[OPE-L:232] RE: the book on wage labor

Paul Zarembka (ECOPAULZ@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)
Tue, 10 Oct 1995 05:16:03 -0700

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On Mon, 9 Oct 1995, Michael A. Lebowitz wrote:

> > 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.
> >
> I've thought that I have been raising theoretical issues. Let me add one
> which is implicit in the book and which I've never gotten around to writing
> up and sending off. That is the suggestion that there is a missing variable
> ic CAPITAL--- the degree of separation among workers (conversely, the degree
> of unity), and that both the workday (positively) and the real wage
> (inversely) are related to this. If one has this theoretical insight, it
> offers a way of interrogating explicitly that historical record. Of course,

If the above is theoretical question number one, let me list the others
you have mentioned, Mike, and will see if I understand (quotes are from your
01 Oct message):

2) "the struggle for higher wages", including "the question of social
needs" and "the standard of necessity"

3) "understand why capital is mystified, why the inexorable laws of
capital haven't led to its collapse"

4) "workers struggles need to be theorized"

Have I missed any, Mike?

> > 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.
> >
> Workers are not paid in use-values. They are paid in money-wages. The
> reduction in the values of necessaries increases the real value of those
> wages, no? If not, I hope you'll explain why (either now or, perhaps more
> appropriately, when we start going through CAPITAL).

No, it does not lead to higher wages, it leads to greater ability on the
part of capitalists to lower the exchange value of labor power. I believe
you are thinking in the neoclassical sense of prices of food, clothing
and shelter falling, with nominal wage rates fixed, leads to higher real

> > 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).
> >
> I don't have any doubt that this is true (and not just on a US level).
> My argument is that this is not occurring because productivity is rising as
> such but, rather, because the increased technical composition of capital
> affects both productivity and the reserve army.

I don't understand this one.

Thanks, Mike, for staying in this dialogue.

Paul Zarembka, SUNY at Buffalo