[OPE-L:4418] determination of real wages

Michael_A._Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 23:40:51 -0800 (PST)

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In message Mon, 17 Mar 1997 00:30:06 -0800 (PST),
Ajit Sinha <ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au> writes:

> At 04:55 PM 3/15/97 -0800, Mike Lebowitz wrote:
> 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).
> ______________________
> I would take this statement with a pinch of salt. In my reading of Marx,
> i.e. reading the visible books and not the invisible books ;), it seems he
> took the position that real wages, not in terms of per hrs. but in terms
> of production periods like harvest period, were determined by
> socio-historical conditions within which the proletariat in a particualr
> country or region came into being. Moreover, the long term trend of wages
> were determined by the ratio of employed over unemployed workers. The
> general rise and fall of real wages over a business cycle was taken as
> general fluctuation of prices around a gravitational point. The variable
> that is directly affected by the class struggle in Marx is the length of
> the working day rather than the real wages. Now, its relevance to the
> western capitalism in last 50 years or so would be a separate issue of
> debate. Here we are only concerned with what do we see in marx's
> writings. cheers, ajit sinha

Thanks, Ajit. I was hoping to flush someone out with my unequivocal
statement. Your position in these matters doesn't seem to have changed---
even though I gather there can be reversals in direction when one goes from
Canada to Australia. 8^)
Unfortunately, you've just made an assertion, so I won't take the time to
demonstrate that your position is easily refuted by reference to those
"visible" books. [Those wondering about my response can check my book,
Beyond Capital, or articles in Science & Society (Winter 77-8, Fall 87,
Spring 93) and Rethinking Marxism (Summer 91).] Let me ask you just one
question, though. If real wages are determined by the socio-historical
conditions within which the proletariat in a particular country or region
came into being, why did Marx care about the competition of Irish workers
with English workers-- and why did he argue that their division was the
"secret by which the capitalist class maintains their power"? Further, why
did he argue that the importance of trade unions for the English working
class "can scarcely be overestimated"?

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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