notion of rate of
> profits
> > as conventionally given allows real wages to rise
> with
> > rise in productivity irrespective of the rate of
> > unemployment. Of course, it is not a complete
> theory
> > yet, but it allows us to build a much richer
> theory.
> > The point is that the rate of unemployment may be
> an
> > important factor in determining the real wages or
> its
> > trend but perhaps it is not the only factor. As I
> had
> > suggested earlier on Mike L's lecture: its
> theoretical
> > foundation is weak but its basic idea is good.

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