[OPE-L:217] RE: the book on wage labor

Paul Zarembka (ECOPAULZ@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)
Sun, 8 Oct 1995 14:12:55 -0700

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On Sat, 7 Oct 1995, Michael A. Lebowitz wrote:

> ... One inference, certainly, is that
> the value of labour power is dtermined by class struggle and that Marx's
> assumption in CAPITAL ("to avoid confounding everything") that the standard
> of necessity is given, once removed, opens up a number of critical
> questions. Aside from what I have to say below, the theoretical issues can
> be seen in the book and in the 2 articles available at csf via gopher.

If the value of labor power is determined by class struggle, what
*theoretical issues* are raised--issues beyond descriptions and analysis
of the historical record? Please list some of them, even if you feel you
have covered them in one book and two articles. Thanks.

> ...the standard story is that productivity increases in the production of
> necessaries lowers the value of labour-power because the necessaries
> themselves are lowered in value. But, what exactly is the mediating argument
> by which this occurs? As I argue in Ch. 5, it depends critically on the
> assumption that needs are fixed and given (and I cite Marx's argument from
> the Grundrisse on this). If they are allowed to vary, on the other hand, (as
> Marx intended for the book on WL), then the effect of a lower value of
> necessaries is an increase in the real wage of workers--- ie., productivity
s move together!...

>From Capital's point of view, the return of labor power to the market
place requires x yards of clothing, y calories of food, z btu's of heat,
some amusements to keep the bastards distracted, etc. Capital always
drives in this direction and increased productivity does not lead
to give-aways. So, I reject a statement such as the above: "the effect
of a lower value of necessaries is an increase in the real wage of
workers--- ie., productivity s move together!..." It MAY facilitate some
concessions, particularly if you a world power and want to buy off the
cannon fodder at home in order to extend the exploitation process abroad.

I cannot prove it right now, but I propose that productivity in the
period of the past twenty years (the lifetimes of many of our students)
has been rising AND real wages are going DOWN (so that the rate of surplus
value is really moving upward). Some of the empirical work of Anwar Shaikh
or Ed Wolff, e.g., bears this out.

> > Huh, capitalism continues to exist because of "the failure of workers (...
> > revolutionaries) to comprehend the nature of capital"?! Sounds pretty
> > idealistic to me. If only our theory were better, we'd have socialism?
> If this is idealism (and thus contrary to Marx), then why did Marx write
> CAPITAL? Why did he sacrifice family and health to the completion of Vol. I?

Marx wrote Capital, because without revolutionary theory there will be no
working class revolution. But the reverse is not correct: viz., that the
absence of revolution is the (sole or mainly or whatever) fault of theory.
I tend to think that there is a danger among academics of over-emphasizing
the importance of theory (yet it is vitally important).

> > What about guns? Aren't you expecting too much from the book on wages.
> >
> I should make it clear. I don't want a book on wages. Rather, I want us
> to be sensitive to all the implications of its absence, and that is what I
> was trying to do in my book. As for the guns part, well I do cite Gramsci on
> the importance of "politico-military" forces in the context of my critique
> of Cohen's statement. 8-)

Well, I guess I'm a bit relieved. I thought you would really like us to
work on a book on wages, given the stress, Mike, you have placed on it.
Now what?

Paul Zarembka, SUNY at Buffalo