[OPE-L:249] Duncan Foley responds -- Part III

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Thu, 12 Oct 1995 11:58:47 -0700

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 1995 14:43:55 -0400 (EDT)
From: Duncan K Foley <dkf2@columbia.edu>
To: glevy@acnet.pratt.edu
Subject: Re: Another post--Jerry

On Mon, 9 Oct 1995 glevy@acnet.pratt.edu wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Sun, 8 Oct 1995 20:07:01 -0700
> From: jones/bhandari <djones@uclink.berkeley.edu>
> To: Multiple recipients of list <ope-l@anthrax.ecst.csuchico.edu>
> Subject: [OPE-L:220] Duncan Foley/ wages
> I agree with Duncan Foley's assessment:
> > I think we need to identify
> >areas of dialogue and overlap with mainstream social science, where
> >Marxian insights and results can help solve outstanding problems.
> Of course we may want to solve outstanding problems unrecognized by
> mainstream social science as well. Right now I am particularly interested
> in the changes in trade flows in the last two decades, as documented by
> Adrian Wood, 1994. North-South Trade, Employment and Inequality. Oxford.
> But here I will throw in my two cents about rising real wages. Duncan
> wrote:
> >To put my 2 cents in, I'd like to know from a Marxist/Classical point of
> >view why the real wage in capitalist economies tends to rise roughly at
> >the same rate as the productivity of labor, so that the labor share
> >remains roughly constant.
> Does the share of *productive* labor remain roughly constant? Without
> disaggregation of wage income, it becomes impossible to recognize the
> barbarity that results from capital's attempt to expand through the
> intensification of the exploitation of fewer productive workers, instead of
> hiring more workers as this would engender the costs of more space,
> equipment and benefits. In other words, only after we isolate productive
> labor can we ascertain whether the rate of exploitation has increased--even
> if labor's share as a whole has remained roughly constant.

This is an important issue in its own right. But the wage of productive
labor has also risen "roughly", with productivity. If you consider how
much productivity has increased since, say 1850, you don't need a whole
lot of precision in measurement to establish this stylized fact.

> >From the Classical point of view, the real wage rate should remain at
> physical subsistence (right?); does Foley mean in terms of the marginal
> productivity theory of wages, the real wage rises roughly at the same rate
> as the productivity of labor?

This is one part of the puzzle, to my mind.

> The marxist explanation for rising real wages would have to include a
> dynamic account of the rising reproduction costs of labor power, right?

I think this is a promising line of thought. Is it inherent in the
dynamics of capital accumulation or as Devine says, a coincidence?

> Michael L has brought to our attention the dynamics of need in the
> formation of the reproduction costs of labor power. I think that I tend to
> see those growing needs as more rooted in the production process than
> Michael does.
> Two examples: there is a a need for more use values to compensate the
> proletariat for the intensification of the labor process (Grossmann); and
> the wages of parents must be sufficient to keep their children in school
> long enough to gain the basic skills required for not only the operation
> of the complicated equipment by which relative surplus value is produced
> (e.g. a UPS driver requires at least basic literacy for the driver's
> license and the keeping of records) but also for further technological
> improvements through research and development.
> In other words, the real wage has had to rise because of the increased
> reproduction costs of the *higher quality of labor* required for the
> production of relative surplus value (Sydney Coontz). In short, the rise
> in the real wage is not compensation for higher productivity but its
> prerequisite: it enables the reproduction of labor power after intensified
> exploitation and the rearing of sufficiently trained labor to operate,
> repair and improve upon the machines and technologies required for the
> production of relative surplus value.

Could this idea be given empirical support?

> Rakesh
> Sydney Coontz, 1957. Population Theories and the Economic Interpretation.
> London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.