[OPE-L:2873] Re: Value of labour power and real wage

Costas Lapavitsas (cl5@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp)
Mon, 26 Aug 1996 20:21:14 -0700 (PDT)

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The end of Duncan`s comment in response to Allin read:
>To my mind this is the nub of the issue. I think, though I couldn't prove
>it, that Marx realized analytically that important results depended on the
>constancy of the value of labor-power, but was reluctant to emphasize this
>point because it allowed for a rise in the real wage and Marx had invested
>an enormous amount politically in the thesis of the immiserisation of the
>proletariat and a falling real wage. (I think he adopted this point of
>view under Engels' influence in the 1840s, when in fact there was
>considerable reason to think that industrial capitalism had lowered real
>wages, and then was faced with a combined historical and theoretical
>dilemma in the 1850s when the real wage rose and he began to work out his
>economic analysis in detail.) I think this political inhibition against
>discussing rising real wages lies behind a number of the difficult and
>puzzling problems in understanding Marx's economic analysis, including the
>transformation problem, the theory of the falling rate of profit, and the
>theory of wages.

It seems to me that the nature of the commodity labour-power is also at stake.
Marx followed an essentially Ricardian path: the value of labour-power is
necessarily related to the value of the wage bundle, hence to production of
values in the process of accumulation. Alternatively, one can argue either that
the value of labour-power is somehow determined through the largely
non-capitalist processes of upbringing and education, or that the value of
labour-power is determined through an institutional/historical/political
division of the working day, which I understand Duncan`s thesis to be. In either
case the commodity character of labour-power appears to me somewhat compromised.