[OPE-L:2633] Re: estimation of abstract labor

glevy@pratt.ed (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 10 Jul 1996 06:07:03 -0700 (PDT)

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There is much in Paul C's [OPE-L:2632] that will probably provoke comment,
I expect. I only want to pick up on one section of his post here:

> I tend to the opinion that divergences of prices from values due to the
> following :
> 1. The effects of rent on mineral products like oil.
> 2. The effects of gender differences in pay.
> 3. The effects of productive/unproductive labour.
> are likely to be much more important than the effects of prices of
> production upon which Marxist economists have wasted an inordinate
> amount of time and effort. If the work of those of us who have looked
> at the correlations between prices and aggregate labour costs has
> any lasting effect, it should be to divert attention from the
> unfruitfull discussions about transformation problems to these
> other factors.

First: the relation of values to *prices of production* is a subject that
relates to a less concrete level (and axis?) of abstraction than the other
topics you raise, which I also believe are important for understanding
the relation between value and *individual price* for individual

Second: the existence of rent certainly has a role in the process of
individual capitalist pricing. Yet, this is a subject that needs to be
investigated in terms of the inter-relationship between capitalists both
within individual branches of production and in different branches.

Third: disparities in *wages* based on gender (*and* race, ethnicity,
nationality, etc.) among capitalist firms need to be incorporated into a
more concrete analysis, I agree. These disparities, as the work by
Richard Edwards, Michael Reich, and [the late] David Gordon on labor
market segmentation (and the "dual economy") suggest, vary greatly *among*
different branches of production (and vary to a much less extent *within*
specific branches of production in distinct geographic regions). Are you
thinking of using this SSA (social structure of accumulation) distinction
to grasp this topic more concretely or is there another methodology that
you prefer?

Fourth: regarding the productive-unproductive labor distinction, how is
your empirical methodology different from that employed by [our own] Anu
Shaikh and Ahmet Tonak?

Fifth: regarding productive and unproductive labor in terms of different
modes of production within a capitalist social formation, how do you
reconcile your interpretation with the following passage from Marx?

"within capitalist production there are always certain parts of the
productive process that are carried out in a way typical of
*earlier modes of production*, in which the relations of *capital
and wage-labour* did not yet exist and where in consequence the
capitalist concepts of *productive* and unproductive labor are
quite inapplicable." (Volume 1, Penguin, p. 1032: in the section
on "Productive and Unproductive Labour" in the _Resultate_).

Sixth: curiously, there is no mention of different degrees of trade union
organization and militancy among workers in different branches of
production and individual firms. Yet, these are factors that would lead to
*wage* disparities as Marx explicitly notes (e.g. Ibid, pp. 1068-1071).

In OPE-L Solidarity,