[OPE-L:4391] Re: Mandel vs. Baran-Sweezy

Michael_A._Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Sat, 15 Mar 1997 16:55:51 -0800 (PST)

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In message Wed, 12 Mar 1997 07:46:10 -0800 (PST),
Allin Cottrell <cottrell@wfu.edu> writes:

> On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, Michael_A._Lebowitz wrote:
>> 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.
> We'd also have to open the Book on Non-Commodity Money here.
> The flipside of a _general_ rise in prices, due to an
> increase in the degree of monopoly, is a fall in the
> purchasing power of money. This is problematic if money is
> a commodity in its own right -- we'd have to be talking
> about a rise in the degree of monopoly in the production of
> goods other than gold, relative to that in the production of
> gold. On the other hand, with credit money and an
> accommodating monetary policy, such a general rise is
> possible.
> I accept Mike's point -- that Marx envisaged the possibility
> that an increase in monopoly could possibly augment rather
> than just transfer surplus value -- but what I'm saying is
> that this is a rather complex matter, with multiple
> preconditions... It can't be conceived as simply a
> generalization of the idea that one capitalist can raise his
> profit by monopolizing a given market, as I think it is in
> much of the literature flowing from Baran and Sweezy.

Actually, I think the book on non-commodity money was opened in Capital
but that is a digression from the central issue here. It is true that we
should be very wary of generalising from a single industry and potentially
committing a fallacy of composition. However, far more problematic in this
particular case is assuming that monopoly prices will lead to a transfer of
surplus value *because the real wage will remain constant despite increasing
prices*. Implicit here is some kind of "iron law of wages", which we know
Marx completely rejected. For Marx, it was quite clear that real wages were
determined by class struggle (which was a point he deemed unnecessary to
explore further at the stage of the argument considering the nature of
capital in general). All other things equal, it seems difficult to make the
case that a general increase in the degree of monopoly (the premise of
Baran/Sweezy) will not increase the power of capital relative to workers in
that struggle. In short, the likelihood of an increase in the rate of
surplus value seems stronger than suggested by your phrase, "possibly
Finally, as some listmembers will know, I've argued in Beyond Capital that
the failure to recognise the significance of that missing book on
wage-labour (which was to remove the assumption about the given standard of
necessity) has generated many problems in reasoning from Capital. This
discussion about the effect of monopoly prices is just one.
in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C. Canada V5A 1S6
Office (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 872-0494; Home fax (with warning): (604) 872-0485
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