[OPE-L:3118] Re: commercial workers -- then & now

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 25 Sep 1996 05:57:57 -0700 (PDT)

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I asked in #3114:

> Have the wages of commercial workers shown a tendency to fall? If not,
> why not?

Michael P answered in #3115:

> Of course, they have.

Really? Over what period of time since Marx have the wages of commercial
workers fallen? In what countries?

Note also that Marx is making the claim that the wages for commercial
workers tendencially fall *"even in relation to average labour"* (emphasis
added, JL). Is that true as well?

> Marx left off one important aspect, the deskilling of the commercial
> worker.

I have reproduced the original passage in question below. Don't you think
that he discusses deskilling in that passage?

Are there any assumptions made below about the ability or non-ability of
workers to increase their wages through self-activity and combativity?

In OPE-L Solidarity,


"The commercial worker proper belongs to the better-paid class of
wage-labourer; he is one whose labour is skilled labour, above-average
labour. His wage, however, has a tendency to fall, as the capitalist mode
of production advances, even in relation to average labour. Firstly,
because the division of labour within the commercial office means that
only a one-sided development of ability need be produced and that much of
the cost of producing this ability is free for the capitalist, since the
workers' skill is rather developed by the function itself, and indeed is
developed all the more quickly, the more one-sided the function becomes
with the division of labour. Secondly, because basic skills, knowledge of
commerce and languages, etc., are reproduced ever more quickly, easily,
generally and cheaply, the more the capitalist mode of production adapts
teaching methods, etc. to practical purposes. The general extension of
popular education permits this variety of labour to be recruited from
classes which were formerly excluded from it and were accustomed to a
lower standard of living. This also increases supply, and with it
competition. With a few exceptions, therefore, the labour-power of these
people is devalued with the advance of capitalist production; their wages
fall, whereas their working ability increases" (Penguin ed, pp. 414-415).