Re: [OPE-L] empirical measurement of changes in the value of labour-power

From: GERALD LEVY (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Dec 12 2007 - 21:32:15 EST

> > Is the following the only reason you think so?> > > Would it not be better to explicitly distinguish:> > > (a) the labour-value of the real wage> > > (b) the total labour (social *and* domestic) necessary to reproduce> > > the capacity to work> Yes. I think the VLP was an ingenious theoretical invention by Marx but> it is also imprecise for the reason given above.> Take one wage-labourer, working for 1 month. 
Hi Dave Z:
Hold on.  I don't think that this question should be framed in 
terms of "one wage-worker".
This is a complicated question since a number of concepts 
(VLP, SNLT, abstract labour) are related to each other and 
because the period of time under consideration (and what happens
during that time) is relevant.  
In general terms, I think that average wages (real and nominal) can be
said to fluctuate around the VLP.  In other words, the VLP represents 
a kind of *average value*  which at a *given moment in time* can
be assumed to be *given*.   It incorporates a "historical and moral
element" associated with a *given* social formation: in other words, 
the VLP is different in different societies and is subject to change.
But, it is essentially a *long-run* concept.  In the short-run, 
changes in  the supply and demand for labour power (over various 
phases of the business cycle) can cause wages to be greater than or 
lesser than the VLP.  
Now, is this a worthwhile distinction?  That also is a complicated
question.  It depends on whether you think that there needs to be 
an analysis in which short-run variations can occur independently
from long-run averages.  This is complicated because what happens in
the short-run can cause there to be - *over time* - changes in 
standards of what constitutes SNLT and the VLP.  It is complicated
also because it concerns issues of comparative statics and dynamic 
analysis. Indeed, it's complicated for a number of other reasons as well!
All the more reason for us all to discuss it, I say!
In the concrete question of a change in food prices, I would ask:
what are the underlying causes of the change in food prices?  I
think that short-term shortages, for example, need to be separated
out from structural causes, like a major change in the productivity of
labor in agriculture due to technological change.  The first would
lead to a change in real wage (or what you call the real wage
vector) and the second would cause a change over time in the VLP.
I do recognize, though, that there are some difficulties in "operationalizing"
the concept of the VLP, especially in periods of rapid technological 
change and intense class struggle, and this can lead to measurement 
If I have spoken past some points which you want to see addressed,
please speak up.
In solidarity, Jerry
> We have to distinguish:> 1. a (nominal) wage, i.e. the sum of money payed.> 2. a bundle of goods and services purchased, which I call a real> wage vector.> 3. the labour-value of that vector.> Thus I don't see a "fall of the wage below the value of labour-power",> rather I see a fall of the wage leading to a fall in the labour-value of> the real wage bundle. But the total labour necessary to reproduce the> capacity to work may be unchanged, and it is a matter of definition> whether one should call this or the labour-value of the real wage as> "VLP". But I think you run into problems if you don't distinguish them.

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