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

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Tue Dec 18 2007 - 16:04:10 EST


Of course I agree that the minimum wage is not an indicator of the VLP. Nevertheless I think Marx was quite correct in believing that the average subsistence requirements (cost-of-living) for a worker are, in a given country and a given epoch, known quantities.

The legal stipulations are of interest, insofar as they show empirically how the "physiological" and "moral-historical" components of worker's income happen to be regarded, in practice. The commodity labour-power is not like any other commodity, because its value also refers to the satisfaction of workers' legitimate needs. All I am saying is that these legitimate needs are not vague or etheral, but that they are fairly accurately reflected in the legal rules of the day.

Marx lived before the time (roughly from the first world war onwards) that transfer income became a significant component of workers' incomes, and before higher education on a mass scale existed. Indeed Bairoch has provided some statistical evidence to show that non-marginal, average urban wages earnt by unskilled adult workers in that epoch (before WW1) are a pretty good predictor of GNP. 

However, I think precisely the pervasiveness of transfer income makes the concept of the VLP more relevant, not less relevant, since the normal living standard to which the concept refers, is a composite effect of what happens in the society as a whole, i.e. the total effect of payments and receipts.

The state owes its partial autonomy mainly to the existence of a multitude of competing interests, and thus it may implement policies which, although they seem contrary to the short-term interest of the propertied classes, secure the longterm interest of them all, or the longterm interest of the country. What exactly the balance of power between social classes is, may contingently not be very clear, and may itself be contingent on important "tests". 

Owning your own home was in many OECD countries a legitimate "need or want" of workers. I suspect however that this will not be so in the future. 


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