[OPE-L:200] wage labor and CAPITAL

Tony Smith (tonys@iastate.edu)
Thu, 5 Oct 1995 07:37:34 -0700

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Just a few final remarks on the place of wage labor in CAPITAL:

1. The theory of exploitation cannot be formulated from the standpoint
of capital, but only from the standpoint of labor. The theory of
exploitation is the core of Marx's CAPITAL. And so I still do agree
with the view that CAPITAL is written from the standpoint of capital.

2. The idea that wage laborers are treated solely as objects in CAPITAL
does not jibe with my reading, or the reading of my students. We have
come away from the book with an appreciation of the role of the working
class as subjects in history, as seen especially in the long discussion
of struggles over the length of the working day in Vol.1, the discussion
of cooperatives in Vol. 3, etc. I haven't done any
sociological research on this, but I expect this is the typical
response. CAPITAL is quite different from ONE DIMENSIONAL SOCIETY, THE
Adorno and Horkheimer, and Foucault described a society of total
integration where the working class are reduced to mere objects serving
the reproduction of the social order. This is not the message I got out
of CAPITAL. CAPITAL is a book about social antagonisms; it does not
construct an ideal type of a perfectly functioning social system.

3. Of course there is much to say about the history of working class
struggles, the various strategies and tactics that have proven
successful in struggles for higher wages and better work conditions and
so on. Marxian theory must find a place to discuss such matters. But I
do not think the proper place is in the systematic theory we are
discussing in this group. There is a need for a book on the state,
because Marx has not explicitly introduced catagories defining the
structures of the capitalist state in the books we have. But Marx has
explicitly introduced the categories defining the structures within
which class struggle occurs in Volume I. Discussion of the history of
class struggles, the strategies and tactics to be used in these
struggles, and so on, makes use of the framework found in Volume I
rather than adding any new determinations, at least that is how it
appears to me at the moment.

4. As a point of interest, Marx in fact does not consider merely the
K-WL-K circuit; he does discuss the WL-K-WL circuit in Volume II (if I
recall correctly, he calls it the L-C-L circuit). The main point he
stresses is that consumption of the part of the working class is
connected to the reproduction of total social capital. It seems to me
that any separate book on wage labor would have to repeat the stress on
this point; consumerism is not the path to the self-emancipation of the
working class.

5. I do not mean to imply that CAPITAL is complete as is. I found
Michael's comments on the struggle by the working class to maintain
families insightful. I just think that points such of this fit easily
into CAPITAL as we have it (this one in specific could fit easily
alongside Marx's discussion of struggles over the length of the working
day), and in this sense aren't the same as points regarding the state,
international trade, or the world market.

Tony Smith (tonys@iastate.edu)