[OPE-L:4434] Re: determination of real wages

Ajit Sinh (ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au)
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 00:02:43 -0800 (PST)

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At 11:40 PM 3/17/97 -0800, Mike Lebowitz wrote:

>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^)

Of course, you are right. My position on these matters have not changed in
any significant way. As far as reversal in direction: it's like walking with
feet up and head down-- to much of blood cerculation in your brain. I miss
north America in general though.
> 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"?

But Mike, we went over all the references a few years ago on pen-l. Didn't
we? So it will be futile for both of us to go over them time and time again.
Now, to answer your question: I have never denied that Marx saw the
relevance of trade unions, even on the question of wages. Trade unions are
part of capitalist structure that plays an important role in maintaining, on
the average, a level of standard of living. My point is that for Marx, a
given standard of living is a much more stable variable then what modern
Marxist economists take it to be, though, of course, its secular trend is
downward. The variable on which the class-struggle makes a positive impact
is the length of the working day. This is what Marx most concentrated on, as
he said: "time is the room of human development".

Our difference, as I understand it, is more fundamental and lies somewhere
else than on the question of wages etc. You are one of the very few Marxist
economists who has read Marx so extensively and closely. Your reading of
CAPITAL in BEYOND CAPITAL is not radically different from mine. The
difference arises when you go another step to claim that this simply
couldn't be the whole story, and so there must be a missing book on wage
labour which would compliment the book on capital. The basic problem I have
with your thesis is that you take 'capital' to be a synonym for
'capitalist', as you claim that CAPITAL is written from the point of view of
capital. But as i understand it, capital is a relation, and is not a synonym
for capitalist with a will and desire etc. So it simply cannot have a "point
of view". Marx's work is more akin to structuralist/post-structuralist
theorising. Capital is a complex articulation of relations. It does not have
a point of view as any individual subject does. The story in capital is as
complete or incomplete as a story can be; it does not, however, need the
point of view of the other protagonist for its completion. This is the most
fundamental difference between us. Of course, for an intellectual like Marx,
had he been given eternal life, he would have written much more books. Who
can deny that.
Cheers, ajit sinha

> cheers,
> mike
>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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