[OPE-L:2794] CONCEPTION DAY: Part 1: Before the beginning

glevy@pratt.ed (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 6 Aug 1996 01:18:22 -0700 (PDT)

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Sunday, August 6, 1995 - the date that the idea for the project that
became OPE-L was conceived.

( ... a sobering and ironic fact: 40 years before to the day, on 8/6/45,
the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima).

( ... another curious circumstance: 8/6/1995 was 1 day after the 100th
anniversary of Frederick Engels's death in London).

In a series of posts I am going - for the first time - to explain the
sequence of events on 8/6/95 and shortly thereafter and place them in
context. This is the story of how an idea eventually became a list.
Hopefully, in discussing our conception we will be lead to rethink and
readdress issues related to our birth -- and also have a little

The idea for the proposal that I made for what became to be called the
"Outline Project" occurred *while* I was writing the following post for
the marxism list on "Value and wages."

The reason I wrote that post to begin with was rather odd. In previous
weeks there had been a thread on "value and exchange value" in which
Paul C, Steve K, myself, and others participated. During the course of
that thread a clinical psychologist from London kept saying that he
agreed with my understanding of the use-value/exchange-value distinction,
but he kept misunderstanding and innocently misrepresenting what I was
saying. I tried repeatedly to explain my position to him more but he
didn't quite "get it". So, I decided to write a post that would discuss
Marx's method more and explain the role of the "ceteris paribus"
assumption in Marx by referring to a specific issue (I had in the weeks
beforehand launched a "ceteris paribus" thread on the marxism list in
answer to a question from a graduate anthropology student in Utah, Lisa
Rogers). The issue I chose was "Value and wages". Here is the relevant

Date: Sun, 6 Aug 1995 11:28:59 -0400 (EDT)
From: glevy@acnet
To: marxism@jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Cc: marxism@jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Value and wages

Chris B's posts have stimulated me to address another question: Marx's
understanding of value and wages.

So, what -- additionally -- determines (modifies) wages?

The task of analyzing wages was one of the uncompleted tasks of Marx. He
wrote about some factors that also shape actual wages, but he was unable
to complete his investigation of this subject prior to his death.

Two factors that modified wages that Marx did initially discuss were:

1) the skills of the laborers. How we understand how skills modify wages
is also a subject of some (!) debate both within the Marxist tradition
and outside of it (e.g. the so-called "reduction problem" was a source of
attack by Bohm-Bawerk against Marx).

2) the size of the industrial reserve army. It is important, though, to
remember that when Marx addressed this topic in Book 1, Ch. 25, he did so
at the level of analysis of "Capitalist Production." No doubt, he
intended to modify his understanding of the IRA at a further, more
concrete, level of abstraction when he discussed "Capitalist Production
as a Whole."

So, what additional factors, modify the wage?

These include:

1) the accumulation process;

2) the internationalization of capital and the attending global
concentration and centralization of capital;

3) trade cycles;

4) capitalist crises;

5) the state;

6) foreign trade;

7) the class struggle, including the level of trade union organization
and trade union and class consciousness; and, I would add;

8) discrimination and what is sometimes referred to as segmented labor

In addition, when we address the very specific question of why an
individual worker receives a particular wage, we must also (in my
opinion) leave room for understanding the personal interrelationship
between an individual worker and an individual capitalist.

The study of wages was, as I said before, one of Marx's unfinished tasks.
More generally, I would say that the two major tasks that Marx left
unfinished were the tasks of completing his analysis of capitalism
and of participating in the task of *overthrowing* that mode of production
and replacing it with another social system. While Marx initially thought
that he could be able to accomplish the first task, only the working
class (the "gravedigger" of capital) could accomplish the second, and
more historic, task.


Having sent the above post, I logged-off of my Net system and turned off
my computer at about 11:30 A.M. (EST). It was a beautiful sunny summer day
in New York City and I was eager to leave my apartment and go outside for
a walk.

Read the next post to find out what happened next.

In OPE-L Solidarity,