[OPE-L:255] RE: the book on wage labor

Paul Zarembka (ECOPAULZ@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)
Thu, 12 Oct 1995 18:36:49 -0700

[ show plain text ]

As a follow-up to a portion of Mike's message (I'll be out of town until
Sunday and cannot do more until next week):

On Tue, 10 Oct 1995, Michael A. Lebowitz wrote:

> >> 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,
> >
> (Paul wrote)
> > 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?
> >
> I haven't been counting, Paul, but the above all sound pretty good to me;
> and added to those should be points noted below.

In other words, for those losing the thread, Mike is saying that he can
identify four theoretical issues which would be raised by a book on wages. Now
4) is only a restatement of the problem, while 1) and 3) do seem to be
theoretical. Part of 2) is contained in 4) and the rest is rather
unclear to what extent it is theoretical, at least to me.

> (Paul)
> >> > 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
> (Mike)
> >> 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?
> (Paul)
> > 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
> > wages.
> Now you've gone too far, Paul. I never, EVER think in the neoclassical
> sense! We're going to have to set some ground rules about unacceptable
> flaming. 8-)

I was not insulting. I personally have neoclassical residuals in my
thinking and it is difficult to be spotless in these matters. Anyway, if
it makes you feel better, Mike, delete the word "neoclassical". (As an
aside, how many North Americans of any race can honestly say that they are
free of ANY traces of racism? I.e., let's not try to be saints or
prophets. Sorry for the digression, but I think it's important.)

> Yes, when the values of necessaries fall, capital will of course drive to
> capture all the fruits of productivity gain. But, then, of course it is
> always attempting to do so unless we are assuming that workers are fixated
> at physiological subsistence (but in itself that does not stop capital). If
> we make that CAPITAL assumption that the standard of necessity is given,
> then presumably workers will save when the value of necessaries fall and
> will presumably offer little resistance to capital's drive....[too long
to reproduce here]

Wait a minute, how are workers "saving" when the value of necessaries
fall? You are assuming that which must be established--whether
workers receive value above their necessaries in the presence of production
of relative surplus value. They may, but then we get into class struggle.

> What I meant was that the increase in the technical composition of
> capital, by displacing workers, is the necessary (but not sufficient--see
> above) condition for relative surplus value; ie., that productivity
> increases in themselves, ceteris paribus (oops, is this neoclassical?) lead
> to rising real wages, indeed to no change in the division of the workday.

In CAPITAL, Vol. 3 on the falling tendency of the rate of profit, Marx
assumes constant s/v in the presence of prod. or rel. surplus value. So,
there Marx is taking wage rate increases as equal to productivity increases
in the production of necessaries. In other words, Marx is not always
taking real wages as fixed.


I guess I just don't understand what the point is. Sure, I would have
liked to have a theory which would explain (at least partially) why real
wages in North America rose until about 1973, then declined (and are
continuing to do so). But is this really a theoretical topic or an
historical materialist topic of practice of the struggles of the classes,
including classes in the "Second" and "Third" World?

Paul Zarembka, SUNY at Buffalo