[OPE-L:1577] Re: capitalism and wage labor

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Wed, 27 Mar 1996 02:00:05 -0800

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In <9603261626.AA07709@las2a.iastate.edu>, Tony Smith wrote:

> 6. And so here is the question: are there any aspects of
>capitalism introduced later in the theory that can only be comprehended
>adequately if wage labor is introduced at this point? I am not sure of
>how this question can best be answered. I suspect the strongest case
>for an affirmative answer might have to do with the dynamic of technical
>change. This is obviously an essential dimension of capitalism that has
>to be accounted for.

Paul Cockshott
This seems unnecessarily complicated. Gils argument was that
one could derive m-c-m' if there existed a set of agents who
consistently sold their product at below its value - for instance
artisans under the putting out system. One does not need to introduce
anything as elaborate as technical change to see that by the time
Marx was writing, such agents were far less numerous than wage
workers. So one could not account for the profits of those
firms that employed wage labour in terms of the putting out system.
One had to focus on the terms of the exchange with wage labour.
Marx's argument, that labour power is sold at its value but that
it allows the creation of more value, is one way of squaring the
circle. An alternative was the solution of other socialists like
the Riccardians and Rodbertus that labour was consistently sold
at below its value.

Scientifically there is nothing to chose between the two explanations,
both account for and predict the same phenomena. Marx's solution is
perhaps more elegant as a critique of political economy, but as
Gil has pointed out Marx fails to establish that it is a necessary solution.