[OPE-L:215] Re: the book on wage labor

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Sun, 8 Oct 1995 12:14:54 -0700

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In message Tue, 3 Oct 1995 17:21:29 -0700,
JDevine@lmumail.lmu.edu (James Devine) writes:

> I wrote:
>>It's not that the "book on wage labor" is missing from the
> "Marxian canon." Rather, Mike's point is that it was left out of
> the book CAPITAL. Mike's book quotes a heck of a lot of material
> from Marx's _other_ writings (especially the GRUNDRISSE) which
> can form a "book on wage labor." ...<
> Jerry wrote: >>On the contrary, I think that Mike L.'s point is
> that both capital and CAPITAL are "one-sided." A separate book,
> according to Mike's book, on wage labor is needed because capital
> is only one side of capitalism as a whole. The other "side" is
> wage labor.<<
> Yes: in CAPITAL, Marx was looking at capitalism "from the
> standpoint of capital," which is one-sided because it does not
> take into account such trivial matters as the human nature of
> workers. But ideas such as the need to organize wage-laborers
> (and for wage-workers to organize themselves) to go beyond the
> "logic of capital" has long been part of the Marxian tradition.
> It shows up in Gramsci's notion of hegemony or in Marx's slogan
> about the only force that can liberate the working class being
> the workers themselves, for example. Of course, the Marxian
> tradition has also included a lot of "automatic Marxism" where
> the forces of production triumphantly march over and
> revolutionize the relations of production to create revolution
> and even socialism (a recent incarnation of this theory was
> produced by GA Cohen); this is the "one-sided Marxism" that Mike
> L. criticizes and sees as a reflection of the one-sided nature of
> CAPITAL and capital.
> It's been awhile since I read Mike's book. Let's let him do the
> talking....

I think you are both right. There are a number of places where Marx
(outside CAPITAL) makes statements which point beyond the analysis in
CAPITAL, and these have been drawn upon by parts of the Marxist tradition.
However, they stand outside the rigorous, logical, analytical framework of
CAPITAL and thus can almost be dismissed as unrooted, anomalous observations
distinct from the scientific work. What I tried to do was develop logically
and immanently (scientifically?) the side of wage-labour and to show that
those above observations can be "predicted", ie do not float freely but
rather are grounded in an underlying logic. Eg., in talking about the
concept of "the political economy of the working class", which Marx refers
to in "The Inaugural Address, I argued (64):

What, in short, is this political economy of workers which contests the
political economy of capital--- and which encompasses both "victories"?
There is always a great danger in taking selected quotations from Marx
at face value without grasping the inner core which informs them. Our
purpose here, then, is to attempt to reconstruct and unveil by analysis
that core, the alternate political economy, and to indicate the
intrinsic connection between the two aspects identified in the Inaugural

Ie., there is the need both to recognise that there are many observations
by Marx are not inconsistent with a book on wage-labour but also that they
need to be grasped in the context of a whole. I think this methodological
question transcends the question of a book on WL as such but raises the
entire question of how one extends Marx--- ie., how does one avoid making
eclectic additions.
in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 255-0382
Lasqueti Island (current location): (604) 333-8810
e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca