[OPE-L:2895] Re: Value of labour power and real wage

Costas Lapavitsas (cl5@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp)
Wed, 28 Aug 1996 00:39:09 -0700 (PDT)

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Jerry replied to my comment on the value of labour power as follows,

>While Marx viewed labor-power as a commodity, he also viewed it as a
>*unique* commodity in the sense that it is an expression of alienated
>labor and that the owner of that commodity, the proletarian, can through
>different "institutional/historical/political" ways (e.g. trade union
>organization) cause the value of labor power to alter over time. In this
>sense, Marx's [revolutionary working class] path was quite distinct from
>the "Ricardian path." Consequently, I don't view the three arguments
>above as mutually exclusive. What is needed is not only a explanation for
>how the value of labor-power is related to the process of accumulation,
>but also an explanation for the various ways in which the value of LP can
>be changed by other social-historical-political forces and developments. I
>think this is one of the characteristics that distinguishes Marx's
>perspective from that of Lassallle.

There is neither difficulty not contradiction in introducing socio-political
forces to the determination of the value of labour-power by the value of the
wage bundle. I agree with you that it is very important to do so, Ricardo
himself was also aware of such forces. My problem is what happens when the
organic link with the wage bundle is severed in theory. Again, it appears to me
that the commodity nature of labour-power is somewhat compromised. Commodity
values in classical Marxist analysis are determined prior to circulation and
distribution. Hence, in aggregate reproduction the workers` share is given prior
to production and it is a result of the value of labour-power. If the value of
labour-power is determined purely as a division of the working day (thereby, if
it is stable and the productivity of labour rises, allowing for a regular rise
in real wages), this value is in effect determined after circulation and
distribution. Hence, the value of labour-power is a result of the share of
workers in the net product. These seem to me issues that go to the heart of
labour-power as a commodity.