[OPE-L:2858] Pauperism, GLCA, ALGCA, IRA, etc.

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 26 Aug 1996 14:20:58 -0700 (PDT)

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Duncan responded to my question earlier today in [OPE-L:2851]:

> > Regarding the "thesis of the immiserisation of the proletariat", do you
> > think there are any essential subsequent parts of the theory that depend
> > on that "thesis"?
> Perhaps some of the early versions of the revolutionary political program,
> but I don't think the interesting parts of the economic analysis depend on
> the immiserisation thesis. As I recall, Marx formulates the immiserisation
> thesis in several different ways at different junctures, sometimes as
> "absolute" and sometimes as "relative".

I think I agree with the first sentence (although, it might be necessary
to flush out the meaning of the "immiserization thesis"). Regarding the
next sentence, I must say that I have always found Marx's terminology on
this topic in Ch. 25, V1 rather confusing. For instance, he frequently
refers to the "general law of capitalist accumulation" (GLCA), but also
calls it the "absolute general law of capitalist accumulation" (ALGCA).
Why the "absolute" (especially since in the next sentence he writes:
"Like all other laws it is modified in its working by many circumstances
...."). Does anyone have a good explanation for the "absolute" in the

A related question concerns the growth of "pauperism" and the industrial
reserve army (IRA). Marx seems to be arguing in Ch. 25 that the size of
the IRA and the growth of pauperism will increase both relatively and
absolutely over time. Yet, surely, both real wages and the size of
the IRA *fluctuate* over time alongside changes in the business cycle.

There is also the question, that I have never heard what I view as a
satisfactory answer to, concerning the relation between the AGLCA and the
LTGRPD (law of the tendency for the general rate of profit to decline).
Can someone explain to my satisfaction the relation between the two


A brief comment on Andrew's [OPE-L:2850]: So we shouldn't say that Marx's
critical theory is "incomplete" or that there aren't "logical
inconsistencies"? Here's my question: when did Marx ever suggest that his
theory *was* complete? Did he *ever* suggest that he got it all right? I
am of the opinion that he would demand that revolutionaries *critically*
examine all thought -- *including* his own!

This doesn't mean that we should go on a trashing [of Marx] expedition. It
means to me rather that we are required to *think for ourselves* about
political economy. Of course, we have to read and understand what Marx
wrote, but I think Marx would be the first to say that is not enough.

In OPE-L Solidarity,