[OPE-L:143] the book on wage labor

Tony Smith (tonys@iastate.edu)
Tue, 26 Sep 1995 08:07:58 -0700

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Unfortunately, I have not read as much of Michael's writings as I should
have. But as of now I am in the group of people who think there are
reasons for there not being a separate book on wage labor. The first is
that CAPITAL does incorporate the active subjectivity of wage laborers.
Sometimes this is done explicitly, most obviously in the discussion of
"the fierce struggle over the limits of the working day." (K3 966
Penguin) In other places, this is more implicit, but no less
significant for that. Throughout CAPITAL Marx insists upon the
historical and moral component of the value of labor power, and of
capitalism's ability to bring upon a general expansion of social needs.
Since those who own and control capital are not likely to share the
fruits of expanded productivity out of the kindness of their hearts, it
seems to me that this points to wage laborers' capacity to struggle
successfully for a new definition of the value of labor power.

The second reason is that the dominance of the capital form places fixed
limits on labor's capacities to act as an independent subject, limits
that do not dissolve simply because we look at things from the side of
wage labor as opposed to the side of capital. Fierce struggles over the
length of the working day can occur, but capital can respond to them by
introducing machinery that increases the rate of relative surplus value.
Struggles to force a raising of the value of labor power can be
successful, but wage laborers must still purchase the goods and services
they need in commodity markets, and doing so contributes to the
reproduction of the capitalist system as a whole and their position as
wage laborers in specific. I do not see how the choice of looking at
things from the standpoint of capital as opposed to the standpoint of
labor changes anything. Capital remains an alien social form that
prevents social individuality from flourishing. If this is correct,
then a separate book on wage labor would be redundant.

Third, it seems to me that insofar as wage laborers can act as subjects
in a manner that does call into question the dominance of the capital
form in a fundamental way (general strikes, the establishment of soviets
exercising dual power), then we are talking about attempts to undertake
a transition to a new mode of production. TheAs such, they fall outside
the analysis of the capitalist mode of production.

Fourth, insofar as wage laborers can act as subjects in a manner that
calls into question the dominance of the capital form in a less than
fundamental way, this must be considered in relation to the state, and
would have been taken up in the volume on the state, had Marx come to
write it.

Tony Smith