[OPE-L:4366] Re: Mandel vs. Baran-Sweezy

Michael_A._Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Tue, 11 Mar 1997 18:15:23 -0800 (PST)

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In message Tue, 11 Mar 1997 07:26:18 -0800 (PST),
Allin Cottrell <cottrell@wfu.edu> writes:

> On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, Michael_A._Lebowitz wrote:
>> In fact, Marx does not say unequivocally that monopoly involves a
>> transfer of surplus value. In Vol. 3, Ch. 50 ("Illusions..."), he
>> indicates there are *two* possibilities:
>> 1. a transfer (and thus "a local disturbance in the distribution of
>> surplus-value among the various spheres of production, but this leaves
>> unaffected the limit of the surplus-value itself.")
>> 2. "It could press wages down below the value of labour-power, but
>> only if they previously stood above the physical minimum. In this
>> case, the monopoly price is paid by deduction from real
>> wages...."(Vintage, 1001). Implicit in this case is the increase in
>> surplus value.
> I'm not clear on how _product-market_ concentration in
> itself can lead to higher sv. If the workers have the
> bargaining power to achieve a given level of real wages at
> some initial level of goods prices, why don't they have the
> power to maintain this level of real wages if and when goods
> prices rise due to an increased degree of monopoly in
> product markets?

The point is--- as we can see well in the real world when prices rise (for
any reason)--- it is not *automatic* that the level of real wages will be
maintained. It requires class struggle, and all determinism founders when it
comes to questions of class struggle. For the most part in Capital, Marx
put aside such questions and for analytical purposes ("to avoid confounding
everything") assumed that real wages (the standard of necessity) are given
and fixed; his intention, as he noted on many occasions, was to remove this
assumption when he got to the Book on Wage-Labour. On the other hand, you
can see his sensitivity to the fact that when wages are above the
physiological minimum, the incidence of monopoly prices may fall upon
workers. His point here is very similar to one made by Ricardo re the
incidence of taxes.

> I can see a mechanism of sorts, though, if
> the increase in product-market monopoly is supposed to be
> paralleled by an increase in labour-market monopsony.

I imagine that there are many possible mechanisms that can be conjured up
(eg., an increase in the degree of monopoly being accompanied by an increase
in unemployment), but the key point is that we can not simply assume that a
rise in monopoly involves only a transfer of surplus value. That assumes
what Marx knew was only an assumption and which he intended to address in

in solidarity,

> Allin.
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C. Canada V5A 1S6
Office (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
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